Today was the exciting day to hike “the best one-day hike in New Zealand,” otherwise known as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The crossing takes you past multiple amazing sceneries – the most beautiful probably being the Emerald lakes.
The walk is a 19.8km walk, not counting the ascent to Mount Doom. It was unlike all the other hikes I have done so far because here I was surrounded by old lava flows, instead of dense forests or tussock. We got lucky with the weather yet again. The sun must be following me. They had huge amounts of rain here until today. I had talked to multiple hikers and they had waited out the storm for multiple days. This morning the air was crisp and fresh. There was not a rain cloud in sight until later in the afternoon. Even then we were lucky. It literally started to rain as soon as we had our seat belts buckled in our car after the hike. It was like the rain held off just for us.
After climbing more and more…and even more steps we finally made it to the base of Mt. Ngauruhoe, know better known as Mount Doom. Mount Doom is a volcano, so to climb it you climb up an old lava flow. The ground is fine particles of rock which is basically sand. Walking across deep dry sand on the beach is fairly hard. You sink in and don’t exactly move all that far. Now, add a slope to that. It doesn’t work. Every step I took up, I slid right back down to where I had started. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to make it up to the top before it got dark.
After hours of climbing I finally made it to the summit of Mount Doom! It was much colder than I was expecting. When I think volcano, heat and hot lava normally come to mind. For the last part of the climb we were in a gigantic cloud. Ice had formed on the rocks around us. Even though I had gloves on my fingers were frozen. Looking into the volcano’s caldera was really neat though. There was even an interesting rainbow-like formation in the cloud that I was standing in.
Coming back down the volcano was probably my favorite part of the whole hike. It was incredibly fun! Have you ever had a chance to ski down a volcano? No, I hadn’t either and I didn’t even know there would ever be an opportunity to, yet, now I have. My problem of slipping down the mountain earlier, now worked to my advantage. I basically skied down the old lava flow. Literally, I was slip sliding down the mountain in a more or less controlled manner that resembled skiing, but without skis. I got down in record time!
Another reason I love hiking is because of the people I randomly meet. If they are out doing these hikes, they are going to be interesting and exciting people. On our way up Mount Doom I met two guys from England who are taking a gap year from school. We ended up becoming instant friends (the kindness of sharing a sandwich and mandarin orange at the top of Mount Doom will do that) and hiked with each other for the rest of our journey.
Later in the day we passed by the Emerald lakes. These are probably the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. The pictures look like I must have edited the water color, but I haven’t. They are an unreal color in real life.