“So if the volcano erupts, take a picture, then drop your packs and run.”
At least that’s what our hut warden said, in a very calm fashion. When he brought up the possibility of the volcano erupting, literally everyone in the hut started nervously laughing. It was like everyone was thinking, “that ain’t gonna happen right?” Luckily for us, Mt. Nguarhoe didn’t erupt on our expedition, or else I would not be alive to write this. Because if my survival depended on my ability to run down the Devil’s Staircase, we were all dead.
The Tongariro Northern Circuit Track started with us hiking 8.5 km from Whakapapa Village to Mangatepopo Hut. Sadly, it was raining, and we ended up getting soaked.
It was so cloudy we literally saw nothing but the trail.
Thankfully, you can stay in these huts along the way, so we didn’t have to set up our tent in the rain. They have mattresses, a stove, water from a pump, and a port-a-potty. Everyone was drying their clothes on this rack above the fire, so it was obvious we weren’t the only ones who got caught in the rain. The next day we did the crossing, which is a 12.8 km hike up Devil’s Staircase, up this steep path near the top of the volcano, and past the Emerald Lakes and the Blue Pool. It was awesome!
We marveled at the red crater and took water breaks on the volcanic rocks where the lava had flowed.
We planned on doing the circuit in 4 days and 3 nights, except the third day was only supposed to take three hours. Dumb. We were so stinkin’ dumb. We decided to do two days worth of hiking in one day.
Hiking from Orutere Hut all the way back to the Village was not a bright idea. That’s 21.8 km (around 14 miles).
After our last day, I came to the conclusion that four stages exist in long distance hiking.
1st Stage: Fresh and Fun Stage. You’re feeling good, like you can walk forever.
2nd Stage: Sorta Sore Stage. You’re feeling a little rough, but you’ve gotten used to the weight of your backpack, so you’re ok.
3rd Stage: This is Crap. I’m Done Stage. This is the point on the hike where you’re legs feel like they’re broken, and you don’t think you can walk anymore.
4th and Final Stage: My Legs are Numb, So Now I Feel Nothing Stage. This is the last stage. Sometimes you won’t ever reach this stage, but I definitely did on the last stretch of the hike. It’s almost a good stage, because you can’t feel anything.
Basically follow the crowd and do the Circuit in 4 days or you will suffer the consequences of the four stages. On the bright side, the last day was like we were walking through Minecraft. No joke. We’d walk through a forest, then a desert, but then BOOM there’s this crazy rock area that looks like the moon, rivers, volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, it was crazy. – Ella