TE PUIA, ROTORUA
Kiwi Experience picked us up and we stopped at Te Puia where we got a great discount for a guided tour. Te Puia is a cultural and geothermal area with the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. On our tour, we learned more about the Maori culture and toured the weaving and carving schools there. The carving in the picture will be a World War II memorial and is scheduled to be finished this spring.
We also got a chance to see a live Kiwi bird, New Zealand’s national bird. Kiwi birds are very rare and are nocturnal, so the best chance to get your eyes on one is in captivity. I didn’t get a picture of the live ones we saw because we walked into a dark room to see them and were not allowed to disturb them by taking pictures.
Near Lake Taupo, we stopped to check out Haka Falls, the only outlet of Lake Taupo which is the largest lake in Australasia. While this isn’t a very tall waterfall, about 9 meters, it is impressive because of the volume of water that tumbles over these falls. 200,000 liters of water flow over these falls every SECOND. That’s a lot of water!
Once arriving in Taupo, we checked into our hostel and went grocery shopping to get food for our all day hike the following day. By 5:30, we were by the marina, all ready for our sailing evening. We had pizza on the boat, and sailed onto beautiful lake Taupo. Good thing we brought rain jackets because just as we left it started raining, but it didn’t last long.
We sailed along the coast to the famous Maori carving, so beautiful. Then we anchored and it was swimming time! The ride back was a bit chilly with the wind and being wet, but it was a beautiful evening.
THE TONGARIRO CROSSING
The next day was our all-day hike, and it was a very early morning. We got up at 4:30am to get ready, finish packing our day bags, and to eat some breakfast. Our Tongariro Expeditions transportation arrived at 5:30am to drive us an hour and a half to the start of the hike in Tongariro National Park, the 4th oldest National Park in the world. The Tongariro Alpine crossings, without the extra summit hikes, is 19.4km. Our driver told us about the two optional summit hikes, one was to the active volcano Mt Ngauruhoe (otherwise known as Mount Doom), and the other was to Mt Tongariro. We only would have time to go to one summit, and since the Mount doom hike is a very dangerous ascent and descent with no marked path, we decided to make the choice once we were there.
We started our hike at 7 am as the morning clouds started to burn off. The beginning of the hike was fairly flat, but after about an hour we got to Devil’s staircase (an hour ascent of mostly stairs). To us, it didn’t really seem like a Devil’s staircase; we were expecting worse.
Now was the time to decide on if we were going to hike up Mt. Doom whose summit stands 2,291 meters tall. We saw a girl walk towards the volcano in jeans and a one shoulder bag and thought, if she can do it, we can do it! The beginning was easier than we expected, but it quickly turned into one of the most difficult hikes that I can imagine. Sand and rocks covered the mountain side and every step forward turned into a sliding step back. It was exhausting and at some points we were on all fours basically crawling up the mountain. There weren’t any marked paths so people were creating their own, depending on what way they thought would be the easiest. There were some solid lava flows that were easier to climb, so we made our way to them whenever we could.
When we made it to the top, it was windy and we were in a cloud so it was a bit cold. We ate our lunch by the crater of the volcano, and we each threw a rock in (we should have bought some cheap rings to throw in). We couldn’t see to the bottom of the crater which was a bummer, but it being in a cloud made it kind of eery which was cool.
We waited a bit for the clouds to clear, but they didn’t so we started our descent. While it was less exhausting, it was more difficult and took strategy. Every step forward turned into sliding 3 steps forward. Large rocks became loose and every now and then people were yelling “ROCK!!” down the mountain to warn others. We eventually made it down, and a few scraps, a pair of socks, and multiple stops to empty out our shoes, we had successfully climbed Mount Ngauruhoe! It was exhilarating and very difficult but so worth it!
We were not near the end by any means and had more than half of the crossing left to go. More tough ascents and descents, but some of the most incredible views. Completely breath taking sights that I couldn’t believing existed.
Mountains as far as the eye could see.
Many snacks, 3 liters of water, 2 liters of Gatorade, and many applications of sunscreen later, we made it. So fulfilling! 18.6 miles of some of the most difficult hiking, with the most breath taking views.
As you can imagine, we didn’t do much the rest of the night. We showered, and went to dinner where we watched some rugby, followed by a relaxing night and then some much needed sleep after an ending total of 20.33 miles for the day!