Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NZ - Tongariro

South to Tongariro, home of Mt. Doom – otherwise known as Mt. Ngauruhoe.  Not wanting to freeze Gitti, much of the drive was with the windows up.  Hence, neither of us was particularly cognizant of just how cold it actually was out there.  Granted, it was nothing compared to the snowlands back home, but it certainly wasn’t summer-like.  We left the car already bundled up in winter gear as we made our way toward the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

I’d stripped off much of my winter gear soon enough, but as soon as began ascending I soon had it back on.  First it started sleeting.  Then it started snowing.  All the while there was monstrous wind.  Then there was brilliant warming sunshine.  We started lunch just as the sun broke through, and just as we zipped up our bags after finishing our food the blue sky gave way to rain.  The rain turned to snow… and more snow… and more snow.  It was snowing during summer in December… there are just so many things wrong with that sentence.

On several occasions we thought about turning back, but each time we kept going.  It just kept snowing.  One good thing was that the wind was at our back much of the way, though I was dreading the return when the wind’s direction was no longer so convenient.  We came upon another German guy continuing on despite wearing jeans & a hoodie… and here we’re dressed up in winter gear.  He joined us as we kept going up and up, eventually hitting the summit of the track; but wussing out of branching out to explore other summits considering that the views weren’t particularly stellar.

I kind of feel bad about skipping the final ascent of Mt. Doom, considering there was only about an hour left to go for that… but firstly I didn’t realize it was Mt. Doom at the time, and secondly: the hobbits didn’t climb to the summit, either.  A part of me did kind of wish I’d brought the ring from my LotR Risk game so I could throw it into Mt. Ngauruhoe’s crater.  I wonder if anyone else has ever done that.

The hike’s return was faster, but certainly colder & wetter.  We were accumulating snow on ourselves by the time we got down to the large crater through which the path traverses.  Soon after, we were in warming sunshine.  And by the time we were back the carpark: the mountains were almost cloudless.  Go figure.  As arduous as the snow & wind were, however, we couldn’t deny that getting snowed on was part of the excitement.

After the hike it was a very short drive to Whakapapa Village, where we’d booked a room at the Skotel.  We grabbed some food at the tavern just down the road – one of three dining options in town.  I ordered penne pasta and Gitti ordered wedges.  Thinking she’d ordered veggies, I ended up eating much of her meal.  Finding my pasta to be far too sauce-heavy, I ate the pasta itself & let her take on the far more dominant vegetable sauce.  So we ended up preferring the other’s meal… at least it worked out well.

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