Another week has come and gone on the North Island. This week we spent the majority of our time somewhere above 1000 metres. From Tongariro National Park to Egmont National Park we have seen the peaks of all the alpine mountains the north has to offer, despite the weather.
Last Sunday we set out to do one of the best day hikes in the world, the Tongariro Crossing. After the beating Ireland took against the All Blacks Saturday night we figured we had to do something to lighten the mood! We started the hike from Mangatepopo Carpark at 1100m where it was rainy and very cloudy. Pretty quickly we started climbing up between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe to the South Crater. Once we got through the clouds, we were met with blue skies and beautiful snow capped peaks. It was amazing! Gavin finally got to see Mt. Doom in all its glory!
Breaking through the clouds on the way up the mountain.
After a trek through mushy snow we made it to the highest point of the walk, the Red Crater, at 1900m. This is an active volcano so the ground was steaming hot in places with the lovely (NOT!) stench of sulphur to top it all off! On the way down from the highest peak we passed the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Lake which were still mostly covered in ice at this time of year.
All smiles before Gavin almost went snow-blind...
The descent down from the mountains took the longest time. It was a long walk across boardwalk and through a forest descending from 1900m to about 800m at Ketetahi Carpark. You can start the crossing from this end however it is not recommended because it can take up to 2 hours longer to complete the hike. We were on such a high after finishing the crossing. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and the weather could not have been better for us.
Next on our agenda was to travel to Mt. Taranaki and complete an overnight hike on the mountain. We arrived in Taranaki on Monday evening to rain and howling winds. This was to continue for the week so we decided to complete some shorter day walks until the weather cleared. We walked the Tahurangi Translator Tower Loop that brought us into some more snow and the Kapuni Loop Trail where we saw Dawson Falls.
Dawson's Falls. Another great waterfall just a few minutes walk from the road!
Emer making her way up the Tahurangi Translator Tower Loop.
The weather for Saturday was looking good so on Friday we decided to take a chance, pack our bags and set out on our overnight hike to the Pouakai Hut at 1200m. The walk took us along the Kaiauai Track through forest until we eventually started to climb. The trail consisted of way too many steps to walk up. Well maintained but a helluva struggle! We finally reached the top of the stairs where the wind was howling at well over 100km/h. We had to crawl on our hands and knees just to get over the peak!
Before we got above the tree line and the wind caused us to hit the deck!
After that craziness it was a short walk to the Pouakai Hut where we stayed for the night. The back country huts are well set up and this one could sleep about 16 people in beds and more if you have a sleeping mat of your own. Friday was a very cold day and unfortunately there was a severe lack of firewood so we had to ration the small stack we had for the stove over the evening. About 10 people stayed at the hut that night so we bonded over cold feet and the hope that in the morning we might finally catch a glimpse of the mountain.
The walk to Holly Hut.
Saturday morning showed more of the same windy and grey weather. We still could not see anything with the cloud that was blowing in. We set off on the second half of the loop track that would take us towards Holly Hut and then back down the Kokowai Track to the starting car park. About an hour into the walk the skies finally cleared and we got to see the majestic Mt. Taranaki! This raised our spirits and, with the sunshine, made for a more enjoyable walk back down to the van. In the distance we were also able to see Mt. Ruapeho ticking off the last of the major peaks on the North Island. (We can now say we have seen them all!) Back at the van we were glad to get the heavy bags off our backs and delighted that we had completed our first back country hut stay of the trip! We rewarded ourselves with a feed of McDonalds in New Plymouth before setting off on the road again.
Our reward for a few days of challenging weather! Taranaki revealed itself after 5 days in the clouds.
Blog by Emer. Photos by Gavin. Check out Gavin's Instagram Page for a lot more updates, photos and videos from our trip!