Tongariro Hike, Challenge Accepted - BLOGTROTTING WITH MARTA: Ep.1

2019-04-11T16:40:13 | Hiking
Sabine Mantovani

What I want you to know

Hello everyone! I’m pretty excited about the idea of starting my own feature here on this blog.

Long story short about this name, Blogtrotting with Marta: I can finally bring together my two passions, writing (blog) and travelling (globetrotting). Once every two weeks, on Thursday, you’ll find me on Vemgoo, talking about my adventures around the world, giving advice, answering questions: whatever you need, I can provide.

A few things you should know about me before starting this adventure together: I’m a 23-year-old Italian girl, currently living in a city near Venice but ready to pack my stuff every time I can. Meet my family: there’s Mum, Dad, Sister, Dog and Precious (my boyfriend, you’re going to understand why). All of them, in different moments, shared with me the most adventurous travels of my entire life.

Have a safe trip around this territory!

P.S. It would have been great to end my presentation with an inspirational quote like “If you dare to try, you’ve already won” but I honestly want to tell you the best advice I experienced during my trips: always have a good and rich breakfast in the morning, you don’t know where your adventure will bring you today!

Random facts: New Zealand

New Zealand?! Yes, we were indeed going on an adventure (if you get this reference, you are my favorite!) when Sister and I decided to make the first big trip of our lives exactly to the opposite part of the planet.

New Zealand is predominantly composed by two big islands, north (about half the size of the other) and south, and it’s located in the south-western part of the Pacific Ocean. Its name in the local Maori language is “Aotearoa”, the land of the long white cloud. I’ve always wondered how it would feel to go through that cloud and land on this country. This is probably the most fitting description for this place because it uses the image of something natural and what you cannot miss in New Zealand is nature, in every shape.

You can get there from Europe in about one day travelling by plane, probably with one or two stopovers in between, usually in Saudi Arabia or Asia. You can visit the country as you want, but I personally suggest renting a van (or a car) to move around as you wish.

Tip: Book it in advance, so you can get the best price and, if you’re lucky, also a discount, but more importantly you’ll be sure to have your vehicle and to be able to start your journey right away.

Van life is something special and unforgettable, that links you to the place you’re exploring and to the people. Totally experiencing the “real” country. New Zealanders are so kind and friendly. They will help you no matter what you need, even if you don’t ask sometimes!

New Zealand at its top: Cape Reinga

What I did

It was only a year and a half ago (November 2017) when Sister and I landed in the breathtaking land of The Lord of the Rings. I won’t lie: the fact that my favorite saga has been filmed there and that Sister and I are totally in love with everything LOTR-related played a big part in the decision of flying so far. (Now you start to realize why I named my boyfriend ‘Precious’, otherwise just Google it and everything will be clear).

We rented a van and that was the best idea ever! We enjoyed so much adventuring around, finding campsites (sometimes struggling to), having breakfast outside with peanut butter and jelly, seeing the sunrise and sunset, star gazing from the window upon our bed on the back of the vehicle. And many other things that I’m going to tell you if you keep reading my posts.

We had just two weeks to spend there and we could visit quite a big part of the northern island. Right from the beginning one of the things we knew we should totally do was a 20-kilometer hike, regarded as one of the best one-day hikes in the whole world. Tongariro Alpine Crossing is located inside Tongariro National Park, halfway between Auckland and Wellington. It has been the sixth national park established in the world, in 1887, and it has been also acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage. Inside the park there are three active volcanic mountains, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Tongariro. There are also quite a few places that are sacred to Maori people (like the mountain peaks) and all tourist guides advise not to go there and to be respectful.

THE BEGINNING OF THE HIKE

Sister and I arrived at a campsite just on the slopes of Mount Doom… Oops, sorry, I mean Mount Ngauruhoe. We had a small dinner in a big room next to the campsite kitchen and we ate looking at the incredible scenery of the national park just outside our window. We prepared breakfast and lunch for the next day and packed everything we need in our backpacks. We booked – through the campsite reception – the bus for the next morning, which would have taken us to the starting point of our hike. It was scheduled for 5.55 am and Sister is always late, so I was pretty anxious. We could barely fall asleep as we were too excited for the next day but when the alarm went off at 4.30 am we were so sleepy! It was freezing outside (and also inside of the van because we had no heating), around 0°C; if it hasn’t been something so big and important to us, I think we would have quit for sure. The biting chill was getting under our skin as we ate our peanut butter toast, but we were ready for whatever Mother Nature would have confronted us. We were like Frodo and Sam facing the worst and most difficult part of their path. We smiled as the sky was getting pink and clouds were chasing one after the other.

The beginning of the adventure: km 0

The temperature was still cold when we got off the bus 15 minutes later, but the sun was rising above us and we began to walk, finally getting a bit warmer. Seeing the nature awakening together with us, limp, drowsy, as the spring was slowly fighting its way against the winter, has been a magic moment that Sister and I spent silently walking through small bushes. We started our hike along with about 30-40 people from our bus and other ones but almost immediately we lost their traces – everyone takes its own rhythm – and we found ourselves totally plunged into the nature.

FROM SODA SPRINGS TO THE RED CRATER

We walked for more than an hour through a path, partly on wooden boardwalk and partly on a rocky track, while the morning fog blocked the rising sun, coming from behind the mountains in front of us. The first small stop was at Soda Springs, tiny falls at the bottom of the first real rise, one hour and a half of climb, where the path scrambled up to the mountain and the landscape became more and more barren and volcanic.

Hiking through the fog

First big “wow” of this journey: we got to the top of the South Crater, a big volcanic hole where the sulfur smell was still very pungent and where the only human presence was a long line of people walking in the middle of a desolate land. It seemed like no one dared to speak, struck by the alien beauty of this place. Sister and I were regaining some strength thanks to a quick stop with a small piece of toast and some photos before climbing up and getting to the highest point of the hike, just upon the Red Crater. As the name says itself, it is a volcanic crater that is still active, as we could see from the tiny fumaroles coming from the bottom: trying to look down can make you very dizzy, look out!

Hiking up the South Crater

THE EMERALD LAKES AND THE BEGINNING OF THE DESCENT

Sister and I totally agreed on this fact: it was the most thrilling moment of the hike. We were at the highest point and there was nature everywhere around us. With each gaze, we spotted something different. From a volcanic area, to a deserted land with no vegetation, or to small bushes here and there and even to sharp peaks still covered with snow. Then the place where I lost my breath: the Emerald Lakes. I have no words to describe the color of the water of these ponds and no one could ever do it because you can’t describe things when you don’t have enough words to do so. They were like big blue rain drops coming from a likewise sky, sparkling with lights and dotted with fast clouds.

Getting down and closer to the lakes, the color is far more dazzling and after a regenerating lunch we were ready to keep going and start the long descent. We reached the Blue Lake and at this point I think you don’t need me and my explanations, you should already be aware of the fact that the show at Tongariro Alpine Crossing never ends. After the Blue Lake, the view that we were presented with was the almost endless Lake Taupo (the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand) and a long trail going down tortuously in a greenish countryside.

One of the last places where we could get some rest was a hut, facing the beautiful panorama of Lake Taupo and its valley; if you’re doing the Northern Circuit – which takes almost two days – there is where you are going to sleep but remember to book it in advance, especially during high season.

Photographs can’t do justice to the beauty of Emerald Lakes

LAST KILOMETRES, LAST RUN

From the hut to the end of the hike there are still 6.4 km: Sister and I were told that this part could take almost two hours, so looking at the watch we decided to go down very fast, in order to get the bus which leaves every hour. I admit we were so tired we didn’t want to wait to get our deserved hot shower. Feet were achy, knees were surrendering and muscles painful but we didn’t give up the effort, through an intricate rainforest, surrounded by greenery and little streams. I admit it was difficult to admire them, being too tired and in a hurry to have the time to appreciate the last part of the hike.

In the end, when we got to the parking lot to get our bus, Sister and I turned back and thought we indeed hiked 19.4 km, in the middle of mountains, hill, volcanoes, lakes and everything wild nature can offer us, making us (almost) forget the strain.

The descent and Lake Taupo in the background

Don’t forget to:

· Dress with a lot of layers, from t-shirt/undershirt to a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, a hat, a scarf and a jacket that could protect you from wind and rain. Even if the weather forecast is good, you’re hiking till 1700-1800 meters and you should be prepared to changes in the weather

· Pack something to eat to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar level

· Be prepared for a hike that is not impossible but neither easy, take your time and don’t push too much yourself. On your way, you can find signs every km, reminding you how far is the end of the hike and how long approximately it would take.

If you liked this adventure…

So, my first adventure travel has come to an end, I hope you liked it and enjoyed joining me recollecting wonderful memories. Even if I highly suggest you trying out this adventurous trip, I realize New Zealand isn’t the easiest place to reach. But no worries, if you got to this part of the article and you are still interested in a special and unforgettable hike, here are my suggestions for you:

· Are you travelling through Europe? Here is the perfect plan for a day hiking and snorkeling in Costa Brava, Spain

· Are you planning a trip to Indonesia soon? You can’t miss this 4-day hiking and camping in and around Mount Bromo (which is a volcano too, like the ones in Tongariro National Park!)

· Are you heading to South Africa instead? Take a look at the 2-day hike and camp in Tugela Falls and Drakenberg Ampitheatre, the second most photographed mountain in South Africa (I’m already in love with the cover photo on the website).

Don’t be shy, surf through vemgoo website to find many more adventures and let its staff help you with everything you need.

See you in two weeks, with new, exciting and crazy adventures!

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