A 'Sweet As' Volcano trek

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Flag of New Zealand  , Waikato,
Monday, February 6, 2012

The main reason we wanted to go to Taupo was to walk the Tongarirro Crossing, a 19.5 km hike which is listed as arguably the best one-day walk in New Zealand and one of the 10 best in the world... sounds good!

Taupo itself was also well worth a visit though. The Lake is the largest in Australasia and everywhere you drive you are rewarded with incredible views and amazing picnic spots. Lake Taupo is roughly the same size as Singapore. What's funny is that Singapore has 4.8 million people whilst New Zealand has 4.4 million, that means that Singapore is the equivalent of putting more than the entire population of New Zealand in an area the same size as Lake Taupo! (OK, perhaps not funny, but I found it interesting)

Whilst we didn't spend much time inside the town we did spend a fair amount of time exploring the region in the van and it's such a beautiful part of the country. One of the best things about having a Campervan is that you can just stop wherever you want, put the pan on for a cup of tea and have a picnic. One of the best of these was Lake Rotairaira where I sat by the Lake watching a bunch of black swans, whilst Katy hopped around running away from the bees. We're proper campers now!
 
When planning our trek the only problem is that you start at one side of the Tongarirro national park and finish on the other, meaning you have to arrange transport to get you back to your car or arrange for a bus to take you to the park and return you to the campsite. We obviously decided on the cheapest option which was to park at the finish, and then have a bus take us to the start. From there you can simply walk back to your car... perfect! 

However when we checked into our campsite the owner urged me for quite some time to reconsider that decision. He said that the car park there is regularly burgled. It is a very secluded spot and the burglars know you are away for at least 6 or 7 hours giving them loads of time to remove every useful item you have. There's even a rumour that someones car got broken into for a crate of beers. We had already paid for our tickets so didn't take his advice to pay twice the cost to get a bus, but it was now playing on our minds that we were going to be robbed
For the next few hours we just planned as if that would happen, deciding which items would be good to lose and which we wouldn't want to and should carry with us during the trek.... Such stress on what's due to be an awesome day! 

The next morning we were up at 5am and headed over to the car park to begin our trek. Whilst 19.5km didn't sound too bad and a reasonably manageable distance, the first 7 km's are climbing up and up onto a volcano so your legs are absolutely ruined by the time you have another 12.5km's to go. 

That ascent was so hard, everyone seemed to find it pretty tough and all the walkers were people who looked like keen trekkers with all the gear and walking poles etc. There was one guy who didn't find it hard though, he literally ran the crossing! We heard a few people chatting about it and they were told that he's a mountain runner and runs that 19.5km from hell in 1hr25. I think if he can run that in 1hr25 he isn't challenging himself enough and should have offered to carry my bag to the finish... but he didn't.

Anyway, back to our walk... it was described to us as an alpine desert walk, the only one of it's kind in the world and to say it was spectacular doesn't begin to describe it. It was spectacular in every way, spectacularly beautiful, spectacularly interesting, spectacularly unusual and most of all spectacularly hard work! 

We would walk and walk going up further and further and just as you think you've reached the top you see another bend with yet more steps and rocks to climb up. Fortunately the surrounds were incredibly beautiful so you could always disguise a cheeky rest as a photo opportunity (which we did a lot).

When we did eventually reach the top though, all that pain paled into insignificance. We went over the final few steps and were greeted with the most amazing view either of us have ever seen. Just behind us was an active volcano (which stars as Mount Doom in Lord of the rings), then next to that was billowing steam coming from a vent in the hillside, in front of us were two emerald sulphur pools and a large crater lake and behind all of that you could see the hilly forest countryside for miles. This is why everyone raves about New Zealand's countryside. 

Amazingly even the ground we were stood on was hot and after a few minutes it started to steam as well. It was just amazing!

We were lucky enough to have very clear skies and from the top we could see for miles and miles, right up to Lake Taupo which is about an hour and a half away by car. The information centre had said it was going to be cloudy and rainy, BUT they were wrong and we had the best day all week for completing the crossing. 

And to top it all off, when we got to the van it hadn't been burgled, vandalised or stolen, Woop!

So the walk was awesome... don't get me wrong, it was an incredibly tough walk and we are both feeling the effects. But it was worth every single painful step and I'm not sure if anything can top that view! 

Although, New Zealand seems to be full of surprises, can't wait to see what's next. We're headed for Wellington and then South Island! 

 New Zealand is awesome!
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