When I blogged about climbing the Pinnacles in Borneo, I commented that it was like Mordor. Little did I know that a couple of months later I would be hiking through actual Mordor (well, Tongariro National Park, which played Mordor in the LOTR films). Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 20k hike that has been variously described by the people who decide this sort of thing as the best one-day hike in New Zealand and / or the world. It has volcanos, craters, snow-topped mountains, steaming hot-spots, brightly-coloured lakes, alpine meadows, extremely slippery scree slopes and, in case I forgot to mention it, Mount Doom itself!
We get up at 6am and get a bus to the start of the hike to start at 7.30am. The sun has yet to get over the top of the mountains so it is pretty chilly; it’s gloves, hat and (in the absence of a proper jacket) five layers of clothing temperature. We start right at the bottom of Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom), a perfect symmetrical volcano with a reddish hue. We then cross through one huge crater, and trace the ridge along another. At the top of the ridge we find a cosy spot near (but not too near) one of the steaming hot-spots, eat our lunch and take in the views across the Blue Lake and the Emerald Lakes. It’s pretty easy to tell them apart, their names are very apt. We then slide down the scree slopes (I end up on my bum more than once) to walk around the lakes and to the far side of Mout Tongariro. The sun is hitting these slopes and at the lower altitudes the alpine meadows look glorious after the barren volcanic landscape we’ve just trekked through. We figure that we can make the early bus if we put our foot down for the last couple of hours, so we are suitably exhausted by the end of the trek.
More photos are on Mr Beet’s flickr page.