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Tongariro Alpine Exodus

April 3, 2010

Tongariro National Park, New Zealand:

Happy Easter to those who celebrate! And happy almost-end of Passover! And to everyone else… happy hopefully beautiful spring Sunday! 😀

Whew, it’s been a busy couple of days. When I saw you last, we were about to head out to Waitomo Caves and go black-water rafting. Unfortunately, I have zero pictures from that day because you can’t take your camera into the pitch-black, soaking wet caves. Duh. But it was something like this:

You’re in inner tubes for most of the time with your head lamp switched on. If you’ve never been in an underground cave, you can’t imagine the absolute darkness there. Without a head lamp, you can’t see your hand one inch in front of your face.

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Then, it’s lights out to see the glowworms (actually the dung of larvae, or something like that):

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It’s absolutely stunning, like looking into the night sky and seeing millions of glittering stars just a foot or two away. We spent part of the time floating through the caves in total blackness with just these “stars” shining above us. Magical.

Then it was off to Tongariro National Park where we did the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing yesterday — or, as I thought of it, the Exodus.

Saturday was the busiest day of the year for this 20-kilometer hike across a volcano range. Can you see that line of people stretching into the fog? When the walk began, it was almost ridiculous how clumped together everyone was, each person eerily disappearing into the thick mist hanging over the mountains. All trudging together, it was like a group of refugees escaping into the hills.

Not that it detracted from the amazing scenery.

This was a really challenging hike at times, with steep uphills and slippery downhills, but absolutely worth it when you got to a peak and took in the view. Azure sky, ruby soil, gold ground.

These exquisite Emerald Lakes were 100% this shade of turquoise, no Photoshop required.

It’s pretty cool to see a still-steaming volcano looming behind you. There are signs around the park for what to do if it erupts but the only advice you really need is: RUN.

Climbing up and up, we were eventually above the clouds and into the sunshine and clear air. Breathing in — when you weren’t getting a whiff of the sulphur from the volcano 😉 — was refreshing and rejuvenating.

If you come to New Zealand, this is a must-do. It takes the better part of a day as it’s one thing to walk 12-ish miles, it’s another to be going up and down and all around. With breaks for lunch, snacks and resting, we made it from end to end in exactly seven hours. Not bad for a day’s exercise!

Running, meh. Gyms, I can do without. But hiking? This could be my sport. Hiking is meant to be enjoyed without worrying about times or calories burned. It’s even better if it takes longer and is the only sport where packing a picnic lunch is an essential part of the activity.

What are your plans for today? Did the Easter Bunny find you?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2010 6:36 pm

    Inner tube caving sounds really cool. I’ve been regular caving a few times when I was a teenager and really enjoyed it.

  2. April 4, 2010 6:20 am

    What the caves sound awesome and so does the hike. I think the more I travel the more I start to love hiking- I want to try to do it around my own house more often, I know there must be some nice trails. I like the gym (most of the time) but I can definitely see how hiking is WAY better!

  3. April 4, 2010 1:23 pm

    That’s some amazing photos and activities! If I ever make it to NZ I’ll have to check it out. I just finished a 10 mile run for my Easter day.

  4. April 9, 2010 6:37 am

    Wow. Both of those things sound like something I would LOVE to do. Hiking is great!

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