I am still cruising around the North Island of New Zealand. I Have been living for a while around the Bay of Plenty, a strategic location to explore a good deal of the surrounding points of interest, such as the Tongariro National Park. This ancient scratch of planet Earth harbors three active volcanoes: the Ruapehu, the Ngauruhoe – which is Mount Doom in “The Lord of the Rings” – and the Tongariro itself.
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is meant to be one of the best, if not the very best, day-hike in New Zealand. The 20km track climbs and winds among the volcanic summits, in a breathtaking, moon-like scenery.
The trek starts at about 1000mt height, and reaches its highest point at the Red Crater, 1886mt. The impressive formation it’s characterized by its vivid red colour, caused by extreme heat sintering and oxidizing the iron content of the rocks.
It last erupted in the 1850, but the geothermal activity in the area is always high, with clouds of vapor coming out the earth and the constant sulfur smell that keeps reminding you how this corner of the Earth is alive. The washed down minerals coming from the crater are also the cause of the shocking blue color of the Emerald and Blue Lakes, just a stone’s throw away.
The concentration of so many diverse, but equally stunning, natural features is the reason why this trekking is so popular. As I am finding out, in New Zealand, and especially during summer, “popular” means quite overcrowded routes. Thus, do not expect a spiritual quest of loneliness in the elements, but rather a leisurely walk through an extraordinary scenario.
Photography: Matteo Fabi