The alarm clock rang at 4:30am, on a cold morning in Taupo, New Zealand. The once silent room slowly shuffled and murmured into life, and one by one we arose and started to prepare for the 19.4 kilometer journey ahead of us. It was still dark out when we boarded our bus to Tongariro National Park, but during our sleepy journey towards the start point, we watched the skies brighten, with the first rays of sun greeting us as soon as we started our hike.
We learnt on the bus that Tongariro National Park was the first national park in New Zealand and that the weather is extremely unreliable, the last two days of trekking completely prohibited due to unforeseen snow-storms. I read a small brochure on the journey that informed me that the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and others are actually still very much active, and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered a world-renowned trek.
Now, after completing the trek trip myself, I can easily say that the Tongariro National Park is the best day-trek I’ve ever been on. Rich in both cultural identity and dramatic, awe-inspiring natural scenery; we ventured through huge, vast open spaces, covered in snow, surrounded by incredible mountain views, up tough rocky mountain-sides, with gaping valleys, and down shimmering golden hills. It had everything you could want from a trek this short, in terms of views and challenges. We had gotten extremely lucky with the weather, having come just at the end of a snow-storm which allowed us to witness the National Park in it’s finest conditions; dry, clear but covered in white. Regardless, the stretching views from the top, the crystal blue volcanic lakes you can walk around, the decent from mountain terrain into forestry… it was all amazing.
For me personally, the opportunity to stand face-to-face with Lord of the Rings’ Mount Doom was a special feeling. The fantasy geek in me recited lines to myself in my head, appreciating this very real environment I was standing in. Overall, if you’re visiting New Zealand’s North Island - don’t miss out! The Tongariro Crossing is a must do.