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Mar 15

Weekend in Tongariro

Megan and I had a great weekend a few days ago. I wanted to capture the experience in a more permanent way than a Facebook status, and given we ditched our kids and left Auckland for the first time in 6 years, why not dig out this blog for a post!

We left Auckland at 3:30 (I took a half day and picked up my new bicycle, but that’s another story) and promptly got stuck in traffic for 3 hours. We gave up in Manukau at 6:30 and went and grabbed dinner. Eventually, we made it to our accommodation at National Park at about 10:30pm.

The plan was to do the Tongariro Crossing the next day, but the weather was looking bad. We got up anyway the next day at about 6am, had breakfast and were ready to go, only to be told the weather made it unsafe. Off to plan B. We decided to head off to Lake Rotopounamu for a 2 hour walk and lunch. It was quite beautiful, and like every time I get into the bush, I was gushing about the majestic and beautiful trees. SAM_4208 SAM_4209 SAM_4215_t We then headed into Tauranga and had a very competitive game of mini-golf (Pete won) and had a soak at the Tokaanu Hot Pools.

We finished the day with dinner at a lovely restaurant at the train station in National Park where Megan and I had eaten about 8 years ago.

In the end we had an early night, hoping that the weather would let us do the crossing the next day. Some of those who would have done the crossing on the Saturday were clearly not going to try the next day, most notably the drunk middle-aged group of women who had been discussing what to do with an engagement ring after divorce over breakfast that morning.

The next day dawned marginally better than Saturday, with the forecast predicting 70kph winds at the red crater instead of 95kph the day prior with minimal rainfall. They gave us the ‘go ahead’ but delayed us an hour or so to let the winds die and the temperature increase.

SAM_4224Eventually we bussed to the start of the crossing and started ascending, surrounded by cloud. We got a quick ahead of the ‘crowds’ and got along well.

In some ways the cloud probably helped us as we were not overawed at all by the task ahead of us (given we couldn’t see anything). We climbed higher and it got colder and windier. Fortunately at this stage, the wind was at our backs, so it certainly helped us.

The photo below is probably a significant way up, but certainly not near the top (as we’re still smiling and not looking overly cold). For the record, we’re wearing our full ‘mountain’ gear with thermals top and bottom, polar fleeces, gloves, hats, scarves etc.

As we walked up we passed the turn-off the summits of the mountains, but considering the weather, it didn’t make any sense to make those attempts, but something for another trip.   SAM_4226 (2)The higher we went, the colder and windier it got, but we were not prepared for what hit us as we got to the ‘ridge’. The ridge was about 4-5m wide (we couldn’t see anything down either side because of the cloud so were imagining huge drop-offs) and the wind was unbelievably strong, blowing from one side to the other (another walker suggested the wind was about 100kph. We were actually afraid we were literally going to be ‘blown off the mountain’. As we first got to the top Megan grabbed me and I told her I had to keep going because of how ‘vulnerable’ I felt while standing still in the wind.

We climbed mostly in silence for the next half an hour or so as we struggled up the ridge. As we got to the penultimate point of the climb (before we headed back down to the lakes) the wind was at it’s strongest and I felt I couldn’t even stand up. I ended up essentially crawling the last couple of metres, a strategy the guy behind me also followed when I chatted to him a bit later. But it was all worth it when we got over the top and the cloud cleared a bit, giving us something to look at finally! SAM_4239 SAM_4240_tSAM_4250_t SAM_4256 SAM_4257_t We had an extensive and delicious lunch by this beautiful lake a couple of minutes walk off the main track. The only thing missing was a thermos of coffee (there’s always next time). Then we began the long walk over the plateau and back down the mountain. SAM_4262 By the time we got to the bottom we were pretty sore, a feeling that was to become familiar over the coming days. Our bus arrived a little early and since everyone had arrived, we were able to head off about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, a fact all of us with a long drive home (most of us) were very appreciative of. After a five hour drive home, most of which was done by Megan because of my painful back (the only time it really inconvenienced me) we got home, picked up the girls and concluded a full, but fun and successful weekend.  

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