The Tongariro Crossing was billed by Lonely Planet as the best one-day walk in the world a few years ago. We’d always planned to include it in our itinerary. The original plan had been to do a two-day version, the North Tongariro Circuit, but for various reasons we eventually had to shorten it to a single day. The main advantage of that was that it gave us the flexibility to choose a day when the weather was good. The track crosses over the top of Mt Tongariro, an active volcano with multiple craters, an has fabulous views of the surrounding countryside and the other volcanoes nearby.
We started from Mangatepopo road end with 6 1/2 hours to do what was billed as a seven hour walk, but hoping to add an ascent of Mt Ngauruhoe onto the trip—we figured that by running the flat and
downhill sections we would have time for everything, plus more time at the scenic bits to enjoy the views and take pictures.
The first section up to South Crater was straightforward, with two steepish sections. Before long we got to the turn-off for the path to Ngauruhoe; we decided that time would allow a rapid ascent and
therefore set off briskly. It was only when we started ascending the ash cone’s steep sides that we realised that ‘briskly’ wasn’t really an option. Every step Rachel took, took her half a step back down
again. It was akin to climbing a sand dune … 800 m of sand dune! Nevertheless, after 45 minutes of exhausting climbing, we reached the crater lip and stood gazing into the crater, which was probably 30 m deep. The view was incredible, we could see Mt Taranaki/Egmont in the distance, and had great views of the adjacent volcano, Tongariro. Making our way around the crater and onto the outer crater
ring, we got amazing views of Tama Lakes and Mt Ruapehu, as well as close up views of hot steam coming out of the ground around our feet.
After lunch and picture taking, extending to one hour, we made our way down the mountain. Although apprehensive at first, Rachel soon got the hang of scree walking down the sandy slope and we were down within 20 minutes. We then continued to run over Mt Tongariro’s South Crater and ascended a grunty climb to Red Crater; which is an active part of the volcano. The smell of hydrogen sulphide was all around and the crater was steaming; the crater itself was lined with bright red and black
rocks providing an amazing contrasting scenery. We trekked further across the centre of the mountain and soon came upon Emerald Lakes; three beautifully blue lakes, with a back drop of a steaming cliff with red, yellow and black rocks. After some time we pulled ourselves away
from this awesome sight and headed down the mountain along the well-worn track, which passed through tussock grass and eventually came to the Ketetahi hot springs, which were steaming. Unfortunately, a footpath re-route prevented us from soaking our feet in the stream, so we headed down, past Ketetahi hut and into the forest. We were in the carpark by 4.30, having completed the advertised 7-8 hour walk plus Ngaurahoe in 6 hours; the 7-8 hour walk of which we completed in
3hrs30. An awesome day out.