Tongariro Northern Circuit

Saturday morning 6:30 we set off from Whakapapa village to join Juan to tick off his final great walk. The crisp morning led us to shatter the DOC times and tramp to Mangatapopo hut in 2:15 instead of the designated 4 hours.
Ngaruhoe at sunrise
After a quick break we joined the refugee caravan on the Tongariro crossing. Hundreds of poor souls crossed over to a better world, wearing rags and sandals and carrying whatever random things they owned.
The crossing was cold, windy, but beautiful as ever and the sight of emerald lakes is always impressive.
It took us 2:45 to reach Emerald Lakes from Mangatapopo hut. Here we turned right, while the Promised Land seemed to be to the left. So we left the masses and the next few hours were truly beautiful. Our group wandered alone through a surreal moonlike landscape for 2 hours until we reached Oturere hut and tramped another 3 hours to get to Waihohonu hut, our destination for the night and a luxurious stay.
Next to the hut is a pretty stream to cool down and clean. An alarming high pitched scream from the stream turned out not to be a life threatening situation, but just Juan who submerged in the stream.
Dinner was a feast of indulgence, with lots of pasta, bacon and an impressive amount of chocolate, Timtams and lollies for dessert.
The water in the hut is not suitable for drinking after a long period without rain, so three of our crew volunteered to walk to the spring and back (40min return).
Sunday morning, we started tramping at 8:30, with a quick stop at the historic hut (ladies, please go to your own quarters here). 2 hours from the hut we reached Lower Tama Lake. There we had a mandatory break to do a serious attempt to finish the chocolate cornucopia from the previous night. We failed. High on sugar,  six of us set of for a side tour to Upper Tama Lake. When we returned, we found the three remaining trampers immobile and non responsive, with chocolate still in the corner of their mouths.  They finally made a serious dent in the mountain of chocolate.
From Lower Tama lake, it took us about 2:30 to get back to Whakapapa, including a nice lunch at Taranaki falls.
On the way back to Wellington, our trip leader made several serious attempts to divvy up the remaining stash of chocolate.
Some remarkable things we discovers during the trip:
– If Juan offers you Miso soup, run for your life!
– After taking 685 pictures of Ngarahoe from EVERY angle, we were surprised to find that the mountain is almost symmetrical.
–  alcohol is not permitted on club trips, but an exception is made for those who carry it in a Kefir bottle.

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