Results 11-13of 13 Reviews
March 29, 2003
Descending, we ran down the ridge, digging our heels into soft ashy black scree, like going down a sand dune. Those who took timid steps slid and fell uncontrollably.
The Emerald Lakes were a popular place for lunch even though it was freezing, windy, and smelly. The strange mineral waters encrusted with a yellow layer along the outer edges of the neon-green lake were fascinating. But, at times, the sulphur was overpowering--not a place to linger.
V. Emerald Lake to Ketctahi Hut (1.5 hr)
After lunch, we passed through another glacial valley then climbed up to Blue Lake ridge. Smarter trampers were basking in the warmth of the sun eating their lunch in this protected sulphur-free space. As we sidled around the lake, views of Lake Rotoaira and gigantic Lake Taupo emerged in the distance. Amazing to think that Lake Taupo didn''t exist until 186, when the world''s largest volcano erupted, creating it.
For the next hour we wandered through thick red tussock grasses on a packed trail that zigzagged down the mountain. We passed a small waterfall with gray-colored mineral water, and reached a small hut and outhouse. (No minor detail on a 7-8 hour hike!)
VI. Ketatahi Hut to Carpark (2 hrs)
After a break, we continued down soft tussocked slopes watching a cloudy burst of steam erupt repeatedly in a mountain cleft. These were the Ketatahi Springs, sacred to Maori and off-limits to hikers. Years ago, when a Maori chief created Tongariro National Park, he kept some sites private on the otherwise public land where hundreds of trampers now romp on his mountains daily. Respecting Maori sites is the least we can do in exchange for the privilege of hiking along this fascinating terrain. Gladly, we didn''t see anyone veer off the trail to dip into the hot springs or explore where they weren''t welcome.
The last hour of the hike was through a podocarp hardwood forest. Ferns were everywhere. And gravel steps, which were surprisingly difficult on our knees. It felt odd to be surrounded by trees again after a traversing through barren volcanic desert. We finished tramping at 3pm and waited for our bus.
It had been a tremendous trek. Walking among bizarre rock formations, vivid gemstone lakes, and volcanic moonscape made this my husband''s favorite all-day hike. Ever.
Buses will transport you from Whakapapa Village or National Park roundtrip for NZ$15. If you miss your 4pm shuttle, fork over another $15 when you hail a bus that drifts through looking for stragglers. Bus drivers are accountable for their passengers as fatalities do occur--being blown off ridgetops or stuck in snowstorms are real risks. Be careful.
From journal Tramping in Mordor... volcanic Tongariro National Park
"The hardest hike I''ve ever done, but bloody well worth it," my husband said at the end of our 11-mile hike. We had climbed a quarter of a mile in altitude, but the landscape was otherworldly fantastic!
I. Mangatepopo Valley to Soda Springs (1.5 hr)
A bus picked us up at our hostel in Whakapapa Village at 7:30am, and drove us to the Mangatepopo trailhead. Unlike other hikes in NZ, this one was crowded. Herds of people headed across an open glacial valley at the edge of an old lava flow past tiny mosses, lichen, and red-stained volcanic rocks. Snowy Mt. Ruapehu loomed in the distance, quietly gurgling, secretly plotting its next explosion on the gray volcanic plain. After an hour, we crossed a stream and approached Soda Springs, where an optional short walk took us to a small waterfall.
II. Soda Springs to South Crater (1 hour)
The next hour was tough. We climbed straight up through a maze of massive boulders, stepping between and over rocks, our hearts pounding in our ears. We passed plenty of people perched on rocks panting for air, but small steps made it doable. Looking back, no trail appeared evident. Just jagged rocks jutting into the air with occasional heads bobbing up through the surface as people ascended. Relieved to be on level ground again, we agreed to skip the optional 3-hour trek to Mt. Ngurauhoe.
III. South Crater to Red Crater (1 hour)
The path became easy again–-flat and wide–-with mountains towering on both sides of the eerie, windswept valley. But after 15 minutes, we began another punishing climb up, up, up toward the ridge of the South Crater. A blustery wind blew, but clear skies allowed great views into the moon-like valley. People walked dangerously close to the edges, posing for photos.
A fine gravel scree made the subsequent climb slippery for some, but the sheer steepness winded me. At the top of the ridge, we stared into the contorted mouth of the Red Crater. WOW! Spectacular vivid red colors and dramatic black lines of a large vertical dike were crystal clear and remarkably close to the trail–-seemingly within a stone''s throw. Incredible, knowing yesterday''s hikers couldn''t even glimpse it through heavy clouds. Weather here can change instantly. Even now in full sun, the wind''s icy fingers shivered through my core. I hurriedly dug out gloves and fleece to pull over my tank top. Steamy sulphur drifted up from vents deep within the crater, enveloping us in its smelly cloud and leaving salty deposits on our skin.
Aberdeen / London, United Kingdom
February 17, 2002
The crossing offers incredible diversity as you pick your way through volcanic landscapes, alpine zones, geothermal areas and finally descend into primeval forest over the course of a few short hours.
I, along with two friends, tackled the crossing on a peach of a day and as the weather had been very unsettled the previous few days we thanked our lucky stars.
As a result, we were treated to some spectacular vistas with the Emerald Lakes in particular being the main highlight - as I recall three or four small crystal clear pools clustered together in various lucid shades of green. An ideal spot for much needed refreshments after the initial, harder than expected, assault up the Mangatepopo Saddle.
After the saddle and prior to the lakes the landscapes are truly 'not of this earth'. Mount Nguaruhoe (pronounced na-ha-roe-hay I kid you not!) is to your right, a smouldering cinder cone of a volcano. Climb it if you dare - you can, we were just too knackered after the saddle to even try!
South Crater is next - a completely flat expanse of barren nothingness. Truly 'Walking on the Moon'. This was welcome respite but it was not long before we started climbing again to Red Crater where steam rises out from fissures in the ground around you. Even Nguaruhoe itself seemed to be puffing away.
After all that had gone before, the walk after the Emerald Lakes soon gave way to alpine tussock and was therefore something of an anti-climax considering all that had gone before. The views, though, over to Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira kept us occupied on the descent down through the scrub and into native bush to the pick-up point on the Ketetahi Road. A truly exceptional day!
Word to the wise - this is an extremely popular trek and you do get the impression that you are part of some grandiose school day trip as walkers spread out single file along the track as far as the eye can see. This is not by any means a wilderness experience. To avoid the crowds either try and set off early (ie before 8.30am when the shuttle buses start arriving) or start mid-morning and perhaps stay a night at the Ketetahi Hut.
From journal Southern Exposure - A Year in 'Godzone'