Weekend: Part 1 – Tongariro Crossing

Wow is about how to sum my weekend up.

Wow to those views.

Wow to the weather.

Wow to the food.

So much so that I have to put it into two parts for your photographic enjoyment.

I’ll start with the hike in Tongariro National Park that I completed with my friend Alli. Despite our lack of sleep prior to the hike, we awoke from our hut at the base of the track while it was still dark out and I pulled our pre-prepared gallo pinto we gobbled down on the veranda. Strapping our backpacks firmly on we set off with the first light only beginning to glimmer in the sky and found our energy levels were high as we set off along the trail at 6am.

Knowing full well it would be a long hike and we neared the Devil’s staircase with each step taken we stopped and admired the scenery on the path we had to ourselves for all of twenty minutes before some rather energetic people passed us by. Soon the horizon was empty again as they moved like this was a regular Saturday for them.

There were points on the trail where I would traipse on ahead of Alli due to being a little fitter then her and then wait for her at the top of the track. The first time was at the top of the Devil’s stairway – it was literally made and moulded in hell. Or at least that’s how your legs feel as you take each step slower  and slower while heavier breaths are pounded out of your chest.

Standing atop the weaving staircase and rough landscape, watching other hikers pass me by and letting the scenery seep into my memory; I listened to a song by Incubus, ‘If Not Now, When’ and thought no other song could fit more perfectly with what we were doing. What I was doing this day, as I turned twenty five.

Back together again we walked over a landscape I can only imagine you see in other desert landscapes or Mars, a dusty orange where not one plant looks like it could grow we scrambled up and over rocks while much fitter individuals passed us by, sometimes hovered physically between a large step between boulders.

Once at the top, photos were taken on the edge of the Red Crater before the trail led over another hill to step down like traipsing through unsteady sand. My breaths uneasy I felt like turning back, but we had come over that stairway and I was not about to give up. Alli tried to calm me as she stepped with ease down the sliding hill with the emerald lakes awaiting us below where we stopped for a break and to take in the beauty of the landscape we were surrounded with.

Continuing through the brown landscape we followed the trail up past the sacred blue lake before the hills cleared and the view across the land opened up with lakes in the distance and shades of greens rolled. We wandered slowly enjoying the view while I tried for the life of me to figure out what we were looking at with my knowledge of New Zealand geography.

Stopping for lunch at the next hut, we pulled off layers with the clear sky overhead and the bright sun warming us and the pathway downhill clear as far as the eye could see we snapped another happy picture and continued on our way.

The trail meandered through the tussock landscape and we encountered many who were taking the trail the opposite direction us, feeling lucky that we simply planned our route this way due to timing, we knew we’d picked the best and easiest option. A couple of German tourists stopped us halfway down the trail to ask how far off the hut was with only impending hill confronting them and I had to tell them it was unfortunately another hour of walking with the loaded packs on their backs in the warm sun up to just the hut where we had leisurely enjoyed our midday meal.

Soon we found ourselves surrounded with a river next to us and shrouded in greens from the powerful sun and giving us time to wander on to the end of the trail rather easily.

Sitting down next to Alli as we ate apples and drank what water we had left in the shade with all the other bodies who had finished and were awaiting buses to pick them up. We heard groups come through the finish with jubilation and we smiled in success. The level of accomplishment after slightly more then seven hours of hiking is something I haven’t felt too often in my life and I think it’s something I should prioritize to feel more.

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