December 9, 2015

New Zealand Day 8 Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Before we went off to NZ, my friend said we were going to do some alpine crossing. Me being me, didn’t bother to check what it entails. Only thing I know was it was going to be cold – after all she said Alpine Crossing.  And boy, was I in for one of the best trip ever. To said the crossing was spectacular is an understatement. Words cannot describe how beautiful the place is even though it seems like a desolated area.

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is reputed to be the best single day hike in NZ and that boast is certainly true. We started at Mangatepopo. 001-DSC04500

The first 6 km sees us walking through wide open ground most of which was covered with red brownish shrubs.012-DSC04521

Walking along the clearly marked trail, we could see on our right this mountain.021-DSC04543Most of the time it was shroud by clouds and one cannot see it clearly but when the cloud goes away:057-DSC04635What we have is a perfectly form volcano called Mt Ngauruhoe. Standing at 2287 metres high, a hike up to the summit will take approximately 3 hours so we wisely decided to give it a miss. Incidentally, Mt Ngauruhoe is more famously known as Mt Doom in the Lords of the Ring movie cos that where the location shoot was done!

Our hike took us up and up to South Crater but just before that was this warning sign warning for those who are not prepared for the climb up.034-DSC04573Of course we continued and at the top of the South Crater, we were greeted by the sight of this beautiful red rock face the Red Crater.104-DSC04746We continued to trudge uphill. Frankly the climb wasn’t difficult. It was just a long gentle walk up and up until we finally reached the highest point of the climb at 1886 metres. 117-DSC04786 What was difficult was the strong wind. We had been warned by our host that the wind would be about 40 km/hour but coming from hot sunny Singapore, I have absolutely no idea what that actually translate into until I see my friend being blown all over the places several time. The wind was that strong and despite the blazing sun, we all had our hood and gloves on.

At the summit, we have a panoramic view of the whole area including the beautiful Mt Tongariro.132-DSC04818There is also supposed to be a side hike to the summit but again we elected to just stay on the main trek. We were enjoying the scenery and taking lots and lots of photos and group and group of other hikers were overtaking us. We found out from our host that Singaporeans take one of the longest time to complete the hike because we take too many photographs. How apt in our case!

At the top of the Red Crater there was a sharp descent of almost 45 degree. Being kiasu and kiasee of falling/rolling down the slope, I took my time putting one foot forward gingerly while others just ran down like it was some flat ground.

In this photo shooting upward, you can see the almost vertical slope and the loose soil that we have to walk down on.
116-DSC04779Going downhill, there is also the first of the 2 lakes, the Emerald Lakes which is actually 3 separate green colored lakes. The green color is not algae hor. It is actually some mineral leached from the volcano’s thermal area.
114-20151117_123231Further down the trail is a much bigger lake, the Blue Lake which apparently is an old volcanic vent.140-DSC04837It is all downhill from here onward. The vegetation are back – no longer bare land and as we descend, we can see far far into the horizon.159-DSC04882

But the descent was also the most boring part of the route as it took us through 6 km of almost repetitive terrain of shrubs winding over the same area.

We finally reached the exit point 8 hours after we started right on schedule where our host was there to pick us up and send us back to our lodge.

More photos on my Facebook page. 

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