jen yu: new zealand 2003 - day 7

new zealand 2003 - day 7

back to nz 2003
[ day 6 | day 8 ]
tongariro crossing, turangi
july 31, 2003
read about the day
SimpleViewer requires JavaScript and the Flash Player. Get Flash.

No rain so far! We were picked up by the bus at 7 am outside of the fishing lodge and were amazed to find the bus was full. I think everyone was younger than us (most in their 20s) and with the exception of the driver who would accompany everyone on the crossing, not especially well prepared for mixed terrain. They were mostly quiet (sleepy) and kept to themselves. Once we arrived and started hiking in the cold morning air, people became lively and talkative. I should mention that the Tongariro Crossing is considered the finest one-day walk in New Zealand. It is also a one-way hike, requiring a shuttle at either end of the tramp. For this reason, there are many shuttle services you can hire to drop you at Mangatepopo Road and pick you up at Ketetahi Road. In the summer, there are hundreds of people hiking the crossing - but in winter, there is only one shuttle that runs (ours), and they run only when the weather is "fine". So we were essentially the only group on the track although we did encounter a handful of trampers doing the Northern Circuit.

Hiking in large groups sucks, but it was the driver's responsibility to make sure everyone got off the mountain safely. The group made progress at a decent clip in the beginning, but we decided to fall to the back to enjoy the trail together. The driver didn't feel the need to hang back with us since he assumed we were seasoned mountaineers based on the fact that we were the only ones who had our own crampons, boots, and winter jackets. While I would normally argue that having any of these things does not guarantee a competent mountaineer - we were happy to be left to our own. On the steep segment up to South Crater, we passed most of the group and waited at the saddle for the driver to show folks how to use their crampons. We were happy to have brought our own as practically everyone had troubles with theirs coming loose. We crossed the crater and climbed up a steep and crusty ascent to the lip of Red Crater. Here we stopped for lunch, took pictures and watched the clouds come rolling in.

Jeremy and I were ready to continue on, but the downside of using the shuttle was that we had to stick with the group. Still, it was worth it to do the crossing one-way. We proceeded en masse down the ridges, winding between lakes and craters and stepping into the clouds. We travelled single file for quite a while until we finally removed our crampons (we took our crampons off about 2 miles later than I would have). We entered the subalpine tussock-covered hills where the snow was melting out and the mud was dark - nearly black because of the volcanic rocks. The skies were overcast, but no rain fell. We rather enjoyed the cloud cover. At Ketetahi Hut we paused for some pictures, snacks and then Jeremy and I continued on the last leg to the road's end. We passed the sacred Ketetahi Springs that smelled of sulfur and was the source of the milky stream that ran along our trail. At the edge of the grasslands, we descended abruptly into dense, green forest. It was like entering another world. The Tongariro Crossing is beautifully maintained by the DOC. At the end of the hike we were greeted by the driver and three other hikers and waited until everyone arrived before driving back. Winter is definitely the best time to do this walk.

Back in Turangi, we were asked if we had been fishing from the looks of our clothing. Just about everyone at the lodge was there for the fishing and so they were surprised to learn we had gone tramping instead. The host asked if we caught any rain because it was supposed to be sunny in town, but they never glimpsed the sun all day. We moved to the new upgraded room which was really nice for NZ$75 (about $42) and then went into town to get some postcards. We debated where to go for dinner when we realized that we should probably finish off the remainder of our groceries so as not to waste food or money. We watched the NZ All Blacks trounce the Aussie Wallabies in rugby on TV and then enjoyed the international news coverage (about 20 minutes as opposed to our attention-deficient 2 minute coverage of world news which is usually still about the US). The New Zealand sports coverage is also quite extensive and fascinating. My cold was finally waning.

back to nz 2003
[ day 6 | day 8 ]