As I said yesterday the weather had been misty. Overnight it had closed in as it often does in mountain areas. It had rained over night and was a blustery. We were uncertain if the walk would go ahead. As we had breakfast the mist started to lift and the drizzle eased so we became more optimistic.
We had paid for a guide as although we are pretty experienced hill walkers we had no maps and no local experience of weather etc. We knew it would be a maximum 6:1 ration with the guide.
We went to the RV point and met our guide for the day, Chris.He was just what you expected. 42, tanned, several tattoos and piercings. He was wearing shorts despite the weather and a headband. In the summer he is a mountain guide and in the winter a snowboard and ski instructor. He had lived in the area since he was 3 so knew just about everything there was to know.
First thing he said was 'the weather report is good for the rain but poor for hill clouds and wind'. In fact it was gusting to 80kph on the highest ridge. He said we would most likely not be able to do the complete crossing but we would go as high as possible and see how it went.
We were a bit disappointed but you cant beat the weather. As we got on the mini bus we met the other two people who were hiking with us. Horst and Sabine. Now we've been hiking long enough to know who can do it and who can't. Never in a month of Sundays were they going to be able to do this.
They were both around 60. He was overweight and sweating already and she was frail looking. Chris went through the usual safety briefing and asked about injuries etc. Thumbs up all round. Yeah right I thought.
So we got to the start point and off we went. Well it wasn't long before our companions were struggling and we had only climbed a short way. We arrived at the bottom of 'Devils staircase'. A steep climb of some 350 steps. Jill and I looked up and said 'piece of piss'.
Horst and Sabine decided it was too much and said they would go back and wait at the van.
Now you have to ask what the F*** did they think the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was going to be? A gentle riverside stroll with a pub at the end. Now this put Chris in a slightly difficult position. We were chomping at the bit to crack on and his other two customers looked like they were about to have seizures. We had a short chat where I said bottom line is we've spent a good sum of money to do this. If the weather stops us, so be it but not like this.
A few frantic phone calls and it was agreed that we would push on with Chris and someone would come and collect Horst and Sabine, assuming they were still alive to collect !!
As you make the climd you are flanked on two sides by dormant volcanos. One was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. Chris had done some work on the film as a guide and location spotter.
AS we climbed the weather warmed a little and the cloud started to lift. We reached the first ridge. This overlooks the area which was shot as the 'Valley of Mordor' in the Rings. A perfect choice. Bleak, desolate and foreboding. The other thing was as you reached the summit of the ridge the wind hit you..Whoosh. It was about 50kph and you couldn't actually turn and face in to it. If you look at the photos you will see how my coat is billowing. It was so strong I couldn't take a photo of the valley because I couldn't hold the camera still.
At this point Chris said, 'sorry guys but it will be too strong on the next ridge and dangerous'. It was a huge disappointment buthe knew by now that we were experienced walkers and if he wasn't going there neither was I.
We thought the day may have to end there but not so. Chris knew his way around the mountain and took us on a different trail to get views of the volcanos and to cross a river bed and some snow areas. After several hours on the mountain we came down and headed for another 2 hour hike to Tangariki Falls. What a treat. We climbed to the top and then scaled down the side to the base. It wasn't huge but it was certainly in full flow. Really impressive. At the base Chris said lets go inside the falls. So we carefully navigated across the wet rocks and stood in a small recess behind the falls. Each time the wind changed we got a freezing cold shower. Jill and I both agreed it was great as we had seen lots of water falls but never been able to do that.
We eventually followed a river path through a dense woods to get back to our van and welcome cold beer. We were disappointed about the crossing but still had a super day. Back at the site the receptionist, come bar maid come cook served up a stonking curry.A great end to a fab day.
Sleep?.....you bet ya.
Today we've made our way to Upper Hutt in the Hutt Valley. A lovely drive. We are staying here tonight on a pretty site. Tomorrow we are headed in to Wellington where we will catch the ferry across to Picton on the south island.