A fanatic is what you could call me, a die-hard Lord of the Rings marathon watching maniac. Imagine my enthusiasm the morning my new Scottish friends and I are about to go on an epic journey into the hellish gates of Mordor, better known as the Tongariro Crossing.
Luckily for us the tramp was more like a journey into heaven. To clarify, a tramp is a trek or a hike and it is the only word one would describe a good walk in New Zealand.
The Tongariro Crossing
Of course we weren’t actually heading into Mordor, we were about to tramp the Tongariro Crossing inside Tongariro National park which is the biggest of New Zealand’s national parks. Although looking at the steep volcanic mountain to climb we can see the eerie resemblance.
This 19.4 kilometer journey put our endurance and physical shape to the test. The constant beer drinking, Ferburger burger eating and ice cream licking couldn’t have helped us make this tramp a little easier.
We went in the New Zealand summer time and the weather was great. The weather can change rapidly on this tramp so it is always advisable to bring a rain jacket in the summer along with some warm layers. Although the weather was great there I still had to use my warm fleece and rain jacket once we reached the higher altitudes.
I wouldn’t dare make the trip in the New Zealand winter although people do make this cold and snowy tramp.
Tongariro Northern Circuit
The start of the tramp is pretty mellow for about the first hour then you start to climb and you notice a change from lush green vegetation to dry dessert like plants that can only survive the harsh climate. The landscape is mostly rock as we reach the gates of Mordor.
Mount Doom (Mount Ngauruhoe)
This red and black volcano portrays Mordor and Mount Doom perfectly and once we are standing at the bottom looking up at the top we know why Peter Jackson chose this to be Mount Doom and Mordor.
Only one of us was brave enough to make his way up to the top through the loose volcanic sand and it wasn’t me. Lewy was the one that took the ring up Mount Doom so Jerr and I could rest at the bottom and prepare for the 6 hour tramp ahead of us.
The Devils Staircase
Knowing that we are about to go up against the devils staircase Jeremy and I made the wise but regrettable decision of not climbing Mount Doom. We climb from 1400 meters to 1600 meters above sea level and the views are spectacular.
We take the short side trail to the South Crater for a well-earned rest.
South Crater to Red Crater
From south crater to red crater you feel like you are a different planet. The tramping becomes increasingly difficult due to the loose scoria rock that slips beneath our boots.
We enjoy amazing views of the emerald lakes, Rangipo Desert, Oturere Valley and the Kaimanawa Ranges.
Red Crater to Blue Lake
A slight smell of sulphur is in the air as we pass by the old lava flow from Red Crater.
Blue lake is a sacred lake that gets it colours from the rich minerals in the area. By this time we are exhausted and looking forward to some downhill tramping but at the same time we don’t want to leave this magical place. However we do have to leave as the sun will be setting soon and we need to make it to the bottom.
Blue Lake to Ketetahi Shelter
We are now immersed in the clouds and I can feel the moister in my bones. Being in the clouds is like being in heaven with views like this of Lake Rotoaira.
The landscape changes once again rapidly as we make our descent. First there are signs of more life with the dry sweeping grass that blows in the brisk wind.
Before we reach the bottom we pass through a green forest with ferns and a thick tree canopy.
To this day, hiking, oops I mean tramping through the Tongariro Crossing has been the best hike I have ever done and I always consider moving to New Zealand. Experiencing the journey with two great new friends from Scotland made the trip even better. We move on to eat more Ferburger, drink more beers and tramp on throughout New Zealand traveling in our spaceship van.
Author: Jason caught the travel bug after taking his first backpacking trip to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. He enjoys meeting new people and outdoor adventures.
Images – all images belong to the author.