The Tongariro Crossing, Part 2

by David on December 16, 2009

This is part two of a two part post. Part one is here.

As I took the final few steps to the top, I was rewarded with grand views in every direction…

Looking back at Mt. Doom's summit

Looking back at Mt. Doom's summit

Over the summit, blue lake in the distance, and a vast lava spill in the foreground.

Over the summit, blue lake in the distance, and a vast lava spill in the foreground.

Tongariro 120 (640x480)

…but what really stunned me were the famous Emerald Lakes on the plateau below. I descended to the thin strip between their shores, slightly hypnotized. To my surprise, they weren’t mirages and did not disappear as I approached.

The Emerald Lakes

The Emerald Lakes

Tongariro 132 (640x480)

The shore of the big lake

The shore of the big lake

I sat on a rock between them for some time. It was difficult to leave such a magical little spot, but I still had a good ten kilometres left. The trail took me across another immense crater, and up to the shores of Blue Lake.

Crossing an even bigger crater, looking back at the peaks. You can see what a massive eruption it must have been to blast the top off the mountain.

Crossing an even bigger crater, looking back at the peaks. You can see what a massive eruption it must have been to blast the top off the mountain.

Tongariro 142 (480x640)

Blue lake

Blue lake

From there, I began my long, long descent of the mountain. Here the vegetation suddenly came back into the picture, much of it a Christmasy blend of green and white mosses with red alpine scrub. The rocks, too, were colorful and interesting.

Tongariro 172 (640x480)Tongariro 098 (640x480)

The windward side was thick with this white and green moss

The windward side was thick with this white and green moss

The views over Lake Taupo were unreal.

The beginning of the way down

The beginning of the way down

Tongariro 163 (640x472)Tongariro 184 (640x480)
After a long, zig-zaggy descent, I arrived at a tiny Department of Conservtion hut, rested for a minute, and then continued the long, long, descent down the trail. Walking on a downslope for miles is really taxing on the knees, as well as the toes, which become wedged further into your shoe with each step.

The lovely vistas continued, though. I crossed streams and waterfalls, steam vents and rock steps, snapping pictures the whole way. By the end of the day I would have 228 photographs.

Tongariro 189 (480x640)

Tongariro 191 (640x480)Tongariro 196 (480x640)

Tongariro 201 (640x480)Tongariro 207 (480x640)

Tongariro 197 (640x480)

Without warning, the alpine fields gave way to a lush, ferned forest.

Tongariro 209 (480x640)Tongariro 219 (640x480)Tongariro 218 (480x640)Tongariro 220 (480x640)

I followed the trail, down, down, down, until I was sure I must be below sea level. Then I went down, down down some more. By this time I was a sunburned zombie, and I eventually stumbled out into a parking lot and dropped myself onto a bench to wait for the bus.

***

It was an unforgettable experience, and I’d do it again. Don’t pass it up if you’re ever in New Zealand. Make sure it’s a nice day though. The following day, I told an excited dorm-mate of mine all about it and showed him my pictures. Just a few hours ago he returned and said it was terrible. Clouds enveloped the whole mountain all day, and they ran into 100kph+ winds. He said he couldn’t see to the next trail marker the whole way, and only 15 out of 100 people made it to the end.

{ 10 comments }

Brenda December 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Talk about contrasts! And peak experiences! Wowzers, David, these pictures are amazing. Post your Facebook link again so I can check out the rest of them. How lucky you were that the weather favored your group that day. How lucky you are to witness such an incredibly awesome landscape. Thank you for sharing these shots, by far my favorites so far. Happy trails! :)

David December 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Hi Brenda,

My Facebook is at facebook.com/david.cain

I haven’t yet posted any Tongariro crossing pics on Facebook. I wanted my DGK pictures to be ahead of Facebook, so I’ve delayed posting there. I’ll post them soon.

Delias Hozzlethorn. December 16, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I can’t connect to your phone.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) December 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm

so beautiful~ the sky and landscapes are like infinity

Erin December 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

Vast and magical.

Jordan Carr July 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hi David,
great post. Looks like you had quite the time. I was wondering if this trail was a loop back to a carpark or a point to point? As I am going to NZ in December and will be driving around. If not is there public transport to and from this location? Any information would be much appreciated.

Jordan

Sascha November 21, 2012 at 4:45 am

Hi Jordan,
it is a point to point. When I did the tour back in 2003, they droped you off at the beginning and picked you up with busses at the end. They even lent us walking sticks for free at that time. But that may have been due to the fact that the devils staircase was heavily covered with snow and it was freaking cold… 😉

C. Baker March 27, 2013 at 1:12 am

Would there be anything to see in September? (assuming my knees don’t fail me!).

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