Central crossing

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The Tongariro Crossing is a 19km hike across the volcanic plateau in the central north island and is considered one of the best single day walks in the world.

The Tongariro Crossing is a 19km hike across the volcanic plateau in the central north island and is considered one of the best single day walks in the world. My mother (aged 69) had it on her bucket list so when some friends visiting from Canada expressed a desire to walk it they made a plan and I thought I’d go along as support crew!

We spent the night before in Turangi and got collected by bus at 6:15am just as the sun was rising in what turned out to be an absolutely perfect day. By the time we arrived at Mangatepopo (between Turangi & National Park) to start the walk it was so clear we could see right across to Mt Taranaki. 

The walk started easily on gentle grades through scrub land and small streams before reaching the “Devils Staircase” where you climb 200 metres on many flights of stairs built into the rocks. This section takes close to an hour and really tests the lungs, but the view from the top is spectacular. 

From here you get a 10 minute breather, an easy walk along a dry south crater before the uphill starts again. This time there are fewer stairs, instead it’s more mountain goat stuff with chains attached in one section so you can pull yourself up the rocks. This places you on the top of Red Crater with views way out to the Kaimanawa Ranges. Then it’s uphill again on a pathway of loose shingle to reach the top – time for a quick hug with Mum to acknowledge our achievement in reaching the peak!

We descend (slide!) down on loose scoria to reach the Emerald Lakes where we stop & eat our packed lunch. As we sit there we watch the hundreds of other hikers coming over the top of the mountain.

The crossing has become one of NZ’s leading attractions with 109,000 people walking over in the past year. The track was designed for 600 people a day at most, but many days there are well over 1000 including the day we were there. I can understand its popularity, the scenery and views are among the best in the world, although the expressions on many faces suggest not everyone hiking quite knew how challenging
it would be.

After lunch it’s downhill. 3 hours of downhill. It seems to last forever. The first part is a winding track through open fields of mountain tussock grass and the last section through native bush. It’s tiring on the legs and knee joints, I can feel my toes pushing the front of my boots with each downhill step.

Finally, and after 8 hours or walking, we reach the carpark at Ketetahi and it’s another hug with Mum for making it over, a great accomplishment. We get the bus back to Turangi for a much needed drink and reflect on a perfect day.

Things to note:
You’ll need a moderate fitness level and some prior training to complete the walk, take at least 2 litres of water with you, your lunch and some energy snacks. There are limited toilets facilities on the track and definitely no shops! The weather can change rapidly in the mountains so take warm and dry clothes.

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