So, as of this weekend I have officially done the Tongiraro Crossing. It’s supposedly one of the best day hikes in the world, and a definite item on the New Zealand bucket list. The hike is 19.4km long and takes most people 6-8 hours to do.
I did the hike with my friends Line and Carl and we drove up to the National Park on Friday night. At 6:45am the shuttle bus took us from our hostel to the beginning of the walk and, let me tell you, it was freezing. I was so cold not even my bobble hat provided warmth. We started the hike at 7:32 according to the photo I took at the first sign post.
Part of the beginning track sucked because lots of different shuttle buses let off at the same time and it was super crowded. There was no room to pass anyone and it was a wee bit cluster-phobic. The first chunk of the hike is pretty flat and desolate. They use it was the Dead Marshes in front of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings movie, and it did seem pretty dead. It was mostly flat though with small inclines but not too bad at all. I was feeling pretty confident about how the hike would go.
I was too confident too soon though because next up was the ‘Devil’s Staircase’ and it truly was from hell. I absolutely hate stairs and always would rather just walk up a slope. This staircase, and the subsequent steep walk up after it, were the closest I have ever felt to dying. And I was a swimmer, so often felt like dying. My lungs and legs were so tired and in so much pain. Unfortunately I was the slowest in our group at stairs. I can finish any size set of stairs, it may just take me a while because I like to take lots of pauses. I didn’t get to stop as much as I may have liked to, which is maybe why I felt so much like death.
You get to see a lot of really cool bits of scenery on the hike. One of which is Mt. Doom, which is pretty cool. There’s actually a track up Mt. Doom (it’s actually a real volcano) but it’s essentially vertical climbing on very loose stones so we took a pass on that. You also get to see the Emerald Lakes which are stunning and very sulfuric. Plus there’s a big beautiful crater lake that was really quite pleasant to sit and look at!
After the hellish climbing part of the hike it’s pretty flat for a while and then you begin the decent. The last 9km are all mostly downhill and very frustrating. For a big part of it you can see the car park right below you but the path just winds around and it takes forever to get down. The last 3km are through a forest which is lovely, but by that point your feet hurt and you’re ready to be done!
We ended up doing the hike in 5:45 even with my very slow stair climbing. We didn’t take super long breaks anywhere just little rests here and there, but we felt we had a good pace. I’m not going to lie, it really wasn’t as hard as I was expecting/told and I would totally do it again. The steep inclines were pretty awful but other than that it was pleasant.
If you’re wondering I hiked in leggings, sneakers, a tee shirt, baseball cap, and a hoodie (the Live the Adventure one I wear all the time) I took off about halfway through. I had a backpack with water, bandaids, some apples, some granola bars, a few bread rolls, and my phone. I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked because usually my phone was stored in my bag. Overall I’m really glad I did it and can check it off my bucket list! Plus the day I did the hike was officially my 100th day in New Zealand and it was also Earth Day and I can’t think of a better thing to do for it!