Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Ready to explore New Zealand our first goal was to go to the Tongariro National Park, with one special trek in mind: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Almost 20 kilometres taking you through amazing volcanic landscapes.

To get on the road we first got our rental car and our debut as “left lane drivers”. It seemed like they were used to reckless tourists confident that they can drive on the other side of the road, so they kindly offered us a small training around the block with an employee. He did an amazing job – or Ulrik learned fast – and soon we were able to drive safely out of Auckland.

In the afternoon we went to the Waitomo Caves to see glowworms. These are the nicest insects with illuminicent tails living in dark places. High on the great success of visiting another dark cave and the feeling of being on the road we pulled over to make dinner – to learn that also New Zealand has roadkills, and they are indeed a smelly experience. In the picture below we have saved you for the dead goat, and only captured the idyllic scene of Ulrik cooking 🙂

This was the last idyllic scene for a few days, as it started raining. And it rained and rained and rained, while also the cold really caught us. To ease both we decided to go to a “hot pool”, which was some kind of public pool heated by a hot spring. It neither made it stop raining nor calmed down the cold. Next try was hot chocolate – not really any effect either. Finally, we decided that we could also try to wait out the bad weather and hide in the tent until it was over. 12 hours later we capitulated, went out in the rain, and set off to get tickets for the shuttle bus for the big adventure we were there for anyway: The Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

We got the tickets for the next day (January 20th) together with vague expectations for better weather, and we started preparing: Strepsils value pack and our 2nd round of Kleenex plus a small walk around Lake Rotopounamu to test out how it feels to walk with a stuffy nose.

Luckily, next day the weather finally cleared and together with thousands of other tourists we could start our volcanic day-adventure. We were indeed excited. Ulrik, so excited that he woke up early to make extra nice breakfast. Gitte, so excited that she had to vomit the extra nice breakfast (I kind of thought I had grown out of this habit, but obviously not yet…).

On the track with all the other tourists it was clear that we had either prepared far too much, or that most others had not prepared at all. We saw all kind of variations over open shoes, Nike Free, and flip-flops and just felt terribly sweaty in our own boots. Official recommendations are to bring full rain gear, warm clothes, lots of food and water, so we had packed in our nice backpacks. Still wondering how those other tourists managed to fit it all into a small purse?

However, over the day our boots proved their worth, and when we reached the Red Crater and walked towards the summit we seemed to be among friends (read: Other tourists with sensible shoes and backpacks).

We came by a lot of great views, and have made a gallery if you want to see more. Here, there is only room for a selected few.

After reaching the Red Crater summit we started what proved to be a very long decent. First, down to Emerald Lakes, which made a perfect lunch spot, then a little up to Blue Lake, and then just down, down, down for around 8 kilometres. We struggled a little with our stuffy noses on our way up – our way down was just really, really long! However, we made it! And we were extremely proud – and quite relieved as this means that Gitte can now officially walk 21 kilometres without the usual back problems. This gives us a lot of confidence for our future adventures as well 🙂

Back at our campsite we did a proper “trucker’s wash”, washed the sweaty clothes, enjoyed a lovely dinner, and went to bed early. The next day we slept late, packed our stuff and travelled onwards to hit a hot shower in the Palmerston North City Library (what a lovely library by the way. All libraries should have hot showers!).

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