Willem, Wouter and Ben, a family friend, recently embarked on the Tongariro Northern Circuit hiking trail (one of New Zealand’s great walks). This is a 43.1km track that circumnavigates the impressive Mt Ngauruhoe (used as Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy).
Mt Ngauruhoe (2,291m) is the central one of the three active volcanoes that dominates the landscape with Mt Ruapehu (2,797m) to the South and Mt Tongariro (1,968m) to the North.
We decided to walk the track in an anticlockwise direction with leg one taking us from Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu hut.
Weather forecast – 104mm rain in the 6 hours between 9:00AM and 3:00PM and 65km/h winds.
A side trip to Lower Tama Lake ended without us being able to see the lake as visibility was so poor that the lake could not be seen from the viewing point.
The second leg would take us from Waihohonu hut to Oturere hut (a relatively short “rest” day).
Morning greeted us with views of both Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu from the hut’s large strategically placed windows.
Weather forecast – sunny with some strong wind in the morning.
The afternoon at Oturere hut afforded ample opportunity for a rinse off at a nearby stream, exploring the local waterfall and generally lazing around in now a windless sunny afternoon.
The next leg would be the toughest, crossing Red Crater almost half way between Oturere hut and Mangatepopo hut.
On advice from the enthusiastic ranger, an early start to catch the sunrise.
Weather forecast for Red Crater – showers, 65km/h winds with temperatures after allowance for wind chill -2 decrees Celsius at 9:00AM or wait till later in the day with less rain but winds increasing to 110km/h. We opt for an earlier start.
The near cloudless sky at sunrise is overcast by breakfast and the rain starts as we head out.
By 3:00PM the rain has stopped and a few clear patches appear in the sky, but our walk is pretty much at an end.
Until next time, Tongariro.