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Tongariro Crossing

Hiking up Mt. DOOM


View Backpacking in New Zealand on Prathyush's travel map.

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We were up early, like really early, to catch the bus which took us to the beginning of the crossing.
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The entire crossing was about 20Kms and I decided to hike up Mt. Ngauruhoe as well. This was a near perfect volcanic cone which was shown as Mt. DOOM in the Lord of the Rings.

We started off at a brisk pace, eager to be back by 4 so that we could take some rest before catching the overnight bus to wellington (Talk of a hectic schedule).

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The initial walk was quite easy and we got some amazing photographs of Mt. Doom on the way. The tough climb started when we got to the Devil's Staircase - an unending climb which went on and went on till the South crater.

We got the best view of Mt. DOOM before climbing it. Here's how it was depicted in the movie, Lord of the Rings.
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Here, we had to take a diversion to climb up Mt. Doom. Arun backed up at the last moment and we exchanged cameras to lighten my load. I set out with a couple of Israeli dudes and we were at the base of Mt. Doom in no time. After that the climb became really tough. The whole side of the volcano was a lava tube. So it was just volcanic sand and loose rocks. Anything we touched or stepped on would shift or slide down. Each step up was half a step down.

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It was slow going and I was in such bad shape that I couldn't keep up with the Israeli guys. But thankfully, another group of Australians came along and we started hiking up at an easier pace. The view got better and better and soon we were close to the huge cloud hovering over the peak of the crater.

I couldn't get any good pictures after that since we could hardly see anything in the cloud. So I turned back and started climbing down. I met another girl coming down and both of us started sliding and slipping down. It was so difficult to move even one meter without falling down. There were many rocks which kept sliding and we didn't want to start an avalanche or a major land slide so we tried to be as careful as possible.

After a while, we saw a guy literally dancing down the steepest part of the slope. We called out to him and he taught us a technique which was invaluable throughout the hike. We had to find a lava tube which did not have any rocks, and start running down but at each step, we had to dig our heels into the sand. It took us a while to get it right but then coming down was so easy. We were gliding down at a pretty good speed and we had to keep looking out for rocks or we could trip and go flying down. But we were back at the South crater in no time.

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I got into a conversation with the Australian girl. Her name was Rachel and she has just completed the Iron man competition in Taupo in a fantastic time of 12 Hrs. She was such an inspiration. She told me all about her training and her bike. She apparently used a road bike and not a triathlon bike. I told her about my running and biking in India and my full marathon in Mumbai. Its amazing how we get to meet the most extraordinary people at the most extraordinary locations.

We continued with the Tongariro crossing and reached the Red Crater. From here, we got a pretty good view of the volcano we just climbed and the clouds on the top.

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From the red crater, we could see the pearl lakes. These were fantastic blue lakes which were such a contrast to the surrounding black and red volcanic rocks.

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After another couple of kilometers we came to another huge circular lake. From here, the descent began. The landscape changed completely. There were rolling hills and we could see the huge Taupo lake in the distance.

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There was one spot where we could see white fumes coming out of the ground. People around assured me that it was a normal phenomenon and that the volcano was still dormant :)

I got back to the car park at around 3. Arun caught up with me by 3 30 and we got onto the bus and got back to the hostel. It was a fantastic hike and a must for anyone who's visiting NZ.

Posted by Prathyush 11:07 Archived in New Zealand

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