I had set the alarm for 6:30am before going to bed. Big mistake as that was the time the shuttle service from Ketetahi parking would take us to Mangatepopo parking where we would commence the long and windy alpine crossing of Mt Tongariro. Luckily there was Lio, thank god for her, who always double checks the alarm and she pointed out to me it would be pretty close trying to make the bus. She reset it for 5:30am and we we’re off to bed.
We got to the car park just in time to have a quick breakfast and to put on our hiking boots. From there it was just a short drive to the start of the hike. That’s when it first hit us. We had already seen it at Waiotapu thermal wonderland but would not have expected it here. Mass tourism. Even before we started there was already the waiting line at the loo and when we were on the track it was just a single file to the devil’s staircase. That’s where the boys would be separated from the men though. We clocked off after half an hour even though the brochure said it would take us at least one. Man and woman all right. After that it was another climb to Red Crater, which would bring us to an altitude of 1886m.
At Red Crater we enjoyed a little R & R and decided we wanted to side-track to the summit of Mt Tongariro. We were glad to do it, as the scenery was absolutely stunning with views on the emerald lakes, blue lake, Mt Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe (Doom). When we got back to Red Crater we found us a hotspot (where the geothermal activity heats up your seat) and had lunch.
From there it would be an ‘easy’ descent, which proved not that easy because of the scree, and a short climb to Blue Lake. I had the urge to jump in the lakes but decided not to. You never know you might end up blue or something. After a short break at the Blue lake and the mandatory picture time, we started the long descent to Ketetahi Parking where old Cindy would be waiting for us with two cold ones in the chilly bin.
My scout wisdom would prove correct as I told Lio the descent is often worse than the climb. The three hour downhill worked on our feet, toes and knees and it took longer than expected. When we finally went around the last bend and saw our little home on wheels we felt absolutely knackered and delighted at the same time. We had our beers and some crisps and that was us.
A beautiful day and an amazing hike. What more would you want.