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Happy Halloween! Today, I dressed up as a mountain climber, since our main activity was supposed to be trekking the rugged Tongariro Alpine Crossing. When we got to the base of the trail, our driver pointed up the mountain and said there was bad weather up there.
Many of the guys and a few of the girls wanted to do the higher climb anyway. They said our driver was "just a bus driver, so what does he know?" I was like, “Um, you guys are idiots.” Seriously, that driver, visits the base of the mountain every day and definitely understands the weather conditions.
To make matters even clearer, I looked out the bus window and saw professional mountain climbers shaking their heads and turning back. Some of our guys are pretty fit, but none of them have any knowledge of alpine trekking, especially under bad weather conditions (snow and fog so dense you can't see in front of you) and with totally improper gear (like sneakers).
This is why people die in the wilderness every year. They’re inexperienced and ignore the expert warnings. They think their physical fitness can conquer mother nature, but she is no joke. None of the experience outdoors people on our trip even considered going up once they heard the weather report.
Hans said it best: “Ok, Katie, you can go hike in a cloud, in your shorts, in the 120 mph winds.”
Once we’d convinced all of our macho men and women to do the lower hike, we started on the Northern Tongariro Circuit. It took about five hours and everyone got windburn on their faces, which were the only bits of skin we left exposed.
There were magnificent views of Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngauruhoe and the giant Mt. Ruapehu, which has a mini-eruption every year.
In contrast, the landscape we were actually walking through was disappointing. The trail wound through desolate valleys where the only vegetation was low, brown scrubby bushes. I did, however, see two very Halloween-ey things, which was fun. The first was a cloud that looked exactly like a witch’s hat. The second was a rock that was colored orange and black by minerals.
Once we reached the lower lake, which was very pretty, we couldn’t enjoy it because the wind pounded grit into our faces, teeth and eyes. Most of us skipped the upper lake, which is supposed to be really impressive, because the trail up to it followed a steep ridge. The wind was so strong it was blowing people over, so that last part just seemed too dangerous. The trail was a loop, so we had to do the entire thing backwards, which was sucky and boring.
On the bright side, we passed a pretty waterfall on our way into town. Once the long and windy hike was finally over, we celebrated our finish with good hot chocolate and coffees all around.
We had a fun night, starting with a delicious dinner of takeout fish, chips and fresh, homemade donuts. Then, we had a campfire and marshmallow roast. Tomorrow, the group is splitting up, with about half of the group leaving or heading back up north, and the rest of us (10 in all) are heading down south.