Over the Mountain and Through the Woods
Trip Start Nov 20, 2013
170Trip End Ongoing
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Finally, it was time to go. We got onto the bus with our many layers of clothing. The bus dropped us off right by the starting point just before 8AM and it was time to get going on the 19.4KM hike. We were told that we were 1,100 meters high where the bus dropped us off and we would hike to 1,800 meters where we (weather permitting) would see the "red crater". Then, we'd hike down to 700 meters to wrap up the hike. The bus would be meeting us at the finishing point at 3:30 giving us 7 and a half hours to complete the jaunt.
When we started, the weather was reasonable. It was windy here and there with the odd bit of rain, but overall, not too bad. We were told the first hour or so would be fairly simple and it was. We walked along a path and were even a bit hot with all of our layers, so we undressed a bit. It seemed like we had barely been walking when we saw the sign that said we completed 1 KM. Only 18.4 more to go. This would be a breeze, right? WRONG!
After about 3 or 4 KM and an hour walking, the hike became more challenging. Gone were the manmade paths. Now it was time to climb walking along a narrow muddy path and consistently climbing rocks both big and small
At one point during the extreme wind, Jason accidentally took us off the path. It was Garyn who realized something wasn't right and we retraced ourselves until we saw other hikers and carried on the proper way. As we got closer to the top, the final ascent to the top of the mountain was completely rock. This likely would have been challenging in good weather conditions, but with the strong winds, rain, and cold temperatures, it made this climb extremely difficult. Around this time, we were wearing all the layers we brought and the rain soaked them all. Nothing we had was waterproof and we were so drenched that our clothing now had extra weight to it making each step even heavier than it was before
After reaching the top, we began to make our way down in what was one of the most challenging parts of the hike. We were on the edge of the Red Crater, which was only about a four-foot path widthwise and completely covered with tons of volcanic ash. The descent was a steep one and we basically slid the whole way since we couldn't grip anything with our shoes.
While the rest of the hike was longer in terms of distance, it was a bit easier since we were done with our big climbs and the lower we got, the more favourable the weather conditions were. Having said that, we were completely soaked, cold, and tired, so we definitely weren't in the same shape we were at the start. There were some more challenges including needing to run through a stream towards the end, but we knew we were close to the finish line. The last hour or so took us through a forest and then sure enough, we hit the end in a time of 5 hours and 48 minutes
When we arrived at the end it was nearly 2PM and the bus wasn't coming until 3:30. We were completely drenched and while the sun popped out once in a while, it wasn't doing much to keep us warm. Garyn was shivering like crazy and waiting for the bus seemed like it took forever. Ultimately the bus came and drove us back to the hostel where we took a hot shower and left to drive 4 hours to Wellington - our final stop on the North Island.