One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor

Taupo is probably my favorite place on the north island. It’s a town with everything you might need without being overwhelming like Wellington or Auckland. I stayed here three nights and would’ve just stayed there for weeks if I could. The views of Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom from LOTR) across the lake are dreamlike and the lake is so large that it is basically like living in a beach town.

Mount Ruapehu Still Snow Covered in Peak Summer
Mount Ngauruhoe

We arrived fairly late in the afternoon so it was a quiet evening since I had a very early morning planned to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which would begin at 5:15 a.m.

The Alpine Crossing is located in Tongariro National Park which is a dual world heritage site, both for it’s natural and cultural importance! I got up bright and early, loaded onto the shuttle and proceeded to pass out for the entire ride to Tongariro. We arrived a little past six, loaded up on sun cream and began the journey.

Mount Ngauruhoe

The first hour and a half was fairly easy, some stairs would get me out of breath but I was managing fine. I then discovered why one part of the tramp is called “The Devil’s Staircase” very quickly. Basically, it’s steep stairs for around half an hour and where there isn’t stairs, it’s still a steep incline so you don’t get a break. I had to stop almost every landing but it’s a beautiful place so I would just take in the scenery.

View from Top of Devil’s Staircase

After the Devil’s Staircase, the track levels out for a little while and I could catch my breath. I stupidly thought that the worst must be over as that was very hard for me and boy, was I wrong. After a break that makes you feel good about yourself, there is an extremely steep climb and there’s no stairs. It’s loose gravel and very tough!

Nice and Flat before the Hell Climb

Again, I had to stop, breathe, and chug water every few steps; I had quickly gone through about a liter at this point. Even though I wanted to die during this, it’s so worth it for the view from the summit. After pain, suffering, and thinking about crying a couple times, the “path” leveled out and there it was, panoramic views and face-to-face with Mount Ngauruhoe!

(Peep my burnt shoulders)

Some of these photos look professional, or like I got them from the internet but I did not! These are unedited pictures taken from my iPhone!

Sorry, is this real life???

The summit is also the halfway point of the trek, I was already exhausted but excited that I had pushed myself through that hard uphill battle.

After resting at the summit for a moment and being asked to take many photos for random strangers and laughing at a couple girls who decided the best picture to take here would be them dabbing (please no) I began the hard descent. I’m not sure if the ascent or descent was harder, the descent wasn’t as physically exhausting but again, there’s no stairs and just loose gravel. I busted my ass about four times on the way down (I definitely had a bruise by the end of the day), I wasn’t the only one nor was I the worst, but I was ecstatic when the path leveled again. This time at beautiful emerald lakes!

The rest of the tramp is somewhat dull, still surrounded by fascinating flora and landscape but it becomes repetitive quickly and the last four kilometers seem to go on forever. By this point, my feet and toes were extremely sore and my muscles were screaming at me. I finally made it to the bus pick up point around 2:30, making it around an eight hour trek. I plopped onto the bus and could barely make it off once we arrived back in Taupo because my muscles had seized up; I also had a wonderful cloud of intense stink around me which was wonderful but after a shower and a nap, I was so happy that I had conquered this trek and achieved something I wasn’t sure I would be able to do!

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