NZ: Day 17
The Next Morning
Following our skydive exerts, a heavy, adrenaline-fueled, booze-fest ensued, meaning that we only managed to clock about 2 hours sleep. I still don’t really know how we all managed to drag ourselves up for the 6am minibus, but we did! We were relieved to be told by the driver that the drive would take just over an hour to reach the start of the crossing- so this additional kip did its best to beset our drunkenness.
° ° °
Climbing Mount Doom!
When we arrived dawn was just beginning to crack across the sky- It was absolutely freezing!
A thin layer of fog covered the entire landscape so, initially we couldn’t see a great deal; Truth be told I don’t think anybody was pleased at their decision to get out of bed! We had been briefed by the driver about the route and the timings that we would have to be at each place in order to make it back on the bus. All in all its a 26km hike (not including the ascent of Mount Doom itself) across the volcanic landscape and we had about 7 hours to complete it in. We were also told to always be aware of the volcano status and watch out for the warnings as volcanic activity is not uncommon across the entire stretch.
We had managed to drink most of our water on the bus in an attempt hold back the looming hangover- so we filled up our bottles for the one and only possible time throughout the route-just before the start point; Jay only had a small bottle with just over half a litre capacity- a quarter of what our driver insisted on us having; I myself had only a little over 1l- preparation was on point as usual!
The bus departed and we were left to conquer the baron Volcanic landscape ourselves. Even just a few steps in, we were already being reminded by the ‘danger zones’ by a continuous splutter of signs.
As we began to climb and the sun rose, so did our temperatures and within 45 minutes of sub zero conditions, I was now sweating away in a t-shirt.
We ascended higher and continued to clamber up the baron ash-lands and closer to the base of Mount Doom- made famous in Lord of the Rings and actually a volcano called Mount Ngauruhoe.
Nonetheless, this ease of accomplishment totally vanished once we reached the half way point- almost as if the Volcano had lured us half way up and was now really making us pay for our foolishness.
This is because we hit ash; It was literally one foot forward and then sliding two feet back. This continued for the remainder and totally wore us out.
People all around began to slip and slide, which was particularly dangerous for those up ahead who would unleash flying boulders down the mountain-side which were never far away from hitting anyone.
We pushed ourselves and kept going and within the hour, the ash was beginning to turn red, scarred from lava, and it was here that we knew that the summit was near.
One by one we stumbled to the top. We had done it, we had conquered Mordor and scaled Mound Doom, the One Ring could now be destroyed once and for all! The view from the top was far more stunning than the gloomy, fire-pit that is depicted in the Lord Of the Rings, however it would have been far more exciting to see a flaming gauntlet within the empty portal.
We spent an hour together at the top taking our various photos- including this potential ‘December’ pose for some raunchy National Geographic calendar: The volcano edition.
Our sliding, turned into a race and as we gathered momentum and a considerable pace, we inevitably ended up losing control and spent as much time sliding on our backsides as we did on our feet. Still worth it though!
We reached the bottom, emptied what must have been a litre of ash from our shoes each and then admired our conquest…18km to go!! The next 3km was pretty flat and straight forward, but once again ended with another grueling climb- particularly so as it was now midday and pretty damn hot.
We took even more time in stopping to admire views as we started to become worn down and lack of water became an issue. An extra 1l would definitely have been preferable, but we made do with what we had and tried to share it out between us evenly.
We continued through to the Emerald Lakes, which was mostly downhill- to our relief! It was also pretty stunning and although there is a fable about the lakes, as there is with any natural landmark in New Zealand, I don’t remember it!
At the base of the Emerald Lakes, lay the Great Blue Lake and once again we chose this as our pit-stop and dipped in to cool off.
From here on, it was a slog and a real battle through the Volcanic wasteland, which at points was letting out great clouds of steam. More baffling, was how the landscape totally shifted from a baron, grey ash-field to a colourful, alpine, Scotland hill-side…Only in New Zealand!!
The Tongariro Crossing is epic- but don’t do it hungover and bring plenty of water!!
Tongariro Crossing: $65/£32 ****