Accomplishing the Tongaririo Alpine Crossing
Tongariro, New Zealand
A very bright and early start of 5.15. We were on the second shuttle bus at 6.10 out to the start of the Tongaririo Crossing early morning. It was a beautiful calm morning, you could tell it was going to be a stunning day! It was essential to take a waterproof coat, trousers, proper walking shoes and also 1.5 litres of water per person, without this you weren't allowed to get on the bus.
On arriving at the start point 20 minutes later, the bus driver discussed a few tips with us. He told us that the hike was very difficult and dangerous in parts so to watch out for loose rocks as there were no barriers or paths up there. If we were to get into trouble, it would be difficult to reach us in some parts... eek! He also said that the hike would take approx 8-9 hours with regular brakes etc. I looked around us at everyone else on the shuttle. Every single person was head to toe in North Face and Jack Wolfskin gear with walking poles and everything. I started to wonder if they knew something we didn't!
We set off at 6.30am ready and eager for the 20km hike ahead of us. I thought to myself 20km doesn't seem that far, I wonder what all the fuss is about! It was flat for the first 4 km and I was pretty confident I was going to smash this hike! Then there came the warning sign. "Are you really fit enough to go any further?!", it read. Pft... I've done 4 km without even realising- of course I am, I thought!
Half a km later, walking up the steepest set of steps in a zig zag order, I thought... Oh God! I might have to turn back! An hour later, and only another kilometre further in distance, I was struggling to put one foot in front of the other! I couldn't believe how steep and hard it was! Thankfully, everyone else around me was struggling too but not Matt, he was full of energy cheering me on up the mountain!
I went through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout the hike to the peak of the mountain. Sometimes I thought..., "come on Chelsea, you've got this!", and other times I couldn't bear to even hold a conversation with Matt... and I told him so! On reaching the top, we sat down and took in the sights around us. The active volcano 'Mount Tongaririo' was actually very beautiful to look at, and you could visibly see where the side of the volcano had been blown off by the pressure from inside, and also the solidified lava that had streamed down the side of it to the flat surface below.
On our way down the other side of the mountain, we passed the famous Emerald Lakes which were absolutely beautiful. As the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, we felt lucky we had come on a day with such perfect weather. The passage down the mountain was very steep with deep sand which was a nightmare, and while I frustratingly watched Matt bounce elegantly down it like a Gazelle, I was walking with my legs as far apart as they could go in an attempt to stabilise myself, down one foot at a time like an elephant and managed to fall over 5 times! Perfect!
16km down, we could see the car park down the bottom of the crossing. It didn't look far, but the path weaved in continuos 'S' shapes through the headland all the way to the end. We put our headphones in and decided to take this last bit alone. I had held Matt back enough and I didn't want to rush myself after all that to keep up with his pace. Besides, I knew he wanted to finish in reasonably good time.
Matt finished in 6 hours and made it back for the first shuttle pick up which only 3 other very experienced hikers were there for, he did really well! I got there 30 minutes later. I was actually so chuffed to finish it in 6 and half hours, well below the recommended time as at one point I thought I wasn't going to be able to complete it at all!
Back at the campsite, we had a sneaky free shower and headed off in the eastern direction of Rotorua. We managed to find a free car park for the night which was perfect! We sat in the late day sun with a game of cards and more Ciders (I'm obsessed now), made some dinner and packed in for an early night. Our feet were sore but I knew we would be feeling it in our legs tomorrow! Fingers crossed we would be ok for White water rafting!