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Picture 262, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

By Texas Mike.

This week we had the chance to hike the famous Tongariro Crossing. It’s NZ’s most famous 1-day hike as you venture through craters, mountain streams, waterfalls and lakes over volcanic rock on a pass between two famous volcanos. We were psyched to do it, but weather wasn’t cooperating. In the end, the day was one heck of an adventure — not at all what we had anticipated.

We really wanted to believe the Crossing would happen for us. We should have known we were in for a doozy of a hike when:
– we actually believed our driver that the weather might clear one miraculous afternoon following three days of nasty rain and clouds
– your rain gear is doing more to funnel rain water inside your clothes than keep it out
– the visibility halfway up the first peak is about 20 yards, and the pounding rain’s going sideways
– you casually ask a Canadian hiker on the side of a steep ascent if it’s normal for both feet to be soaked only 1 hour into the 7 hour journey
– there are as many hikers passing you going back down the trail as up, saying things like “it’s not getting better up there” and “we can’t find the trail”
– the only alternative route in bad weather is practically as long as the Crossing itself
– the guide’s last words after dropping us off at the base are “don’t come back here if you decide to turn around – you’ll only find a few sea gulls and thieves. And neither are going to help you.”

About 1.5 hours into the 7 hour hike, and 3/4 up to highest peak, we were both completely soaked through. That’s because the “fog and mist” our driver and “local expert” referred to was actually a wind-driven downpour going sideways through my poncho, rain jacket, rain pants and shoes. And the only “clearing” we witnessed were hikers getting off the trail.

We did the smart thing and fled down the mountain. Our boots felt like weighted sponges. The wind had ripped my poncho from the armhole to the bottom, turning it into a wind sail – not what you want.

So, about 1.5 hours later, we were back where we started and heading down that only escape route offered: the trail to Whakapappa Village. As we came to find out afterwards, it’s otherwise known as the Northern Circuit – it turns a bit “boggy but passable” with heavy rains and includes “several” steam/river crossings according to our guidebook. Would have loved to known that this trail sounds more difficult a hike than the crossing, just not as high. A better description would be “trudging through a slippery, undulating creek for 4 hours, up to your ankles in freezing water, muddy from the waste down after slipping and sliding your way to exhaustion.” Seriously.

You know you took a wrong turn when you find yourself fantasizing about other places one should be right now, and the discussion turns to Sheep World. And you agree.

But we survived and probably have a more memorable day than the Crossing ever could have been. Our boots are about dry, and the soreness is subsiding. Onto the next trek tomorrow: Abel Tasman. And sunshine, lots of glorious sunshine and warm water.

Hope this Christmas weekend finds you dry and toasty, basking in wonderful company of family and friends.

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