December 2, 2016
km traveled today: 33 (7 highway hitched to start of TAC)
total TA km: 1145
This morning we woke up at the holiday park we stayed at just before the Tongariro Crossing. Jasper woke up early and was able to finesse a ride for him and his hitch hiking buddy, Shepard. Sam and I found success in hitching after about 45 seconds. This brought us to the start of the crossing.
We soon reached Ketetahi hut, which was not in use as it was still being used for research after a volcanic explosion a few years prior. After another long climb, we reached the gorgeous Blue Lake, where, even through the thin fog, we were able to enjoy its glistening turquoise beauty.
We donned some more layers, and took off towards the fabulously green emerald lakes, and began hiking up Red Crater.
As our ascent truly began, the weather had really cleared up, making for excellent conditions, and actually a lot less tourists than I had anticipated. The summit was stunning but incredibly windy, so after a couple of minutes we headed down and walked for a bit until we reached a nice little rocky area served as a protector from the wind as we ate our lunch.
After lunch we proceeded along a series of stairs and wooden plank track for quite a few km’s, out of the mountains and headed away from the park. After plenty of Yellowstone-like boardwalk walking we eventually came to the Mangatepopo track which was quite muddy and rich with prickly gorse, with a few redeeming views.
We walked for a couple of hours through that nonsense until we finally reached Whakapapa Village. We soon learned that the Skotel (Ski-Hotel) had no vacancy and the La-Tee-Da “Chateau” was far out of our price range, so we settled on the local holiday park and made a nice couscous dinner. After dinner we strolled down the street to a restaurant called Tussock’s, where we all got drinks. Sam and Will got pizza, and Jasper got a steak with eggs. I was able to save some coin by rounding up all of the leftover cheese burger and french fry scraps that I could find at the recently vacated tables. Thrifty and delicious. Great evening.