Most great walks in New Zealand are located in South island and those are just quite good multi-day hikings that require an intermediate or more skill level. You got two great walks(classified by NZ DOC) in north island, and one of those is world famous “Tongariro Northern Circuit”.
My daughter and I start early morning around 4 o’clock from home in Rotorua to get to Turangi from which it’s only 30 mins drive to the track start point.
On the way down State Highway 5 (Aka, Thermal highway) to Taupo, we pass the rural pastoral village of Reporoa shrouded in mist.
Unless you are going with a mate on a separate car, leaving your car at this car park and jumping on a shuttle bus to the trail head is Lingua Franca in this business.
Our pick is “Mountain shuttle”. Note this black bus is not a shuttle but the office you need to check in. They will hand out an unnecessary trail map(you don’t need one at all) and sell drinks for the unprepared.
My daughter at the trail head, hiding her worry of hard walking ahead with smiling.
The trail is around 20 Kms by distance and supposed to finish in 7~8 hours. The day looks promising with the bright sun, no hard wind, no sign of any hassle.
First stop, Mangatepopo hut, neatly positioned hut that can accommodate around a dozen hikers and a few ground space for a tent. We fill up water bottles and carry on.
The trail goes all the way exposed to sky, no cover or rain shelter, a bit barren path with loose scorias/pumice but mostly hard and well trodden.
You will go past this km marker post and an orange triangle on every kilo meter.
Mt.Ngauruhoe looks deceivingly low but you need 3 hours to make a return climb to the summit from the closest base.
About an hour walk reaches to the Soda Springs and the pit toilets, we make a quick side trip to the spring which is more like a small water fall.
Don’t get disappointed with this. It’s a really small scale water fall. I mean really small.
You’ve got to be a bloody stupid to get yourself lost from the track because too many people will be crammed in this narrow lane. I met way more people in this track in a day than a years time in central Rotorua. This is the reason that you don’t need a map. Just follow the person ahead of you.
Lot of trekkers take this spot for a morning tea, backed up by the Mt.Ngauruhoe.
We crossed valley of the moon(not the official name, I just named it)
Entering uphill rocky terrain with a help of steel chain.
People every where. Sometimes you have to look behind to see if someone need an overtaking, so you give way.
This is called ” Red Crater”. Nothing special but tells you that you are half way through.
High light of this trek. Master piece of Tongariro, and the reason you are here for. Behold the mighty “Emerald lakes and the blue lake at the far back”
Going down hill on this loose scree is tricky, especially when the wind blows hard on you. This guys are not pausing for pictures. It’s that hard.
It’s turquoise or emerald green. You’ve got to see for yourself. Just marvelous.
Down by the Emerald lakes, we take 30 mins break for lunch. Some sandwiches and dried nuts with a fig fruit.
A closer look on this Emerald lake.
She looks happy with a feeling of achievement. I got here.
When you look back toward Emerald lake, you will see everything. Red crater, Mt.Ngauruhoe and Mt.Ruapehu with a snow cap at far back.
Half an hour walking from the Emerald lakes will lead you to the “Blue lake”. It’s impressive vast lake that makes you micro-break for taking pictures.
Now we are descending to the other trail end but the trail still looks rocky and narrow. Lake Taupo is there at the far back.
The track looks like the Chinese horse-tea track seen in Yunnan province.
Only 2 hours to go, my daughter sits with abdominal pain, feeling naucea. I take my needles into the Hegu points on her hands. She recovers after 15 mins. We carry on.
The last break spot “Ketetahi shelter”, used to be a hut but basically nobody stays over night here. Now only day trekker are allowed to rest for a quick break.
Finally we have arrived the end of the trail. People waiting for shuttle buses. It’s only 700 metres away to the car park where we left our car this morning, but the shuttle runs every hour and the last one will be 5 pm.