Walking & falling on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Last night I didn’t want to even move. Today I ache all over.

By: Bobbi Lee Hitchon

After walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing yesterday, well half of it then back, I’m pretty pooped and finding it a struggle to move any part of me. But I had such an amazing day, I just had to share at least a few photos and thoughts from the day.

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park is a UNESCO dual World Heritage Site, the first national park in New Zealand and fourth in the world. I heard and read about the park, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Northern Circuit before even arriving in New Zealand. However, since I’m not really a heavy hiker, I didn’t think too much about visiting before I arrived in the country.

New Zealand brought out the tramping spirit in me. The country is known for its amazing walks and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of its best.

At 2,287 meters, Mount Ngauruhoe is the second tallest active volcano in the park and was used as Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings. 

The Crossing takes about seven hours to complete starting from Mangatepopo car park and ending at Ketetahi car park or vice versa. We didn’t want to pay for a transfer back to our car, so opted to start at Mangatepopo, walk to the Emerald Lakes and walk back. I think this actually may have taken longer though.

I can’t go on enough about how special this walk and park is. Home to three active volcanoes, it almost feels as if your walking on a different planet at some points on the track. From staring up a brown, black and red ashy Mount Ngauruhoe all day to catching a glimpse of the Blue Lake settled atop a hill with Lake Taupo in the background to finally reaching the three teal-green Emerald Lakes, the whole day was quite spectacular.

But it didn’t come without a lot of work!

Let me start by saying, that anybody in moderate health will be able to complete this walk. But how long it will take to complete depends on how in or out of shape you are. I am very out of shape. Other than a few runs recently and two hikes up Mt. Maunganui in the past two months, I haven’t really worked out in almost over a year.

I struggled a lot at Tongariro. About half of the walk is on a steep incline and these inclines are covered in rock and gravel, so it’s pretty slippery. As I mentioned, I don’t hike, so I did the walk in running sneakers, which isn’t the best for going up or down a slippery mountain. I fell about three times. The air is thinner on the walk too, so I became short of breath more often than I would on land too.

The walk was worth all the struggle. It felt good to reach Emerald Lakes and make it back. But I have a feeling I’ll be paying for it over the next few days. In my bed-ridden state, I’ll be writing a much more in depth post on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, with loads more photos.

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