I'm talking about the track on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Mama and I walked the 19.4 km on Thursday.
Mulan and Miya weren't with us. They had a holiday at Nainai and Yeye's place, while Mama and I had our first trip away together since the girls were born.
We drove down to Tongariro National Park on Wednesday, and stayed for three nights at New Zealand's highest hotel, Skotel Alpine Resort, in Whakapapa Village. Here's the view of Mt Ruapehu from our room:
We were up before dawn on Thursday, needing to drive the 15 minutes to National Park, where we caught the 6 am shuttle bus to the start of the walk. This is us at 6:40 am, looking a little worried:
What can I say about the walk? It's a must-do, and a lot of people know it. The track was constantly busy throughout the day -- the track in the distance sometimes looked like an ant trail.
(This is a look back along the track, with Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro mountains.)
The walk starts at an altitude of 1100m, steadily rising to 1900m (the top of the track in the photo above), before dropping back down to 800m at the end. The beginning is pleasant, the middle is stunning beautiful, and the end is a tiring slog to the finish line.
It took us 8 hours and 45 minutes from start to finish. We went slower than most people. But that's okay, we were probably twice the age of most of the walkers who passed us. I was the slow one, with my old injuries and achy knee and feet, and Mama often had to wait for me to catch her up.
We weren't sure what to take with us, and in the end we probably over-prepared and took too much. A sizable minority of people simply wore shorts, T-shirts and sneakers, and the perfect weather meant that that was all they needed. We carried unused our thermal polypro, as well as thicker rain jackets, though I can see that if the weather turned bad, then that sort of alpine clothing would be essential. We also wore our hiking boots and used hiking poles -- these were very useful and many people had the same. One very smart thing we did was pack our walking sandals. Hiking boots were important in the middle section, but for the final couple of hours or so the track downhill was smooth enough such that walking sandals were the ideal footwear.
Here's another couple of photos of the stunning middle section:
The final shuttle bus back to National Park was 5:30 pm, and those who missed it would have to pay extra. We managed to catch the 3:30 pm bus.
The next day, Friday, we were both pretty stiff and sore. The Crossing really was a full body workout, as even the arms and shoulders were achy from using the hiking poles. We rested in our hotel room in the morning, before heading out in the afternoon for a slow wander around the Whakapapa Village area. We did a couple of short local walks there.
Friday evening we drove up Mt Ruapehu, intending to walk to Meads Wall (apparently it has become quite famous because it is one of the Lord of the Rings sites). Unfortunately, there's lots of construction happening in the area (lots of new stuff for the coming winter ski season), and the walk detour closed at 5 pm. Instead we stayed at the road to watch the sun set.
Oh, and we did a few obligatory jumping photos:
Saturday morning, Mama did a two-hour walk from the hotel to see a waterfall. I stayed behind and further rested my slowly-recovering body.
During the drive back to Auckland on Saturday, we stopped off for lunch at the Hamilton Gardens. This is another must-see; the various theme gardens are both clever and beautiful.