Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Mountainous Task

Ja, I haven't posted in a while, so a quick (extremely quick) summary of things that have been happening since my previous post...
First, I've finished normal school. However I've still got exams, though now I've gotten through of them except for Spanish. Physics went moderately well, maths went pretty well, and English went really awesome. I've been also walking up Mt. Karioi, playing tennis, and examining the Hamilton Gardens. Want to know more about them? Look them up. This post is about something completely different.

This post is about the TONGARIRO CROSSING! This is New Zealand's deadliest and most awesome 1-day walk. It was planned for about 2 weeks beforehand, but I only found out the equipment information about 2 days before the event started. But, either way, I still went. It lasted 2 days, Friday and Saturday on the last weekend of November. On Friday we were driven to a lodge where we took our stuff, had dinner, talked about the crossing, and got some early sleep because we had to be at a bus at 8 AM. On Saturday, we had to wait for another bus because the 8 one was full, luckily the second one arrived at about 8:05. The main guide had a whole ton of stuff, since he was a member of New Zealand Search and Rescue. So I mainly got most of my equipment from him. The thing is, you shouldn't wear cotton of any kind on the walk, because it soaks up your sweat and soaks up rain, either way it's bad. Unfortunately, all the clothing I had was...yep, 100% cotton. So I wore it anyway, and borrowed a few things from our leader just in case I needed them. It turns out I didn't.

But, the walk! It took us 7 hours. And this is what it consisted of...*cue explanation music*
The walk starts out at the Mangetepopo parking lot, and starts going up to Mt. Ngaruhoe, following the Mangetepopo stream (by the way, did you know Ngaruhoe is Mount Doom? Didn't didn't you? Didn't think so!...hehehe...yeah, for those that have seen LOTR3, Mount Ngaruhoe plays the role of Mount Doom). We go to Soda Springs, which is up a small incline, then we go up a quite steep one for about an hour until we reach the South Crater, in the valley between Mount Ngaruhoe and Mount Tongariro. We walk across the South Crater, and go up another steep incline to the Red Crater. That is the highest point on the entire crossing, at 1886 meters. You get a good view of the Emerald Lakes, which are 3 really really green lakes that are in the next crater, and there's also Blue Lake, which is a larger lake that is in a different part of the mountains, but you still pass it as you walk. You then walk to Mount Tongariro, down through a podocarp forest, and arrive at the Ketetahi parking lot.

Our walk, was quite easy. It was a sunny, cloudless day. The walking was quite easy to Soda Springs, and we split up to go at our own paces to the South Crater. I ended up arriving there 15 minutes before everyone else. I seem to have a moderately fast uphill pace...hmmm. We joined there, and walked through the South Crater. Even though it was quite warm, there still was a small amount of snow around, and that was nice to have since it kept us a bit cooler. We then had an easy (well, as easy as a walk after a steep incline can be) walk to the Red Crater. That was even steeper, but it was shorter, and we made it up. And there was quite a view! Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera (I'm still not a photo-y person), and I had to ask one of the other 3 students who came to take pictures for me. Once they're emailed, I will post them. At the top point, there was also an interesting phenomenon occurring. There was volcanic gas going up the hill onto where we were. Now while that may not seem interesting, consider this: When you are standing up, there is wind blowing against you, and it is a bit chilly. But when you sit on a rock that's on the ground, everything becomes completely warm. Although it would be better to sit on a rock than the ground because if you sat on the ground, let's just say your pants would become steam-cleaned, and quite hot. The ground is surprisingly hot.

That area made it the perfect place to have lunch. So we had lunch, then headed down a very steep, and scree (gravel found at volcanoes, made through the process of shattering frost) filled slope (getting much scree in our shoes in the process), and got down to the Emerald Lakes. They looked nice, but we just kept moving anyway, after emptying out our boots/shoes of scree. We walked through another snowy area, threw a few snowballs, and got to Blue Lake. There was like a complete ring of snow around that, surpringly. But, as we wanted to make the 4:00 shuttle, we kept moving. We went through the rest of the walk with not a whole lot happening. Walking down a hill, eating the rest of our lunch, walking down the rest of the hill, sore feet, walking through a forest, even more sore feet and ankles, and finally getting back to the shuttle. Surprisingly we actually made the 3:30 shuttle.

Now, after a 3-hour ride back to Hamilton, I'm back here, writing this blog. Sorry for taking so, as most of you know, I'm terrible at, ja. then...?...I guess?


Bogdaddy said...

Man that sounds great! Reminds me a little of Yellowstone! Glad you did it and made it and told us about it.

Happy Thanksgiving! Call home sometime when you get the chance!

Shirlee said...

Wow - that must have been incredible! Please post pictures when you can - it looks gorgeous on Google Earth. Congratulations for finishing up with school - good job! We are so proud of you, Andy. Keep in touch as you can, and let us know what New Zealanders do when school lets out! Love, Shirlee

Mom said...

Great description and story, Andy -- can't wait to see your pics! I'm proud of you being so active (ha ha...had to say it :-)...).

Good to hear about school, too; I'm impressed that you were able to "catch up" so well.

Did you get my T'giving e-card and silly joke? We had an empty chair at the table in honor of you. I'm so glad you're having these amazing experiences -- but you're missed. Keep enjoying!

Love you,