What a perfect day we had for this adventure! We certainly appreciated that fact when we found out that the day before had been unfavourable conditions and as it turned out, the day after was thick with fog!
We headed off from Auckland on a very hot, sunny afternoon and drove via Tirau to pick up the 4th member of our group. Just a small group but the van was full of our chatter!
We arrived at our very comfortable, self-contained, holiday house and settled in before heading off to the local pub for dinner. It was pretty much full of other trampers with very few kiwi accents that we could hear. This was to be our experience on the crossing too, loads of other trampers and all seeming to be from different countries (and all much younger!) We all had an early night so that we could be up early and ready for our 6.45am shuttle van.
We awoke to a lovely fine, clear day and joined the masses being transported to the start of the crossing. Bus loads were being dropped off and we wondered what it was going to be like, all jostling for space on the track. Luckily we did all span out and it was only at the toilets or the “slowly and carefully” parts of the track that we all ended up in queues.
The first part of the track is easy, boardwalks and pretty flat terrain. From Soda Springs the track starts to climb up the long ascent known as the Devil’s Staircase, (I think there are a few walks in NZ with a Devil’s Staircase!)
We were all very pleased to get to the top, have a rest, find somewhere out of the wind to have some food and then head up to the Red Crater. It was during this part that we all noticed a young man on a BMX bike trying to cycle the track! Mind you, when we saw him he was carrying his bike and I’m sure he would have had to do that for a fair bit.
The red crater was absolutely stunning! So dramatic, almost like something from another planet! Deep, rich, dark blood red, rusty browns and ominous black walls steeply disappearing into this huge crater. The fierce cold wind only added to it’s stark beauty.
Once again, we sheltered out of the wind whilst admiring the panoramic view. From here it was a bit more of a climb and then below us was one of the most magical scenes of the whole trip, the Emerald Lakes. These honestly have to be seen to be believed. All around us was this rocky, sparse terrain and in front of us was a huge scree slope heading down to where these 3 magical lakes sparkled and shone in turquoise splendour. All around us people were taking advantage of the perfect conditions and taking photos and videos.
We joined the long, slow procession carefully snaking down the crumbly, scree slope. Many a slip was had but luckily no-one was seriously injured.
We walked across the vast Central Crater, the sun shining down, enjoying the ease of the track. From here it was an easy walk to the Ketetahi Hut and it was about here that we realised that we didn’t have quite as much time left as we thought we did. Despite starting to feel a little bit weary and foot sore, we needed to up the ante to make sure we were back by our pick up time of 3.30pm.
The track down through the alpine scrub and down into the forest is actually really lovely, especially with the pretty little river rushing alongside. However, we didn’t get to really appreciate it due to the rush to get back in time! Needless to say, we made it back and thankfully settled in to the air-conditioned shuttle bus and drowsily nodded off on the ride back to National Park.
It had taken us almost 8hrs with lots of stops for rests and photos and we were all feeling very satisfied with ourselves.
Once we were showered and rested, we sat back with wine and nibbles and celebrated the day. We ended up celebrating a bit too much, or maybe we were just too knackered, and decided to stay home instead of going down the road for dinner. Yes, it was an early night that night too!
And as I said at the start, look what we woke up to the next morning! Thick fog that lasted all day, in fact, they closed down the track. Were we feeling a little bit smug and pleased with ourselves that we had done the track YESTERDAY……..damn right we were!