Of barren ashlands and vulcanic ashes.
Waking up at 6AM from our hostel's cozy dormitory felt like a military wake-up: up right away, a quick shower, clothes on, gear ready, porridge for breakfast and into the bus. The only difference was that I was the only one waking up in the room, so I wasn't offered the commodity (?) of having light for most of these activities. The reason for my unordinary fashion of waking up was the longest trek I've done in a while. 20 kilometers doesn't look like much on a paper but when the terrain ranges from near-sea level to almost 2000 meters and the weather changes from a desert-like sun to a wind of needles you want to be prepared.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing is held as the best one day walk in New Zealand, and one of the best one day walks in the whole world. I was partly skeptical because it seems that everything in New Zealand is top of the world but my skepticism was eventually run down by a flow of scenery. The crossing penetrates through the vulcanic areas at the feet of Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Tongariro who stand with their heads above in the clouds. Throughout the crossing you're bound to moderately harsh weather conditions (especially for a pale Finnish individual) and apt to see the most amazing fields of rock in the world.
Our bus dropped us off at the beginning of the trail and me and my newly met Finnish acquiantance started the trek with a smile on our faces and hopes that the sun would rise. It did - quite early in the morning – and I learned, once again, that the sun in New Zealand is quite strong. The morning phase of the trek was quite easy, though, and most of the sweat that we broke was from having too much clothing on.
After our first break we saw that people were climbing up the so-called Devil's Staircase, which a bit of exaggurating in my opinion but it was fun feeling your leg muscles starting to tense and numb. From the top of the staircase we made our way across a barren field of nothing but sand. The sun was shining from a nearly zenith position and I was already regretting my choice of pants. That was until we came to the top of another range of rock where the wind blew a whiff of razors at our bare skin and we had to pace quickly up the mountain to get to the highest point of the crossing.
From the highest peak of the track a view over the Red Crater was opened before our eyes, spreading its bloodstained walls on us. Just a few steps aside could you see the Emerald Lakes, the tears of the mountain, which glittered in their blue colours beneath our feet. The stillness of the lake of sulphuric acid and water was hypnotic and the crater's dark red curtain laid its shadow on us. I felt the edge of the world touch me right there.