Day 7 - Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a 20km track that travels among the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park. It's often rated as the best day hike in New Zealand and one of the best in the world. After completing the hike it's easy to see why.
Since it's not a loop track you need to book a transport that takes you to the start and fetches you from the end of the track. I chose the earliest available transport to avoid the crowds at least in the beginning. That meant a wake up of around 05:00 :)
The weather was quite cloudy and foggy in the beginning. The driver of the transport gave 51% chance that it would stay the same and 49% chance that it would clear up. I got the first glimpse of clear skies a bit over an hour in to the trek with Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom peeking through the clouds. After that it was back to the clouds.
Once I reached the South Crater I took the side track towards Mount Ngauruhoe. A bit after halfway up the clouds had been left below but on the negative side the track had vanished and I was left with loose volcanic sand. With the progress being two steps up, one sliding down and my energy quickly draining I decided to turn back. Maybe next time.
Back on the main trail there was another climb up ahead - from the flat floor of the South Crater to the highest point of the trek on top of the Red Craters rim. With my side trip to Mt Ngauruhoe some of the crowds had already caught up.
After the summit of Red Crater the weather changed quickly and dramatically for the better.
After this point the rest of the hike was nicely warm and sunny.
One of the highlights of the hike, the Emerald Lakes.
The aptly named Blue Lake.
After the Blue Lake the trail started its descent (with 1km difference in elevation) towards the Ketetahi car park at the end.
All in all quite an incredible hike and something not to be missed when visiting New Zealand.