Tongariro Alpine Crossing

As we stepped off the bus the sun was shining brightly. There was a single whispery cloud hugging the peak of Mount Ngauruhoe. 

“Beautiful day for it” exclaimed our coach driver in his thick Kiwi accent, “no problems with the weather for you guys today!”

We gathered our belongings and the coach pulled away, leaving the three of us behind. Alex, Seth and I made our way across the track that weaved its way through the bush land at the base of Mount Ngauruhoe. We admired the ever changing sky above us.  

We begun our uphill climb. The track was steep and loose rocks made it unsteady under our feet.  I could feel the heat rising beneath my layers of clothing. By this point, I’d already tied my long blonde hair back behind my ears and I took off my thick leggings, coats and hoodie. My shorts and t-shirt revealed the bare tanned skin of my arms and legs.

My heart was beating fast. Blood rushed to my face and I could feel the veins throbbing under my skin. The hike upwards was tough but I was determined to continue.

Seth had soldiered onward and by this point he was much further ahead of us.  Alex and I didn’t attempt to catch him but rather took each step at our own pace.

The air temperature around us began to drop; I could feel the cold breeze on my bare skin. Concentrating on our footing, we failed to notice the thick black cloud that hung above us. That was until everything began to seem dark and bleak.

Rain drops began to fall, slow at first and then all at once.  I reached around into my backpack for my rain coat and slipped it on.  

Goose pimples stood up on my legs, we followed others who also climbed higher and higher, all of us hoping the icy rain would eventually cease.

It did not. The wind became increasingly harsh as it swirled around us.

Seth, still ahead of us, but now in sight, had stopped. “What should we do?” he asked as we grew closer, “turn back?”

I looked around us. Visibility had dropped significantly and I could now only see roughly five metres ahead of me. We were cocooned from the world on the side of this mountain.  

We continued on.

The wind blew hard, the rain poured down. We pushed on.

A powerful gust of wind almost knocked us off our feet, “We need to get down!” Alex shouted through the noise. We fell to our knees and clambered uphill, grabbing the biggest rocks we could find to pull ourselves along. The wind, so powerful, it could blow us over the edge.  

Rain continued to beat down on us, stinging our faces with its icy cold droplets. We sought shelter behind a large boulder and took a moment to catch our breath.

We stayed here for a while, unsure whether to laugh or cry. We checked our phones for signal but all three had turned themselves off in the cold temperatures.

We left the boulder behind and kept low, hugging rocks and holding on to each other.

Before long, the track started to descend.

The famous blue tarns, we so desperately wanted to see with the amazing backdrop we’d seen on other travellers photos, were completely covered by the fog and we could not see the breathtaking views we came for.

Visibility still poor but the mountain, now behind us, acted as a shelter from the fierce rain and wind.

By this point, we were soaked through. With every step our soggy socks and feet squelched in our boots, our clothes rubbing against our skin.

The track opened out into a big open rocky plain. A thick fog surround us, we almost couldn’t see our own hands in front of our faces. It was as if we were walking across the moon.

Before long, the track began to climb again but as we emerged over the ridge, at the top, we were greeted by a beautiful clear view of the valley beneath us and the promise of blue skies ahead.

I felt the warm sun on my cold and wet skin. We laughed as we trudged along in our soggy boots.

“Was it all a dream?” I thought to myself, “How could the weather change so much in a matter of moments?”

All that I did know is that we had another wild, and incredibly adventurous, story to tell.

Thanks for reading,

Love Travel and Coffee x

Taking our boots of as soon as we reached our van, some hours later, Alex noticed how soggy and wrinkly his feet were!

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