It’s freezing but I couldn’t care less. We’re in the mountains, where I feel at home. The ascent is hard and the air is thin, but I can’t stop smiling. My nose is cold and my eyes are gleaming. I breathe in the fresh mountain air and take the last few steps until I stop – to admire the sheer beauty of the world before me.
We got up bright and early at 5am and drove to the Ketetahi carpark which is the end point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We had booked a shuttle service the day before ($30 per person), which took us to the Mangatepopo carpark (start point). Unfortunately we had pretty bad weather conditions, but the hike was still absolutely stunning!
Here’s my advise if you want to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing: It is definitely one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on, but also incredibly popular and absolutely crowded with ‘standard tourists’. So if you decide to do the crossing despite all this, I would advise to park your car at the Ketetahi carpark (end point) and to NOT book a shuttle (honestly a waste of money). Instead hike up to the summit and go as far as the blue lake, then go back the same way you came. This way you save thirty dollars and still see all the best parts of the hike, plus you will leave the crowds behind on your way back.
As for the difficulty, I personally didn’t find the hike to be very challenging, and I don’t think it would be for anybody who has normal fitness and a bit of endurance. The hike took us about six and a half hours, including the Mount Tongariro summit – which takes about an hour return – and a couple of short breaks. The hardest part of the hike is the two and a half hour ascent, which goes by fairly quickly. After that you’ve pretty much reached the top, unless you decide to go another forty minutes up to the summit.
If you have the time and it’s a clear day, definitely also consider going up to the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe as well!
After reaching our car at the end of the hike we drove down to Okahune, an adorable little town with an abundance of cute cafes and a variety of different restaurants. We ended the day with pizza and spent the night at the Mangawhero Camping Ground.