It’s probably the best day walk in the country, and could quite likely lay a broader blanket of fame than that as well. Australia and the Pacific perhaps? I, of course, have not completed every day walk in New Zealand, and certainly not in the continent, but I’d wager some good bets that it’s up there.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing spans the length of Mount Tongariro and is located in the Central North Island. Through a combination of Tim’s foggy memory, faulty research, and sugar-coating, I discovered that the 10 km walk that I expecting was actually 19.4 (And don’t forget the words “alpine crossing” in the title here. That means hills). Nevertheless, the distance is still easily traversed in a day, and the amazing scenery more than makes up for trudging slowly up the aptly named Devil’s Staircase. Every hike worth its salt surely has one of these – the steepest area of the track where they may have fashioned something resembling a crumbling staircase in an attempt to camouflage the aggressive slope you will soon be puffing up. Perhaps one of the best things about this hike is that you get all of the hard stuff out of the way at the beginning, reach a beautiful peak with beautiful views, and then spend the next three hours trotting downhill quite happily, slaloming down scree with hiking poles, past old women with hiking poles, which makes you feel a bit better about being 20-something and using hiking poles. The pristine and brilliant colours of the emerald and blue lakes, the steaming volcanoes, and the rocky, red earth of the track make for a day of extraordinary views, contrasts, and the constant and very real reminder that you are in an active volcanic zone. Fenced off explosion holes next to the path (and still a reasonable distance from the mouth of any volcano) the size of small cars and signs ready to change at a moments notice to advise visitors that the track is closed kept it in the forefront of our minds that the area is still extremely active volcanically. The steam alone was enough to make Tim a bit nervous, as he had spent a fair amount of time in the area and had never seen it so active. Clearly, though, all was well, and the start of our solo trip south began on quite an excellent foot.
Photo Credit: Tim Binks