Saturday, November 10, 2007

The mighty crossing!

So we finally reached the part of the North Island that I've been meaning to do for years, the Tongariro crossing, and it was everything I had hoped for. We started at the Ketetahi side and headed up through the bush, walking past silvery sulphur streams that were overflowing because of all the recent rain. It was amazing once we got above the tree line. The rain had changed to a perfect blue sky day, it almost felt as though we were back in Tahoe, so we could see forever. Most of our previous summits have been thwarted by cloud and fog so it was so cool to be able to see over to Lake Taupo and Rotoaira and look at where we'd been walking over the past few days.

We finally got to see and walk over snow for the first time since May. I think it made all us excited to be back in a mountain environment again, even to the point of eating snow cones made with as thick a solution of Replace as possible. They weren't quite like the real thing, and the wind was whipping at about 80km an hour outside but it was worth it. The next day it was so cold there was ice and rhyme all over the trail.

On our actual crossing day the weather was good to us. For those of you who don't know the weather around the mountains in the central North Island can be pretty volatile, there are three volcanoes that are in the middle of a barren plateau so any clouds or weather just sticks to them like glue. We've heard stories of people crawling across the mountain passes on their hands and knees because the wind was so strong, or not being about to see more than a few metres in front of them. For us, the sky was a little grey but there was great visibility and no wind. The landscape is stunning, at first glance it looks barren and rocky but there is endless diversity in the many colours and textures of the rocks and alpine foliage.

We saw another unique feature along this section too - people! And lots of them. We have hardly seen a single person along our trail sections so it was kind of a surprise to feel like salmon swimming upstream through all the tourists, the majority of whom walked the crossing from the other direction.

We summitted Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, which at 2287 metres is the highest we've been yet. Getting up Ngauruhoe is hilarious. Theres not a set trail. Its more an hour long scramble up loose rocks to the top and a 15 minute in/out of control run, slide, skid to the bottom. It was a ton of fun and we got some amazing 360 degree views from the top.

We then headed into Whakapapa Village and walked a section of the Round the Mountain Mt Ruapehu trail. We still saw other trampers but that trail is a very cool alternative to the crossing. There is endless dramatic scenery, unique landscapes, rocky cliff bands and waterfalls everywhere you look. That also meant lots of stream crossings too. I don't have Lane's leg length or balance ability so while he was jumping over the rocks I sometimes had to ditch the boots and wade through glacier cold water with my rain pants hiked up to the top of my thighs.

So I'd have to say that this section has probably been my favourite so far. It is such an awesome feeling to be doing this hike, especially now we've hit the 1000km mark. It makes all those months of endless planning and working ourselves into the ground to save enough money totally worth it.

We arrived in Ohakune yesterday with amazing views of Ruapehu behind us. I can't wait to go skiing again, even if I could see the icy glean of Turoa shining like a beacon from ages away. We're staying with Graeme and Barbara Wheadon at their mountain house. Thank you so much for your generous hospitality and great food. We loved meeting you.


Trail up to Tongariro
Lane by North Crater Lake
Dennis and his snowman
Central Crater
3 of us at Central Crater

I Was Told That It Rained In New Zealand

Well rest day in Te Kuiti was much needed, and enjoyed. From there we headed south on a river walk section that was supposed to be very cool. Unfortunately were turned around at the start by the police. No we weren't in trouble, but there was a search and rescue going on, and we were not able to do that part. Instead we hit the road. We met the guy who sold Alice her boot in Hamilton on the road. He was part of the search and rescue. We missed an old steam engine that day too. We heard it blow its whistle and saw puffing smoke, but it was just out of view. The road section continued till Pureora where Dennis found a new friend. There was a dog that followed us to camp the second night. Dennis decided to call him Henry. We wondered if he would follow us into the mountains. After a night filled with barking and pig chasing I think that it was for the better that Henry didn't follow us. We summitted Pureora and Weraroa on this third day of this leg. It was a long cold day. It rained, and there were no summit views. We were very excited to see the Waihaha Hut that night where we dried our selves and gear by a coal stove. Nice and toasty. Our track out from the hut followed a river that gave us some awesome views and a beautiful place to eat lunch. All was going well until some logging roads that existed who knows how many years ago existed no longer. That made for a longer road section to Tongariro. We had our first camp fire during this leg. It was nice to enjoy the light and warmth of it. The day into Tongariro was filled with rain, rain, and more rain. As luck would have it there was a nice little camp ground with cabins just before the Tongariro Crossing. We were able to dry out and resupply. Bev and Rene were running the camp ground, and they again showed us the Kiwi hospitality. Bev drove us into town to buy food for our next five days, and they both sent us off in the morning with a care package. They gave us a package of chicken and veggie stir fry to have that night for dinner. Yumm it was very good and much appreciated. Well i think thats all for now. I hope everyone back home and in Tahoe is doing well. This trip is very exciting. I will have lots of stories to tell.

Hiking, Lane

Lane walking on road
Pureora Summit in a cloud
Lane by waterfall
Lake Taupo
Alice and Dennis crossing bridge