It was February 16 and time to head to the bush. In New Zealand that means the country. It was good to get away from touristy Rotorua.
Tongariro National Park is New Zealand’s oldest national park and the biggest on the north island. Scenery from this park is used in the Lord of the Rings films.
This park is especially popular with hikers because of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is a 12.5 mile walk that starts and finishes in different places. Climbers scramble up the Mangetepopo Saddle which lies between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe peaks. Once cresting the Tongariro summit to the Red Crater at 6,120 feet, trekkers descend on loose gravel and stones to 3 smaller craters called the Emerald Lakes.
We talked to a young man who, with a mate, did the hike in one direction one day then turned around and did it back the next day. At 19 that may be doable, but he sure looked worse for the wear when he got back.
We did not do the crossing. (sigh)
From a distance you can see the mountains. The northern Ngaurahoe is not snow covered. But it is spectacular because it’s a volcano and lets off plenty of steam. We drove down a dirt road that was a pick up point and parking spot for people doing the crossing. While there, we took lots of steaming pictures. We picked up a hitchhiking young man from the Netherlands who had just finished the hike in about 7 hours. He said the weather was perfect in that it was not cold, windy, or rainy. He walked by lots of steam vents where hikers were warming up in the early morning hours. The views he said were stunning. We dropped him off on a dirt road that would take him back to where his wife and one-year old were camping.
Once again, New Zealand amazes us with its natural diversity as do young people with their willingness and ability to trek the world—even with a baby in tow.