Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

This weekend was one of the best ever – a perfect combination of friends, family, adventure and relaxation.

First, we had a chance to meet one of my relatives Germany, Tim, who is on holiday here in New Zealand with his girlfriend, Sina. After a conversation with my Dad, I figured out that my great grandfather and Tim’s great grandfather were brothers. Fortunately Tim and Sina speak excellent English because my three years of German classes are a distant and rather fuzzy memory now.

On Friday night Jake and I drove about four hours north to the mountains with a couple of friends where we met Tim and Sina. We were there to take on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which is magnificent and daunting 7-hour walk up to a couple of active volcanoes and is considered one of New Zealand best hikes. I’ve been looking forward to this for more than two years.

The six of us set off on Saturday morning. After a long walk through rocky terrain then a steep climb, you’re rewarded with a view down into an incredible red crater featuring different colours of volcanic rock and the jagged edges created from repeated eruptions, which remind you how violent this place can be. We encountered solidified lava flows, steam vents and a heavy smell of sulphur in the air, and our photos can’t possibly capture the power and beauty from this place.

Just a bit farther is your final push to the top where I found the most breath-taking view of all. Down below on the other side are the three shining Emerald Lakes, their vibrant hues the result of volcanic minerals. After three or four hours of seeing nothing but the harsh, dry rocky terrain, a view of these bright green pools was like an oasis of calm in such a treacherous setting. It made me wonder about the first person who ever saw these lakes. Someone would have climbed up there without knowing what they’d see, and without the benefit of stairs and marked trails, to find those lakes. They must have thought they were hallucinating.

I found the walk exhilarating and exhausting. I felt my muscles burning and my heart pumping, and it made me feel incredible.

After the long decent back to the car, we stayed in a little motel and made it an early night since we were all so beat. The next day we stretched our sore muscles and chose activities that were a bit less strenuous, including some miniature golf (Tim won) and a swim at the Waikanae Beach on the way back to Wellington.

The beach was a big deal for us because this was the first time Jake and I have actually swam at any NZ beach as we usually find the water much too cold. I’m so glad we took advantage of it because I would have regretted leaving here without a good little swim in the ocean.

Tim and Sina are staying with us for a while before they continue their travels to the South Island later this month. It will be good to get to know them a bit better and to bring our families a bit closer.

Experiences like this make me thankful for my friends and family – including those I’m just now meeting – and for the cool opportunities Jake and I have had. This has been a truly incredible weekend.


HereBeDragons said...

You had a great day for it, my Tongariro Crossing was completely fogged in - could barely see the Emerald Lakes!

Katherine said...

Amazing photos! It looks like my kind of place!

Dave said...

That place looks awesome. I can't believe you guys have been there two years and just now got in the water!

Yer Mum said...

Incredibly beautiful pictures of the Emerald Lakes, what a great time you all must have had! Glad our German relatives are having fun in NZ :)