Although it seems ages since we finished the Routeburn track, our sore and tender muscles feel as though it was only yesterday. Despite our pitiful state I was determined to conquer Tongariro, although Manali decided to take the afternoon for herself, keeping busy with napping and reading in the campervan, researching Peak District cottages for our Europe leg of the trip.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is championed by New Zealanders, and heralded as the worlds best one day walk. With 19.4 km of backcountry terrain, the crossing can be accomplished with relative leisure in about 8 hours, given acceptable weather conditions.
From a scenic perspective, Tongariro is as dynamic as the seasons. In the winter months the mountain is blanketed with a majestic layer of snow and ice. In the warmer months the snow is overtaken by bright sunny days, revealing the beauty of Tongariro’s iconic Emerald Lakes, amazingly colored blue pools at the pass peak memorialized in postcards throughout the country. Although the trail is most challenging between Soda Springs and the Emerald Lakes, it is the most scenic. Tongariro is also an active thermal area, so steaming vents and hot springs are common.
To hike the pass, you can start at either of the two trailheads, Pukeonake or Ketetahi Road. If you are looking for convenience, you can pay a reasonable $12 NZD and arrange a drop-off and pick-up through the local visitor information center. Transport leaves from Whakapapa Village, National Park, Turangi, Taupo and Ohakune.