Tongariro to Oturere Hut (Tongariro Crossing)
I started with a 7km road walk from the holiday park to the carpark entrance to the Ketetahi track. That is the northern end of the Tongariro crossing. Most people start at the southern end because there is less elevation to climb from that way. I was still on my way up when the ant trail was starting to come down. The first lot must have started early. It was a non stop line of people and I was going against the flow. It was particularly busy today after two days of bad weather. There were hundreds and hundreds of people. Easily over a thousand. I was talking to the DOC ranger Hedley who I met later in the day. He said things are going to have to change to cope with the numbers coming through and it may need to be capped each day. Also there are several ways to enter the crossing and the northern circuit so they have no idea who or how many people are in the park on any given day. On average since 2010, two people per week are rescued off the mountain!
The landscape here is absolutely stunning! It is like being on another planet. So far I have seen the Blue and Emerald lakes and walked into the central crater. On the way up I was looking back onto Lake Taupo. Once you get up to the central crater you can see Mt Ngauruhoe towering above everything and the snow topped Mt Ruapehu behind it. I took millions of photos. After the lakes I went down another track for 4kms to the Oturere hut. That was a steep, slippery and windy track down. I will need to come back up it tomorrow before finishing the second half of the crossing.
I am very glad I decided to stay at the Oturere hut for the night. I met the ranger Herby and we talked for ages about all things to do with hiking. He showed me some photos of very rare parasite worms he found in a stream today. There were three of them. He showed me the Snow Totara plant which was loaded with little red berries. They were sweet. It is everywhere here but I hadn’t noticed the berries. I heard there was a stream nearby for swimming so I went and found it. I sat in a pool at the top of a waterfall and had a nice long soak in the cool crystal clear water. A great way to get clean and refreshed at the end of the day. The hut was packed and lots of people camped outside in tents. There were at least 40 people there. There were a few families with young kids too. That was cool to see and I look forward to bringing my family here.