After finally picking up our van we headed down the coast to a little village called Raglan. The weather put paid to our plans to climb a mountain so we carried on to Waitomo, home of limestone caves full of glowworms and lots of adventurous activities. We were boring and I chose a nice walking tour on which I could take photographs ( most cave tours don’t allow it, you have to buy their pictures.) I was told the 9am tour wasn’t happening and I could wait for the 10am one but the guide didn’t feel like sweeping and took me on my own personal tour. We went down into a deep hole and I was shown glowworms and told all about them and got to ask lots of questions. I also got to take pictures and though they didn’t turn out as well as the postcards, I enjoyed it. The weather report showed a big high in the Tasman sea and looked promising so we booked in to walk the Tongariro circuit, camping rather than the huts as one of them was full.
The first day saw us walking in mist and drizzle and I started to wonder if this is what mainly fine meant in the mountains – it wasn’t raining! However as we headed over to the eastern side of the range mountains started to appear and so did the sun. By the end of fifteen kilometres we were pleased to see the hut and it was a mansion, recently built up to new building regulations. Even though we were camping and paying much less ($14 as opposed to $32) we still had full use of the kitchen and dining area complete with hot water, gas cookers and solar lights. We were quite pleased to escape to our cosy campsite by the river at the end of the day.
The next day dawned without a cloud in the sky and the mountains in full view after hiding for the previous week. We felt sorry for the walkers going the opposite way to us on their last day after miserable weather previously. We had an easy stroll of 7.5 km to the next hut though it didn’t fell that easy as we went up and down over ridges but always with glorious views, especially of Ngauruhoe as it loomed ominously closer. We felt very weak when we met two girls strolling by doing the whole circuit in a day ( we also met many others skipping huts and powering on through but we enjoyed our leisurely pace.) The next hut was much smaller and very cosy for the full house of people but it did encourage everyone to chat. We were treated to a colourful display of clouds over the mountains at sunset with the full moon rising in the opposite direction.
Our big crossing day started early but everyone else seemed to be up to see the sunrise too. The walk took us across a rugged volcanic landscape to the foot of the ridge that would take us up. We joined with a group of other walkers there as they also puffed their way up. At the top we were rewarded with the sight of a well named Emerald Lake and a daunting climb up yet another ridge to the top. It was hard going as the surface was very loose. Finally the top was reached and we enjoyed the view with all the other hundreds of walkers up there on their way to completing the Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand’s most famous day walk. We took the side trip out to Mt Tongariro after deciding I would not make it up Ngauruhoe though the others we were walking with did. It was then lots of downhill on a well made and stepped path to our final hut.
The last day was just a gentle stroll apart from all the eroded gullies that definitely need fixing.