We had to wake up at 7am to start the Tongariro Crossing by 8:00. It’s supposed to be the the most popular and beautiful day hike in NZ! It started out on a level path towards the mountain for an hour, very scenic with rocks strewn about and interesting plants growing around, and I was near the front of the group. Then we reached the mountain and started climbing it and OH GOOD LORD was it steep! It was all dirt and rocks, no trees, straight up. I had to stop every few minutes to rest, quite sad considering I AM in shape! After what felt like forever, we finally reached the top of the first peak. Great views of below! The other Flying Kiwis had been just ahead of me and continued the hike once I rejoined them. We got to walk across a big volcanic crater (the South Crater), all flat and bare while surrounded by Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, active volcanoes! It was like walking on Mars, lots of red and brown, all flat and barren. So awesome!!
Then came another steep hike up to Red Crater to our highest point at 1886m (started at 950m)… so basically we hiked up 900m. I was exhausted and covered in sweat but the view was incredible. We had another great view of the volcano (lots of gray and red), which was semi-steaming. Soon we descended to the Emerald Lakes (3 small craters filled with bright blue water, gorgeous!), set in the mountains. We passed Central Crater and the Blue Lake, and then began our downward journey. Somehow our whole group, after being together at the top, ended up way ahead of me and Francois – they were going so fast! It was downhill for nearly 4 hours – sounds easy, but it was murder on my toes! Midway through this, we all met up at a hut to rest and again I ended up behind. I finished the last hour with Jason, who also made frequent photo stops. The end part was through the forest where you couldn’t see the road or end until you were done. There were nice little streams and falls near the end, but at that point we just wanted it to end! And around 3:00, after 7 hours, it did. Only 3 (Jackie and the young German girls) came after us, 15 mins later. A few (Sally and Rich) probably finished an hour earlier.
I donated my ipod to be played on the bus – I made a nice new playlist and everything! But then Neil (driver) started playing random songs like 50 Cent “In Da Club” and Ace of Base “All That She Wants”. Que embarassing! I guess it could have been much worse though, seeing as my song collection mirrors my penchant for super cheesy pop. Rich also hijacked my ipod and played some better songs and said he approved of my ipod. So overall, my ipod was liked.
We had fish and chips at a restaurant that night, definitely not filling. A bunch of people played soccer and rugby on the lawn out front while I tried to deal with my eye that still hurt!
We stayed at a motel/lodge that night, with a bunch of 4-person rooms on an outdoor hallway. At this point, it got very high school-ish, with people calling rooms and roommates right away. Go figure the only ones NOT asking like immature highschoolers were the ones actually IN high school [or recently out of it]. I hung back and shared a room with the 16-year-old German girls. All of us wanted to get some sleep while everyone else stayed up and drank… but the 2 of them wanted to wake up at 5:30! Crazy! We settled on something later thankfully. They’re really great girls, I’m glad we got to talking these last few days. They actually knew of each other before this trip when they went to the same England school, though they weren’t friends then… and ended up on the same NZ tour! Crazy.