Conquering the Tongariro Alpine Crossing!
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
In 2016 I quit my job and headed to New Zealand for my first ever solo trip.The experience was truly life changing and something I will hold near to my heart for as long as I live.
In this post I want to share with you one of the most INSANE adventures of my life, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The trek is 19.4 Kilometers one way and will take you into craters leading to views some will only dream about.
** If you are feeling extra adventerous, along the way you can even climb the summits of Ngauruhoe & Tongariro mountain.
A big part of my trip was traveling on the Stray bus. Stray is a great travel company to tour the country with. They provide transportation, activities, and accommodations. Not to mention the drivers are down to earth and make your trip x10 better.
I was probably about a week into my trip and talk about the “the crossing” started to come up more and more. I just assumed it would be like a normal hike, so I didn't ask questions.
It wasn't until the night before that I figured out what I was really in for. As it got later in the day the mood shifted and people started to scramble to hydrate and get to bed super early. I stupidly said Fuc$ it and stayed up drinking into deep conversations.
The morning came and the alarm clocks started to go off all around me. It was 5am and we had a half hour to get ready and board the bus.... #thestrugglewasreal
As soon as I took my seat the lack of sleep hit and I knew I was in for a long day. The only good news at this moment was we had about an hour of nap time before reaching the National Park Village where we had to check in.
Due to the dangers and unpredictability of the trek, everyone had to be inspected for the proper gear before boarding the shuttle bus. The shuttle will take you to the starting trailhead and pick you up at the ending car park hours later.
I remember getting dropped off, taking a group photo and then everyone jumping right into the walk ahead of us.
"No Turning back"
The first part of the hike is fairly easy and takes you on a boardwalk trail alongside Mangatepopo Stream, this portion is known as Soda Springs. This segment was very relaxing and gave me hope that the rest wasn't going to be that bad.
Que the next portion of the hike called "Devils Staircase"
It's exactly what it sounds like... HELL created by the Devil himself.
As the sun beat down on my pale skin, I stared up at what seemed like never ending stairs with the following thoughts"I hate stairs", "It's not to late to turnaround", "This is where I die".
I'm not a quiter, so I applied a thick layer of sunscreen said screw it and went. About an hour later and a lot of stuggling I finally completed the staircase, I would now be 1600 meters above sea level.
Somehow I wasn’t even at the highest point of the hike yet.
After about 200 more meters I was at the most incredible view I've EVER SEEN! You will for sure want to spend a couple of minutes taking in the view before decending.
Don't forget to give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far!
The next "checkpoint" was the Emerald Lakes and home to our lunch stop. The way down to the lakes was not by stairs, but by decending on ancient volcanic deposist. I found this part very entertaing as everyone had their own technique down. Some people ran full speed, others slowly walked and I did the sit on my butt and scoot approach.
** FYI: Long/Intense Hikes was something out of my realm at the time**
Once I reach the emerald lakes, thats when the dehydration hit. I remember sitting there trying to eat my tuna sandwich and all of a sudden feeling to weak to even take a bite... that was the very moment I realized I was in trouble.
I was very fortunate that along my travels thus far I made friends with an amazing group of people.
As soon as I mention to them that I wasn’t feeling well, they stopped everything to help. They rationed their own water, provided me shade and talked me back into strength. Shortly after refueling, we started the walk thru the Red Crater to the Blue Lake.
The rest of the trek was kind of a blur and most my memory comes from pictures and after talk. What I do recall was knowing that once I hit the Blue lake it was only another 3 hours until the car park and that I had to keep going.
What kept me going?
1) There was two ways "out" walking or calling for a helicopter to come air lift you out
2) I'm not a quiter
3) I had amazing people encouraging me and staying by my side the whole time
4) I set small goals
About an hour after leaving the Blue lake we finally reach the Ketetahi shelter. Here we grabbed some much needed shade and rested until I got my second wind.
With my new found energy and only downhill left, I put some pep in my step.
The next thing I knew we reached the car park and found the rest of our group. As soon as we said are hellos I fell to the ground with pure joy.
"Cassie, you didn't give up and just completed one of the best hikes of your life. Yes you! "
Our shuttle picked us up about 30 mins after we arrived and took us to the hostel for the night. After getting checked in it was time for food and relaxation . I just remember grabbing a burger, sitting down and just staring at it for like 10 minutes. I was so weak that I couldn't even lift the burger to my mouth.
After dinner it was straight to bed and time to rest my feet.
This hike tested me both physcially and mentally
I learned a lot about myself and what I'm truly capable of
Research- know what you're getting yourself into
Drink water ahead of time and bring more then you think you will need
Dehydration is awful!
Make connections with others, you never know when you will need someone
I'm so happy to share this expeience with all of you and I hope it inspires for you to go out there and conquer the world!