I bombed up the road to National Park and was greeted with a forecast that didn’t look very promising. I almost decided to give the walk a very reluctant miss (it’s the one walk I really wanted to do) but decided to get up in the morning and have a look. Lukcy I did. As soon as I looked out I could see the outline of the mountains – clear skies. Excellent. 7am it was on the bus.
The crossing is heralded as one of the world’s greatest one day walks. Whether it is or not is up to you but it is a pretty spectacular crossing of active volcanoes, only slightly spoiled (in my humble opinion) by the necessary paths that DOC have had to construct on the northern side of the trail (walking through bush on a path booooores me).
I reckoned I’d easily make the walk before the bus so headed up Mount Ngauruhoe (2292m) as a side trip. It’s pretty hard going going up the volcanic debris but it is totally different to any surface I’ve walked on before. Even before you get to this point you have been walking across loads of volcanic rock from previous eruptions. Luckily I got up before the clouds came in, although watching the clouds roll up the cone shaped peak was impressive in itself (see picture). I had spectacular views across to Mount Taranaki on the west coast. Despite taking me the best part of 90 minutes to get up, I got down in around 20 mins jogging down the volcanic scree like I was telemark skiing. I think the last eruption was in 1975 but at the top it’s clear it’s still active as you can see by the flumaroles (I think that’s correct) coming through the rocksand the noises coming from the impressive crater, also shown in the picture. The only other volcano I’ve been up was in Hawaii but it wasn’t nearly as impressive (except the 30+km bike freewheel to the beach from the summit!).
There’s so many images to see from the crossing I’ve only put a few up here. After my descent I made it over the red crater (see picture) to the much publicised Emerald Pools. There were amazing moon type landscapes in the distance and if I had only done a bit more planning rather than turning up at the hostel at 8pm the night before, I would have maybe stayed overnight in the hut up here. There was a mad crowd that were about to launch an inflatable dinghy on one of the lakes, and there was an apprehensive paraglider considering a launch (he decided to launch from near the end of the trail instead as he wasn’t sure of the weird thermals).
Unfortunately the walk in this direction ended with a slog downhill through the bush – despite my walking poles my knees were starting not to like this very much,and god do I hate paths and ‘forest walks’ despite how amazing the plantlife is in New Zealand. If I did it again I think I would do the walk in the opposite direction, getting the bush walk out of the way, take the hit of the extra 400m climb, stay overnight in the hut and do more exploring around the park.
I found out Rob (who I missed phone calls from) had headed to the South Island so decided not to rush away and stay in the hostel another night. I had a quick play on the climbing wall that was part of the hostel and totally chilled. As it was a Sunday night and this is low season (inbetween the madness of summer and the start of winter) it was only a frenchman and I staying in the huge place which was great. I managed to sit and watch tele with magazines and a coffee, and have one of my best kips for ages.
It was just what I needed as the previous night I had moved to the TV room at around 4am after sharing the room with a bunch of professional snorers…they also announced their arrival into the room pulling all of their belongings out the most crispy sounding plastic bags ever. The TV room bordered our dorm and a loud bigoted ‘…I’m not a racist though…’ English guy was spouting off about the state of England in the tele room with the TV turned up too loud. I almost shouted obscenities at him when I heard him ask the staff if he could keep the TV on all night. Quite ironic really as he was just spouting off about how bad the English youth are nowadays and how inconsiderate they were (although he did say the Scottish were the best people in the UK). I must have eventually drifted to sleep after knocking on the wall (which bordered the TV Room). Despite having several professional snorers in the room, one of the guys was so loud that on around the seventh pull of the pillow over my head and curse that this was the one night I left my earplugs in the car, I seriously considered stepping over and breaking his nose.
I’m starting to f**(ing hate hostels and sharing bedrooms. Kiwiland has to contain some of the best hostels around, but despite having a bunch of really cool travellers in them they have their fare share of inconsiderate, selfish loud mouthed twats in it.
The indoor climbing wall taken from my dorm’s doorway. A bit like having bedrooms surround Edinburgh’s Alien Rock climbing wall!