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Turangi, Tongariro and the road to Wellington

I had planned to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and decided to stay in Turangi rather than Taupo, where the majority of people stay, because it is 40 minutes closer to the park and I wanted to start early before it got hot and crowded. When the bus dropped passengers off at Taupo I was glad I had made that decision since it didn't look too different to Rotorua and was VERY crowded. The road south goes right alongside the Eastern shore of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand with a surface area of 238 square miles, A52A046F2219AC68174ABCABCDB693B3.jpg it is formed from the crater of a volcano which is still gently bubbling away at the bottom, and the views from the bus were brilliant.
Turangi is a tiny town with one arcade of about a dozen shops, a library, a police station, a bar and a supermarket. The most noise was from the cicadas ?. I stayed in an amazing hostel, A Plus Backpackers, that my friend Grant would love, and I had a room to myself which was great. A Plus is really quirky, a bit Heath Robinson and with some indefinable air of friendliness that kept most people off their mobiles/laptops and talking to one another. It kind of has the feel of a hippy commune from the sixties and quite a few people come for a day or two and end up staying longer. I met a lovely couple, Nelson and Margaret, who run a dairy farm nearby and often have hostellers staying on to work for them for a while. They provide food, accommodation and pay. There were some very lively conversations but as most people were either starting the crossing early the next day or had done it and were exhausted everyone had a relatively early night.
The hostel is run by Ian, a total one off, and his wife Liz. They clearly encourage their guests to contribute artwork to the fabric of the buildings and, amongst other animals, keep a calf called 'Rosie' which they hand reared after it's mother died, and which loves attention.A51C6BAD2219AC68177182C8BF230A41.jpgA5254A1B2219AC6817E8392E632BB1D7.jpgA527508F2219AC68179AA76F1F0B70CB.jpgA528EE662219AC6817FCEB1A4A048BBA.jpg
I was on a 6am shuttle out to Tongariro and we made a couple of pick up stops and started the walk at 7am. We began in bright, clear and warm weather and a brisk pace meant stripping layers of clothing off and frequent stops (in my case) to let the heart rate get back to normal, A51509432219AC6817F4E9DFB797F629.jpg but after about an hour we had climbed into cloud which got thicker and thicker. It began to get colder so all those clothing layers went back on and then it began to rain, relentlessly, and the wind got stronger as we got higher. A5199AE32219AC6817E6F4DBCE498EBD.jpg Before we even got to the top visibility was down to a few feet and people were literally trudging in each other's footsteps and muttering about how cold it was. It was a real shame because as we got higher and higher it was not difficult to imagine how amazing the views would have been if we could have seen them. We could not even see the peaks of Tongariro or Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom for Lord of the Rings fans) and I was certainly thinking 'just let me get off this .... mountain'. It is a tough hike A52D86972219AC68171B673D14B5B4F9.jpgbut would not have been so arduous if we had been able to enjoy the views and to stop for 'photo opportunities and the picnic lunches that everyone had brought with them. In the end I think most of us were just grateful to get off the mountain and glad that at least we had done it. It took a very long, very hot shower to repair the damage to my body and my walking shoes are still drying out. I would certainly recommend it as a hike for those who have the opportunity to do it but, as with all mountains, the weather is unpredictable and can change very quickly. We all thought we were prepared, we were not!
My bus the next day did not leave until 10.45am so I was able to have a good night's sleep and a lie in on Thursday. My knees were grateful for the six hour bus ride to Wellington! The countryside heading south is really changeable. The centre of the North Island is very volcanic and the topography reflects this with the road cutting through hills on all sides. There is literally hardly any flat land and it is a bit oppressive particularly as the pine trees are densely cultivated (wood is New Zealand's third largest export) and seem to hem you in on all sides. Once you get out of this region the farmlands are really lovely and the mountain range goes on and on in the distance like a backbone through the North Island. The coast immediately to the north of Wellington is beautiful and the view of the city as you drop down into it is amazing. I am looking forward to exploring the city with my daysack on my back and my guide book in hand ?.

Posted by busyboots 22:37

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