Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Part 2

Great news! I now have a temp job at the Ministry of Education. It may just be until Christmas, but could potentially extend after that as well. My blogs may be a little more spaced out now that I don’t have as much time on my hands, but I’ll do my best.

Now, back to Mordor! After climbing that steep hill in the last post, we came up to Red Crater – pretty self-explanatory. It’s also the highest point of the whole hike, at 6,188 ft (1,886 m).


This volcanic area was most recently active in 1926 and gave rise to the beautiful mineral-filled Emerald Lakes, which are coming up.

Sam and I took a short detour up an exposed ridge, but decided to turn around when the wind got the better of us. The crossing often gets shut down because of high winds, so I can only imagine what those must be like when we were experiencing a “mild” day.


I love the lone flowers in this otherwise barren landscape.


In case you didn’t realize… this place is volcanic.

When we started to descend from the highest point, we were met with an amazing view of the Emerald Lakes.


You can’t look up for too long, though, because the descent was basically akin to skiing on scree. You had to do the best sideways shuffle you could, while trying not to slip and fall. It was amusing to see everyone’s different techniques, some people just blowing down the slope full-speed and others awkwardly waddling with cameras in hand. I myself was probably somewhere in between, but I managed to stay upright.



The lakes were amazing up close and the color is even more stunning in person, truly otherworldly. Most people stopped here for lunch, but the smell was a bit disconcerting. Sulphur and sandwiches don’t really complement one another, so Sam and I continued to Blue Lake. The names on this trek aren’t too creative, as you may have noticed, but I guess they don’t have to be when everything is so breathtakingly gorgeous.


I couldn’t have asked for a better view while eating my somewhat misshapen peanut butter and banana sandwich.


After a nice long break, we continued onward for the mostly downhill portion of the trek.


I like this shot looking back on the trail, because it really gives you an idea of the scale of everything. We’re just tiny hobbits… er, humans, dwarfed by this sweeping scenery.


Where else can you see a hardened lava flow lined with snow? Most of our journey skirted the actual snow-covered areas, but we did trek through one short stretch on our descent.


As we wound downward towards the car park where our shuttle would come to pick us up, the views of Lake Taupo and the surrounding area were incredible.



The last couple miles definitely felt like the longest part of the hike. My legs were really starting to feel the strain, and Sam and I kept thinking the car park would be around the next turn. When we eventually did make it to the end, around 2:00, we ended up having to wait a couple hours for the shuttle to leave, but we were too tired to really mind. Almost everyone fell asleep on the ride back to Taupo, but I somehow managed to stay awake, possibly because our driver treated those windy roads like a NASCAR course.

All said and done, I can’t think of a better way to spend a day in New Zealand. Having spoken to other people whose treks were canceled due to wind and rain in the days surrounding my visit, I was really lucky to have a gorgeous day to do this unforgettable hike. It’s one of those landscapes that you just know you’ll never see anywhere else. Plus, I can say I made it through Mordor in one piece.

2 thoughts on “Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Part 2

  1. Great stuff, Kelsey!  And now we know Sam is real. That was his back in that photo, right?

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone


    1. Haha yes, I don’t make people up these days, even though it does seem too perfect that he was named Sam.


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