Tongariro is New Zealand's oldest national park and a world heritage site, it is located near the town of Taupo in New Zealand's north island.
The alpine crossing is a one day hike of 19.4km through the national park's ever changing landscape. Across volcanic peaks, past stunning blue lakes and dense forest. It is without a doubt one of the most beautiful hikes in New Zealand, and a must do for all visitors.
It's important to check the weather forecast prior to arranging to do this hike, as bad weather can see the crossing being closed. Most people stay in Taupo which is the nearest town as there are lots of buses which take you to and from the crossing. As the walk takes between 7 and 9 hours it's good to get an early start.
The first part of the walk is very green, you will be surrounded by a lot of native bush. It is relatively flat and quite easy. Lulling you into a false sense of security...
Slowly it will start to get a little steeper and the landscape will really begin to change. It becomes a lot drier, and rockier. You are instantly reminded that it is an active volcano you're hiking over.
After about an hour or so you come to the most difficult part of the walk.
Known as "The Devils Staircase!"
It is a seemingly endless staircase up the side of the volcano which will leave you breathless. The views, however, make it totally worth it.
Unfortunately for us, once we got past this part the weather began to worsen.
The winds picked up, and it was absolutely freezing. We were told afterwards that the wind had reached speeds of 104km per hour with wind chill factor of minus 5. Brrrr.
Remember my first point about the checking the weather first!
They had actually closed the walk, which meant no one else would be allowed to start and some people were even turning back, however we were already nearly half way through so we decided to power on ahead.
The wind was so strong it was impossible to hear anyone else speak, we just had to focus on getting over to the other side of the volcano where we would be protected from the wind. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would see at the other side.
In the midst of all the dark rocks and dry ground, was two beautiful lakes.
It felt like a mirage.
Thankfully at this side of the volcano we were protected from the battering winds and could stop to get the feeling back in our extremities, and enjoy the gorgeous lake front view.
The hardest part of the walk was over and the weather was slowly starting to clear. Once your past the lakes, the landscape changes once again and becomes lusciously green once more.
After walking for near enough 7 hours straight, it's fair to say i was completely knackered!
My legs were sore and I was in much need of a cold beer and a massage.
It was all so completely worth it though, despite the sore legs and freezing winds. The views were like nothing I had ever seen before, so diverse and raw.
After spending 2 years in New Zealand I can confirm without a doubt that the Tongariro Alpine Crossing was one of my utmost highlights.
Get those hiking boots and get going! (Weather dependant of course :P)