Tag Archives: tramping

Tongariro Alpine Crossing aka Monster Walk

24 Dec

Another weekend, another massive walk – this time to Tongariro National Park to do most of the Alpine Crossing. We would have done all of it but it is one-way, rather than in a loop, which would have caused hassle with our hire car so we did around 13km of the 19km track and then turned round again and walked back.

We got there in rubbish weather and as it was getting dark, so pretty much ate and then went to bed, ready to get up in the morning. The weather had cleared up by the time we woke up and we could see what was hidden from us the night before



We had a bit of a false start as we couldn’t find the right car park and the unhelpful man at the Tourist Information Centre assumed that we didn’t have a car when we asked him where it was, and said we’d missed the only shuttle. He also pointed to the sign which said that if we didn’t have the right kit we weren’t allowed on the shuttle. The ‘right kit’ included hiking boots rather than trainers (I had trainers on) and long trousers (Craig had shorts on). Confusingly, it also recommended taking cellophane…until I read it again and it said cellphone…

But being ones to give up after a five hour drive to get there, we persevered and eventually found the starting point. So, armed with our backpacks full of water and cake, off we went.

The first bit lulled us into a false sense of security as it was on a boardwalk and very flat. It was also easy to overtake the slower people who were in front of us so after half an hour or so we had managed to get ahead



Except for some pesky Swedish girls who were going just slightly quicker than we were and were noticeably fitter so we used them as pace-makers, resolving to pass them in due course.

We popped to the Soda Springs to look at the waterfall and to catch our breath before tackling the climb up to the South Crater, going from 1400m above sea level to 1600m.


This climb is known as the Devil’s Staircase and for good reason. Every time you got round a corner, you’d see another set of unending steps and those bloody Swedish girls skipping up them. But the views were pretty gorgeous


Despite not being natural athletes, we are stubborn and tiny lungs and overactive sweat pores were not going to stop US. So we powered through, stopping as little as possible and smugly crawling past the Swedes when they paused for lunch at the top. Food? Pah, not for us! It was the most difficult thing I’ve done in a long time though!


This was absolute bliss as it was a large flat crater so we got a bit of a break. Until we realised that we would be climbing to here


1900m above sea level. Horrendous. There were no steps but loose volcanic rocks so pretty hard going. We had to stop halfway up for lunch (carrot cake) and were slightly dismayed to see a certain pair of blonde girls pass us.

In the meantime, the weather was getting worse and the clouds were rolling in. I am not climbing mountains only to take pictures of clouds up at the top so dug deep and scrambled up to the top, only just beaten by the Swedes, which was a shame but given that we did the walk there and back (26km) in four and a half hours and that most of this was vertical, they probably did us a favour as left to our own devices we might not have done it so quickly! So it was a proud moment when we got to the top – rather cheekily this is recorded by asking the Swedes to take a picture of us…


And the views were stunning as you could see for miles over the desert (the set of Mordor in Lord of the Rings)





And look over the Emerald Lakes


And then it was an about turn to walk allllll the way back again. A quick pub lunch and a pint (sadly during England being thumped by the All Blacks, much to the landlord’s delight) and then a long drive home. A bit much perhaps to try and fit in two days but totally worth it!



Driving in NZ is SUCH a chore

27 Oct

Having had zero fun and all work recently, we decided to take advantage of a rare opportunity to spend some time together and put the new (old) car to the test and go away for the weekend. Luckily, this coincided with absolutely spectacular weather so we decided to do the walk to the Putangirua Pinnacles – for the second time, the first having been called off during one of the worst storms in the Wellington region for 30 years.

As it was a bit of a last minute decision and we had been all the way there before, we decided not to take any food, reasoning that the nearby Lake Ferry Hotel would be able to provide us with tea on the Saturday. So we packed up our new tent and a few other bits and bobs into the Morris and set off in glorious sunshine.

Driving in NZ is just ridiculous. The roads are always packed and so grey and drab


But we battled through the traffic ok and on to the motorway. First setback was at a petrol station on the motorway as the car decided to spring a leak after we’d bought drinks and snacks – luckily it was only the coolant having been filled up too much by the previous owner and not the black pool of death (oil).

As Wellington is so hilly, there is only usually one way to each place you want to visit – and the Pinnacles can only be found when you venture over the Rimutaka Range. Stunning views but the poor car struggled a little on the way up (second gear was necessary) so we stopped halfway up to let it catch its breath and to enjoy the views that were shrouded by clouds last time we took this route



The lovely views continued as we got closer to Lake Ferry


And finally we were on the road to the campsite (last time the road was covered in waves so this was a definite improvement)


Our little Morris did us proud and didn’t put a foot wrong


We dumped our stuff after chatting to a couple of people who were interested in the van – having an unusual car means you can’t exactly slip under the radar…

And set off for Lake Ferry pub to have a meal and a well-earned beer


We decided to have an early tea so we could fish at sunset. Sadly we caught nothing but seaweed and sandfly bites (the itchiest of all itchy things, hands down) but it was worth it for the stunning sunset. Cape Palliser is the most Southerly part of the North Island so although my phone pic is rubbish, what you can’t see is the sun setting behind the snow-capped mountains of the South Island


It was just one of those moments you have to remember rather than document.

When it became clear we weren’t going to set any fishing records we headed back to the campsite for a fire and a drink or two. Having remembered to at least pack firelighters (nothing else hugely useful though), we soon had a brilliant fire going, much to the jealously of everyone else. To be fair though, they were all grey nomads with massive motorhomes that probably had central heating, but we did attract the attention of a couple of Slovakian/Canadian backpackers who asked if we would mind sharing. We said that was fine as long as they brought us more wood (we are nothing if not resourceful). We had a very nice evening chatting with them whilst the full moon shone until it was time for bed. Our little Aussie sleeping bags weren’t quite up to the job so we spent a fair amount of the night with teeth chattering, but I guess it’s what used to be called ‘character building’.

Our lack of preparation was woefully apparent the next morning when we had a delicious and warming meal of crisps for breakfast. We had brought water in a 10l container, and our new backpacker friends had drunk all theirs but had a spare 2l container so we did a swap so we at least had something to drink on the trek.

We set off fairly early to avoid the midday heat and walked through beautiful bush



before finding the Pinnacles. This was the set of the Dimholt Road in the Lord of the Rings films where Aragorn and Legolas are told

The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead. And the Dead keep it. The way is shut.

However, in full sunshine it was not scary at all and really quite amazing


We’d heard that if we did the loop track we’d see even better views so confidently set off down a little path with a sign pointing the way. Our demeanour was slightly less confident after walking up vertical mountains for few more hours, going further and further away from the sea (and therefore the campsite). Eventually we admitted defeat and turned round, walking up and down around nine mountains before finally getting back. We discovered that the track we’d been on didn’t actually go anywhere except a little hut which would have been somewhat demoralising. Still we didn’t get eaten by bush tigers or eagles so I counting this as a win. It certainly made the calves and thigh muscles realise that they could potentially be more involved in my life.

Not an excellent picture but we walked from the You Are Here sign nearly to the Washpool Hut and back again. Not quite the short two hour ramble we had been planning


But still a beautiful weekend and nice to get out of the city for a change.

The next weekend (this one) is a Bank Holiday weekend and as the weather was meant to be awful, we decided not to go away but do a couple of nearby things. After the Morris passed its Warrant of Fitness (MOT) yesterday and had a thorough service, we took her out for another run and spent an enjoyable day weaving down the back roads between Karori and the coast. We stopped at a little café with a stream running through the garden and a sign stating ‘DO NOT POKE THE EELS WITH STICKS’. Had the sign not been there, it would not have occurred to us that there would be eels in the stream, never mind to poke them with sticks, but it drew us in to have a look. Fifteen huge 2m long eels lurked back at us which was very unexpected. A little boy poked one of them (with his finger, he was a good boy) and announced that they were pretty slimy so I wasn’t massively tempted to have a go. The café was shut but the eels were worth the detour alone!

The incessant wind let up slightly today (Wellington has 200 days a year which are over gale force, peaking in November so it’s pretty relentless at the moment) so being gluttons for punishment, we went for another walk. This time it was completely by accident as we happened to go past an interesting sign for a coastal walk and followed it. We were glad we did as despite the wind, it was a beautiful few hours from Eastbourne to the first lighthouse in New Zealand (conveniently situated on top of a mountain, joy!) and back again





Again, only having my phone on me was a complete waste because in the middle of this photo are the South Island mountains which were so clear on a day like this you could see the cliffs. My shoddy panoramic app was no match for the lovely views but hopefully this’ll give you some idea of the amazing scenery (and the absolute lack of other people throughout the whole walk!)

photo 1