The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

November 2008

I would like to start out with saying,  WAY TO GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I am absolutely elated!!!! IMG_0527Congratulations America! In an effort to keep things moderately chronological, I will come back to election day at the end of this entry.

So, we last left off with me debating thermal spas and mudbaths, and a polynesian spa in IMG_0432Rotorua was the winner. I went with Adam, Sarah, Emma, and Jenny, all of whom are English, and Katerina who is german.  They hopped off the last leg of the stray bus with me as well due to the fact that our new driver was completely obnoxious and I felt like I was at camp or something. Sometimes a good bitch sesh really brings people together.  There were 8 different thermal baths there in total, all of different temperatures and all reaking to various degrees of hard boiled eggs (due to the sulfur). One of them opened up to a beautiful view of lake Rotorua. The only downside was the constant coming and going of Asian men in speedos.

After Rotorua, I headed down to Taupo. A lot of people skydive here because the view of lake Taupo is amazing and its relatively cheap. I really debated it, but as I’ve already been skydiving (I went in Switzerland 2 years ago) I decided I should save my money for other extreme adventures. I can’t wait to hurl myself out of a plane again though.

From Taupo, I started the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. For one reason or another I had it inIMG_0445 my head that this would not be that hard of a hike. I heard a guide say “people die on this track” and yet I just found myself thinking “pfff, sissys.” So on the way to the crossing, I hear this guy on my bus, Rich, talking to the driver about doing an additional summit to the top of volcanic Mount Nguaruhoe. The guide all but begged him not to do it, saying the hike itself takes about 7-8 hours, and the summit is an additional 3 hours, plus its dangerous and only for the most experience hikers. Since you have to get picked at the end of the crossing, which would be 8 hours after drop-off, he would have to be 3 hours ahead of pace to do the summit. We get off the bus, and I hear him telling another guy he’s going to try it. Can anyone guess where this is going? After growing up with two older brothers, I naturally think “if they can do it I can do it too.” Now, realistically I am perfectly well aware that this is not in fact always true, but for one reason or another I found myself starting out with Rich at super speed.

I was doing a pretty good job of keeping up, but once we got to the summit things began to go downhill, figuratively, not literally unfortunately. Here is what wikipedia says about the summit:

Mount Ngauruhoe side trip

Mt Ngauruhoe can be climbed as a side trip from the main crossing however this is not IMG_0467recommended for any but the fittest and most experienced of climbers. The regular crossing takes 7-8 hours of steady walking. Climbing Mt Ngauruhoe adds three to four hours on to this time for an average walker, making the entire trip, from start to finish, with side trip, an 11-12 hour tramp. The problem for walkers is that the various services that provide transport to and from the walk usually drop trampers at the start of the walk at around 8am and pick them up again between 4pm and 5pm – an eight to nine hour time frame. By climbing Mt Ngauruhoe and extending the walk time to 11 to 12 hours walkers run the risk of missing their transport at the end of the walk and having to spend the night exposed on the flanks of the mountain.

Further, the flanks of Mt Ngauruhoe are mostly loose scree which is very difficult to walk onIMG_0462 and requires a considerable energy expenditure compared to walking on solid material. Physical exhaustion is a further hazard of climbing this mountain for all but the most fit.

SO basically, we only make it about 2/3 of the way up the summit before we literally just can’t get any further. Every step I take I slide two steps down in “scree”. We decide to head back down, and while I am pretty confident that we were ahead of pace enough in the beginning to still be fine on time, Rich has it in his head that we need to basically be running to catch up with everyone. Meanwhile, I used up so much of the energy trying to do the summit that I am now really struggling. I would have been perfectly fine still at a normal pace, but he literally had me jogging. This is not just a little hike where I could say “just go on ahead”, it was scary at points how isolated you were. If anything would have happened it would be a while before IMG_0473

The kicker is, we ended up catching up with others we were dropped off with, and then I finished before them! I didn’t need to be running at all, I could have just done a normal pace and not died if it weren’t for crazy psycho boy. In the end though it did feel pretty satisfying to finish after I struggled so much. If you can even imagine, the actual views were more spectacular than the pictures could ever show. The water really is that color too because tiny pieces of volcanic debris sit on top of the water and reflect extra blue.IMG_0481

After the crossing, I stayed the night in the National Park and then headed down to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. That’s where I watched election coverage. I can’t sit at a computer for long so I will write another entry later for Wellington. How exciting is this though?! This is history! OBAMA!

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