Friday 14th Jan was a pretty eventful day! From Taupo, we headed out to the West of the North Island to Waitomo Caves, apparently world famous for their glow worms. There, I went Black Water Rafting, which is actually not really rafting but more like sitting in a rubber ring and 'floating' along an undergrouind river in a bunch of caves. And when i say floating it wasn't really floating cos there wasn't much current so you have to push yourself along somehow. Not that easy when you're wearing a wetsuit and wellies (swimming is not easy)! I was a bit of a wimp at one point cos we had to jump backwards onto our rings from about 3m up and i freaked out. I did it though. The rest of the way was easy, with a point where we linked up in a chain and the guidea pulled us through in pitch black so we could only see the glowworms on the roof which was beautiful!
After Waitomo we drove back further inland and headed for Tongariro National Park. Yesterday I completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is often called the best one day walk in NZ. 'Walk' is a little misleading when you think that it's 19.4km (about 12 miles) and parts of it are more like hiking or climbing. The track goes through the middle of Mount Tongariro and Mount Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings). It starts off quite easy just a casual walk for about an hour. Then you start the really steep bit up hundreds of steps (about 390 if i'm eavesdropping correctly on the conversation going on behind me right now). It was ok though because I was doing it with two girls i met on my bus, Sophie and Emma, and we did it at our own pace, stopping all the time to get our breath back. When we got to the top of that it was a nice little flat bit, as we crossed the South Crater. It was so bare, just like what i imagine walking on the moon would be like, and we had clouds really low around us so it was really surreal feeling.
The next part was the worst, as we started another steep climb, upwards to the Red Crater. The ground was made up of loads of small rocks so you couldn't really get a grip and your feet kept sliding backwards down the hill. To make it worse, it was going up to the highest point of the crossing and it was ridiculously windy and cold. So i had to put my hoodie on so that my ears didn't freeze and was so scared that i was gonna get blown off the track! It was all worth it though because the view from the highest point was awesome. It was still pretty cloudy up there but when the clouds rolled past we got an amazing view all around us. There was a Red crater in one direction with all different coloured rocks and a series of lakes in the other. (That's what the picture is of - those are the Emerald lakes that you can see from the highest point.) We stopped for lunch sitting next to one of the lakes, and the sky cleared up a bit so we got really good views of the surrounding area too.
After that there was another small upward climb, which i wasn't expecting, cos i thought it was all downhill from there! We walked around the edge of the Blue lake and then from there the downhill started. Frustratingly, it was a lot longer than it seemed like it should be cos it was a really shallow gradient downwards which wound all along the side of the hill and every time you thought you were almost there, it wound round a corner again! The very last part was a nice pretty walk (still downhill) through some native bush, which also seemed to go on forever! Overall it took us 7 and a half hours (starting at 630 am!!) which I'm quite proud of as they recommend 6-8 hours, and we did it at our own pace, and didn't get back to the car park too early and have to wait ages for the bus!
Obviously today I'm aching quite a bit, and have spent the whole day doing very little. I'm still in the national park and have watched lots of movies in the hostel tv room today. Move on again tomorrow, to Wellington.