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On Walkabout In: The Heart of New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing

After climbing down from the slopes of Mt. Ngahuruhoe, I quickly found myself hiking through the heart of New Zealand’s Tongariro Crossing, which can be summed up in one word as spectacular:

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As shown on the map below the heart of the Tongariro Crossing runs from Mt. Ngauruhoe to Blue Lake via the Red Crater:

Climbing down from the volcanic Mt. Ngauruhoe brought me into a volcanic basin that was extremely muddy due to the melting snow:

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Since I spent roughly three hours on Mt. Ngauruhoe before rejoining the main trail I quickly noticed that the trail was now filled with many more hikers compared to the early morning hours from when I started the hike. After crossing the basin I had to climb a steep rocky ridgeline:

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From the top of the ridgeline I had a magnificent view looking out towards eastern desert lands of the national park:

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I could also make out the picture perfect volcanic cone of Mt. Taranaki way out to the west:

 

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Looking behind back to the west I was presented with a absolutely stunning view of Mt. Ngauruhoe or for you Lord of the Rings fans, Mt. Doom:

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In the above picture you can easily see the reddish area I tried to climb up on the volcano before stopping after seeing the volcanic gas coming out of the crater. To the right you can see the snowfield I tried to navigate through before heading back down.

From this viewpoint the trail continued up another steep ridgeline running up the side of Mt. Tongariro. Once to the top of this ridgeline I began to smell volcanic gas again and found myself looking into what is known as the Red Crater:

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Not only could you smell the volcanic gas that smelled like rotten eggs, but just like on Mt. Ngauruhoe you could see it as well:

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There was no lethal gas signs around this area so there was no issues walking through this area even though there was gas. Ironically this area despite the volcanic gas was the busiest portion of the trail as hikers were backed up trying to scramble down the steep ridgeline while simultaneously dodging people trying to take pictures of the scenic landscape.

While walking down along the ridgeline of the Red Crater I presented with an other worldly view in front of me that quickly made me one of the guys taking out his camera to take a picture and holding up people hiking on the trail.  With pictures like this who can blame him?

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Here is a closer look at the stunning blue crater lake:

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To add to the other worldly feeling I was having up here, below me were the three stunning Emerald Lakes:

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The closer I walked to the lakes the greener they actually appeared to get:

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From the Emerald Lakes I had a good view of the volcanic ridgeline along the Red Crater that I had just scrambled down:

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From the Emerald Lakes the trail continued across this other worldly landscape towards the Blue Lake:

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While walking across this volcanic basin I was glad I was wearing by waterproof boots because I had much snow, water, and mud to walk through:

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Eventually the trail began another ascent up the side of the crater toward the Blue Lake:

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From the top of the Blue Lake crater’s rim I had a great view of the ridgeline from Red Crater down through the basin that I had just hiked across:

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Also from this viewpoint I could see that Red Crater was once a cone volcano much like Mt Ngauruhoe, but at some point had blown up in ferocious eruption destroying the cone and leaving it simply to his gas today. Could this be the fate of Mt. Ngauruhoe one day? If it is I hope I’m not around when it happens because the explosion that destroyed Red Crater had to have been extremely powerful.

It was kind of cool as well to sit there and see the people walking down the slopes of the Red Crater looking like little ants on a ant hill:

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I could as well from this view point still see the noxious gases rising from Mt. Ngahuruhoe:

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After admiring the view across the basin I was presented with another stunning view of Blue Lake:

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Here on the shores of Blue Lake I sat down and ate a well deserved lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate moon pies. While sitting down having lunch I was contemplating to myself what the Maori must have thought of this place when they first explored the area. They had never seen snow much less a fantastic volcanic landscape like this, so it is really no wonder why the Maori consider the Tongariro National Park to be extremely holy land.

Anyway after completing my lunch I began to move on and follow the trail around the lake and up another ridgeline. From the top of the ridgeline I was rewarded with my last view of this otherworldly landscape:

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Looking below me to the north I could see the trail was leading to me to final descent of the Tongariro Crossing:

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Next Posting: The Final Descent of the Tongariro Crossing

Prior Posting: On the Slopes of Mt. Doom

Back to the New Zealand Holiday Journal Archive 

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