Tongariro Alpine Crossing

I had been looking forward to this “walk” since first beginning my New Zealand research. There were a handful of “great walks” listed in many of the guide books that I was trying to memorize and this came up each time, and is considered by many as one of the best one-day walks in the world. Right-o, I thought, I’ve done big hikes before and have regained movement in my legs eventually, let’s give this a go.

This was a BIG WALK.

After eating a large breakfast and making two sandwiches for lunch (being prepared never hurts anyone), my group set out on a bumpy bus ride to the start of the track. Our driver (who looked a bit like a rugby-playing member of the Village People) briefed us on the trip ahead with nuggets of advice such as “don’t die”, and we set out.

As I said, I’ve done some good hikes in my day but the scenery on this walk was incredible. If I had watched Lord of the Rings more I might have recognized some of the scenery (sorry, Meger), but regardless it was breathtaking. Both with the views, and the fact that I literally had no breath left after some points. You clambered up a rock face on one side, only to slide on your bum down a GIANT volcano on the other. Which was…interesting. All those hikers who had brought poles and thought they were super-cool likely were jealous of the speed I jetted down that cliff, free from obstacles such as poles to slow me down. Amazingly, I didn’t fall once. Which is incredible, considering I’ve tripped three times today alone over nothing. Yet a mountain side – no problems. Figures.

The walk, which covers almost 20 km, takes you through a variety of volcanic terrain – much of which is still active and was apparent from the smell of sulphur (for once, not me) and the visible smoke plumes. Nothing gets you moving down a cliff like the prospect of a still-active volcano beneath your feet, let me tell you.

And then there were the lakes! Oh goodness.

I’m certainly glad I brought both sandwiches, as well as other snacks which I devoured on the downhill sections. It’s definitely not a hike to do if you’re not in “reasonably” good shape. I say “reasonably” as there was a group from my hostel who NEVER exercise and decided “today’s the day, let’s go legs!” and their legs were likely saying “YO MAN, NO WAY!” after the first 20 minutes. They were the last group back at the hostel and they slept through breakfast the next morning.

Definitely a highlight of New Zealand for me (the hike, not the out-of-shape folks).

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