Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Ben, February 23, 2013
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing was next on our trip itinerary. Tongariro is a series of volcanoes in the middle of the north island and the crossing is designated as one of New Zealand's great walks. One of the volcanos erupted recently and spewed rocks across a section of the track, so our hike was more of a "hike out and back" than a true "crossing."

We started the day with breakfast at our hotel, the Adventure Lodge, and then took a van to the start of the track. The terrain at Tongariro was dry and covered in volcanic rock. This was quite different from the lush landscape in Fiordland. The frequent and sudden contrasts in terrain is one of the things we have noticed about New Zealand. Dry and rocky, lush and green. Soaring mountains, rolling farmland. And all seemingly steps from a body of water. It makes for some stunning landscapes.

Tongariro was much more crowded than the Milford Track, which made me appreciate the fact that they restrict the volume of trampers on the Milford. We spent the morning making our way to the top, which was fairly steep at times and covered in a dirt and gravel mix that they called skree. This made it difficult to get your footing at times and was compounded by the proximity of other hikers. One such section led down to the emerald lakes, which are some beautiful natural pools at the top of the crossing. You can see pictures here.

After the emerald lakes, we did an hour long side trek to the peak of Mt Tongariro. We got some great views there, including some of Mt Ngauruhoe, which stood in as Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings films. Overall, the hike was around 16 miles and our longest hike of the trip, but the views were great and well worth the hike.
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