Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Smoking hills and lunar landscapes

The Tongariro Crossing: supposedly one of the finest 1 day walks in New Zealand. And after Saturday, we can attest that it is! Simply put, it's like no other place I've been to. Not only does it have the lunar landscape, it has red craters, smoking hillsides, smelly sulpher, conical volcanoes, crystal clear blue and green lakes, and what seemed like millions of people.

After attempting this walk two weekends ago only to have it cancelled due to windy weather, Paul, Bruce and I were keen to get an early start and met the shuttle at 7am. The Crossing is officially over 19 kilometers long, but we took an extra side track to climb Mt. Tongariro, one of the three volcanoes found in the National Park. We had hoped to climb Mt. Ngarahoe (Mt. Modor to those of you who are Lord of the Rings Fans) but alas, Bruce and I weren't in as good of shape as we hoped.

We climbed Devil's Staircase, crossed our first crater, gazed up at the perfect cone that forms Mt. Ngarahoe (pronounced Nar-a-hoe-ee), climbed the crater rim, walked along the ridge and up to the summit of Mt. Tongariro, passed the Red Crater, scaled down the side to the Emerald Lakes, passed the Blue Lake, crossed our second crater, and then wandered through the bush for a couple hours. In all, we walked 14 miles and shed a few pounds along the way.

If you ever get the chance to do this challenging tramp - DO IT! Although there are so many people you'll think you're in China, it is completely worth it and something you're not likely to soon forget.

If you'd like to see some more amazing photos, check out Paul's gallery at http://www.pominnz.smugmug.com/gallery/4480603_yeLK8#263549573 and marvel at the beauty that is Tongariro National Park.

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