the Tongariro Crossing

Warning, this post could get long! One of the highlights of our trip up to Taupo was the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It is considered one of the best one-day walks in New Zealand, so we had to check it out!

We started bright and early, around 7am...yikes.
The sun was beautiful in the morning against the mountains. It was one of the first days of spring that casual hikers were allowed to go out, so the trail wasn't packed. (we soon found out there was still plenty of snow on the ground)

The terrain was so different from what we've seen in other parts of New Zealand. Very dry and desert like. Almost like the moon?

Like I said, there was still plenty of snow on the trail. Some of the trail markers were buried several feet down in the snow with only the tips sticking out. It wasn't until we were home and I was looking at pictures online that I realized how much snow there really was. Fortunately the sun kept us pretty warm despite the breeze coming across the snow.

Above, we are walking through a large crater, and below is on the other side. Check out the people in the bottom left corner for some perspective.

And after that climb it was time for lunch :) We were surrounded by three active volcanoes at this point, which is crazy.

Then we decided to add a little detour...climbing to the peak of Mt. Tongariro.

Along the way... I just think the colors are beautiful.

And we made it to the top to a great view of Mt Ngauruhoe (in the background).

Then we decided to take the "shortcut" back to the main trail. Only our "shortcut" turned into a "longcut" because it was a sheet of ice. We ended up with a few cuts and scrapes, but finally made it across!
Just in time for some fog to set it. But we were able to see the red crater, below...

And the emerald lakes, which were unfortunately still frozen over.

Then we started our trek down...

Which took much longer than these pictures give credit, but it wasn't as interesting as the first half :) We did end up by a nice stream and waterfall! Very different from the desert as the beginning of the walk.

And we survived! 8.5 hours, and 19.4kms later :)

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