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New Zealand Geography Expedition – Tongariro Alpine Crossing
After a long deserved lie in yesterday in Napier we arose to yet another sunny day in New Zealand, the likes of which we are now becoming complacent with.
By: Adam & Matthew - Sandbach School
Once breakfast was hastily “scranned” down by the group we spent a couple of hours viewing the art deco city of Napier and many purchased souvenir’s. We then set off on the four hour journey from Napier to Taupo which compared to previous travel and journey’s we have experienced on the journey felt like a stroll in the park (although maybe not for the teachers/ Mr Bootherstone’s trouble with some basic clutch control!).
On our arrival to Taupo we were able to take in the scenery of New Zealand’s largest lake and also for Tongariro Alpine Crossing which we were to climb the following day, the group then settled into one of the nicest hostels of the trip so far with some afternoon revision and some preparation for the crossing. After an inspirational team talk by Sergeant Sykes about the crossing an early night was on the cards for all with an early start of 5am looming the following day.
The day of the trek arrived and there were a fair few zombie looking figures at breakfast before the hour mini bus journey to the starting point. Upon arrival the weather was fairly chilly so the hats and gloves came out whilst remembering that “layering is the key” to keeping warm but not sweating.
However, just 15 minutes in, many of us had stripped down to just the one or two layers with the sun now beaming down on us and the pace of the walk well and truly underway. We completed the first 2 sections of the walk without any hiccups and 50 minutes ahead of schedule, with regular stops to keep hydrated and energised (the pick and mix came in handy).
The next two sections of the walk were by far the most demanding with a steep five kilometre ascent to the summit of the crossing encountering difficult scree slopes along the way. During this time the group came together to encourage each other through the gruelling climb and in the words of Mr Sykes “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
The summit of the climb was well worth it providing views than none of the group could’ve imagined across the Red Crater, Lake Taupo, the Emerald Lakes and solfatara steaming vents. The group took an extended break at the summit to eat lunch, absorb the stunning views and take photos.
The descent down from the summit provided arguably some of the most entertaining moments of the day with numerous people stumbling down the steep scree slopes whilst others seemed to thrive in the environment fancying themselves as experienced hikers. The walk down also offered the opportunity to get closer to the emerald lakes and solfatara gas vents. There was also an easier two hour walk through a vegetated area giving us a direct contrast between high and low altitude environments.
As we reached the end of the crossing the group was split with senses of both relief at finishing but also some gutted faces that it was over. It also gave us an opportunity to compare wounds and blisters from eight hours of trekking.
After chomping on some maccies and noodles we went off to the thermal pools – giving us a cracking period of time to relax in heated pools and check out the rapid and dangerous slide (no risk assessment was provided leading to some injuries!!). The return to the youth hostel signified the end to one of the longest but undoubtably one of the best days of the trip.