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North Island Day 11: The Tongariro Crossing

National Park, New Zealand

The Tongariro Crossing; The most popular and accessible day tramp in New Zealand. Oh, and a day tramp over here isn't the lass next door you knock off in your lunch hour while the missus is at work, tramping is basically hiking. It's a huge pastime in NZ, there are countless marked walks which are broken up with backcountry huts maintained by the DoC where you can spend the night and there are several which are classed as Great Walks. This is part of one of them. It's a 19km trek that starts at Mangatepopo carpark, takes you past the foot of Mt Ngauruhoe (with the option to climb it), across South Crater, past Red Crater and Emerald Lake then down to Ketetahi carpark.

Sounds easy. It's not, especially given that I'd just spent 6 months sat in a call centre eating cookies. The only exercise I'd got was the walk to the vending machine and back and a small amount of eye rolling whilst dealing with customers. Not good preparation.

We got off to a good start though, there were a few inclines but nothing we couldn't handle, it wasn't too bad and we made it to Soda Springs with only minor sweating and loss of breath. So far so good. We celebrated with sandwiches. Nothing though, and I mean nothing can prepare you for the next stage of the walk.

I'd heard tell of a section known informally as the Devil's Staircase. If it refers to this bit and, indeed, I can't think of anything else it could possibly refer to, then the devil had nothing to do with it. Something infinately more evil than beelzeebub himself created these motherfuckers. They take you up towards something called the Saddle, at least they do eventually after sucking your very soul from your being.
Andi stormed on ahead of me, I was buggered. Seriously. The worst thing is, just as you think it might be over you turn another corner and you're faced with more inclines and stairs upwards. It's soul destroying for someone who generally only has feet so they have something to place on the coffee table while they drink vodka and eat cake.

It honestly feels like its never going to end but you know it is, that's what keeps you going. You could always turn back and scav a lift of a stranger at the start of the walk but why do that? It has to end at some point. It has to.
You finally make it to the Saddle and collapse in a sweaty, trembling heap onto the rocks, trying to regain control of your lungs as your life's breath seeps from you with every aching gasp...

OK, just me then. everyone else took a quick swig of water and decided if they were going to attempt the 3 hour round trip to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe. A guy had passed Andi on the way up and the following exchange took place:

Guy: Your friend's struggling a bit back there.
Andi: Yeah I know.
Guy: Must be all that metal weighing her down.

Funny bastard.

If we had any inclination to attempt Mt Doom that bonfire was well and truely pissed on as we sat at the bottom looking up. We'd pretty much decided in Taupo that, movie star or not, neither of us was fit enough to do it. The walk isn't marked and the climb is proper steep, well out of the question given my inability to get DOWN hills. I have a tendency to slide down on my arse on account of my theory that you can't fall off the floor (just small, plastic trays on wheels only slightly higher than the floor) and I don't own any trousers than can take that degree of sliding.

Fair enough really, its Mt Doom, not Mt Happy Joy from "My Little Ponies Go To New Zealand." We continued on the walk, up another killer slope designed to destroy any remaining shred of energy I might have had left to the highest point of the walk, Red Crater. And yep, it's most definately red as I noticed once I'd dragged myself to the edge.

But once you're up you have to get down and as previously mentioned, going down hills aint my forte. Especially hills with loose, sandy/gravelly footing and a steep slope to either side when you're about as sure footed as a crippled giraffe. Have you ever started something you really wish you hadn't? It was hell. I wanted to just sit down and cry and the only reason I didn't was that it wouldn't have gotten me off that fucking mountain any sooner. At that moment, I'd have given everything I had just for a helicopter to come and lift me off the side and drop me at the nearest pub.

But again, it had to end at some point so I hardened the fuck up and got to the bottom to the Emerald Lake feeling like I should be awarded some kind of medal. Not in the best of moods at this point but still, we werent even halfway to the end.
The rest of the walk is pretty uneventful. If anything its boring. Eventually you wind your way down to Ketetahi Hut and as gentle as the slope it, fuck it hurts. By the time we left the hut to finish the last two hours Andi was in a lot of pain. All you want is for it to level out and finish, we were so over it. Glad we'd done it but totally and utterly over it.

We made it to the end just in time to get the shuttle bus back. 15 minutes later and we'd have been buggered. I can't say it it was the best day of my life but yeah, if you're fitter than me (and bear in mind I have the fitness level of a lazier than average sloth) its well worth it and for me it was good preparation for when my sister comes over in February and attempts to kill me. She's a personal trainer and I've asked her to get me into shape and she intends to do this with power walking, swimming, body weight resistance circuits and something called yomping which is apparently brisk walking interspersed with jogging.
Fuck me it even sounds painful! She's got her work cut out anyways. And here she was thinking she was coming away on holiday.

Once we were back at the hostel we showered and soaked in the hot tub and I vowed never to move again.

This Rocked
permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 23, 2009 from National Park, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

Send a Compliment

Is it mean of me to sit here and laugh at your torment (with you of course not at you) here in my comfy chair with gin and tonic in hand? hmmmm ;}

permalink written by  OneTormented on January 28, 2009


Its really entertaining. Photos are too gud.

permalink written by  jeni_rose on January 28, 2009

Onetormented: I'd rather do the Crossing again naked than drink gin and tonic!
This by the way is not an invitation for a challenge, a bet or a dare so stop waving that vodka at me, I'm not signing any contracts!

Jeni-rose: Thank you :)

permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 28, 2009

well booo you're no fun ;P and yay more g&t for me then! niiice! But look at it this way, you WON the last bet... uhuh.... *waves vodka* teehee

permalink written by  OneTormented on January 29, 2009

i did that for a school camp, and i was sure i saw chubaka from star wars on the Cliff on the left of you before you climb the devil's staircase

permalink written by  Nicole Wood on February 2, 2012

ii wrote Cliff in my comment, dont click on link, thats not what i meant

permalink written by  Nicole Wood on February 2, 2012

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Previous: North Island Day 10: Flying High Next: North Island Day 12: Glutton For Bloody Puishment

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I live life on the edge.

Provided I'm harnessed to a safety rope and there's a team of trained professionals on hand to make sure I don't fall off.

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