If you have never done the Tongariro Crossing or if you have never done any tramp in the Tongariro National Park, it is time to get your boots ready! The views of the volcanos, lakes, craters and tussock are just stunning; and you will wish you have been there earlier.
Because we were an easy tramp group, the plan was to sleep two nights at Mangatepopo hut, which is only 30 min from the car park, and carry only day-packs on Saturday and Sunday, leaving all the heavy stuffs in the hut (especially for Caryl who was carrying the large fly, pegs and poles !). The hut is supposed to accommodate 20 but I can reassure you, we had the proof that you can at least fit 25 in and several outside on the deck. The only problem with that configuration is to manage to move in the common room and find a spot for your billy the next morning.
All night the wind was blowing and it didn’t change on Saturday morning, so instead of aiming to the Tongariro crossing, following the good advice of Kevin, we walked back to the car park (so if you still follow the only walk we have done so far is car park to the hut and back), and drove to Whakapapa village to do the walk to Tama lakes.
It is an hour to reach Taranaki Falls (which are not on Mount Taranaki but in Tongariro Park which is quite confusing for me), and then an extra hour to reach Lower Tama Lake. Upper Tama Lake is only a good climb away from the Lower Tama Lake. It was so windy up there that having lunch overlooking at the turquoise blue of the lake was not an option. We had to lower our standards and look at Mount Ngauruhoe, so bad!
On the way back we stopped at the Taranaki falls, back to the car park and were just in time to enjoy the sunset walking to the hut. The golden hour reinforced the beauty of the park. The tussock natural brown-red colour, associated with the white of the snow on the tops, and the brightness of the super full moon; it was stunning. The views were also gorgeous at night time with the full moon illuminating the mountains.
What a good surprise on Sunday morning, no wind, no cloud, a perfect blue sky, and a tiny mountain with a white cap on the background: Mount Taranaki! With such perfect conditions, there was no time to lose to walk the Tongariro crossing (or part of it). The path is actually a tramping motorway, almost all paved, even equipped with toilets along the way. But, the walk is a must-do, just for the views. The first two kilometers are relatively flat and then it is quite a good climb up to the ridge. Unfortunately we had to turn back just before the first crater because we had to be back at the hut on time to meet the alpine groups.