The earth hisses and steams. It’s like we are walking into a film set. The Tongariro National Park, highest point: Mount Ruapehu with 2797, is a volcanic national park in the heart of New Zealand’s Northern Island.
New Zealand’s best one day hike
Right through the national park runs the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, known as ‘New Zealand’s best one day hike’. Twenty kilometres (12.4 miles), how hard can it be? Pretty hard, as we soon discover. The 900 meters (just under 3000 feet) difference in height and the loose volcanic underground don’t help. But the views do. A lot. We climb until we have an amazing view over the Emerald Lakes in the depths under us, the intense green colour coming from minerals in the earth and water. After descending and passing the lakes we enter a snow-covered platform, even though it’s late spring in New Zealand.
Desolate volcanic landscape
What a wonderful feeling: breathing in the crispy spring air at this altitude, the sun warming our shoulders, while our feet are walking through snow. From a distance we see the Red Crater, steam rising from its surface. Earlier we had a view of Mount Ngarahoe (2291 meters), one of the most active vulcanoes of New Zealand. What a strange, desolate and out of this world landscape.
On top of the world
After nearly nine hours of climbing and descending (and photo stops, view stops, food & waterbreaks) we approach the finish of the trail. With sore feet and trembling legs. But with a big smile on my face: I had felt literally on top of the world. It was my first long alpine hike and it tasted like more. Looking back, I can say the Tongariro Crossing was the foundation for Walking in Luxury!
Length: 19,4 km’s (12.05 miles)
Estimated time of hiking: 7 to 9 hours
Returning at point of beginning: no
Starting points: Mangatepopo Valley (car park) or Ketatahi Road (car park). Walking from Mangatepopo to Ketatahi Road means the least amount of climbing (although it’s still steep in parts).
Transport: most accommodations around arrange transport to the Crossing and organize a pick up at an agreed time. There is also a list of touroperators and taxi companies on the website of the Tongariro Crossing.
Be prepared: as with all alpine trails, weather conditions can change quickly. Be prepared for all kinds of weather. Bring sufficient food and water, high SPF sunscreen, a cap or hat and sunglasses. Wear sturdy hiking boots.
Stay: you’ll find timeless elegance in Chateau Tongariro Hotel
© Words by Linda van de Pavoordt, photographs courtesy of Tourism New Zealand and Legend Photography. Published December 23rd, 2016.
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