The Tongariro Crossing


Tongariro crossing

The Lord of the Rings franchise has inspired many tourists to visit New Zealand so that they may grace the mystical lands of middle earth with their own footsteps, and as a result the tourism industry in New Zealand has seen a rise since the release of the movies.One of the most iconic spots for fans of the films to visit is the Tongariro Crossing, located just to the south of Lake Taupo. While this is extremely popular among hikers, scramblers, and nature lovers alike, it also attracts those who want to visit the movie setting for Mordor, and those who wish to scale the side of Mount Doom.

The land of Mordor is actually part of the Tongariro National Park (sometimes referred to as just “National Park” as this was the first national park to be established in New Zealand), and Mount Doom is really an active stratovolcano which goes by the name of Mount Ngauruhoe, which is quite difficult to pronounce for those unfamiliar with the Maori language. Maori legend says that it was named after Ngatoro-i-rangi's slave, who died from the cold before the fire that Ngatoro-i-rangi summoned from his homeland arrived in the form of Ngauruhoe.
The crossing itself is a 19.4km trek through the national park which typically starts at the Mangatepopo car park and finishes at the Ketetahi car park. It is possible to complete the walk in reverse, however this requires a little more time as there is a overall greater altitude incline as the Mangetepopo car park is considerably higher than the Ketetahi car park. If you pay for private transport from Taupo, you will always find that the tour companies drop you off at the Mangetepopo end and pick you up at the other.
The first half of the walk, if started from Mangetepopo, will see you scrambling over the dramatic volcanic landscapes that represent the land of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. As you ascend up “The Devil's Staircase” you will notice the vegetation drop away until you are walking across great plains of exposed rock between the Tongariro peak and the Ngauruhoe peak. You will then ascend even higher until you emerge at a breathtaking viewpoint overlooking the green sulphur lakes and the Red Crater. This is a good point to stop for a break, to admire the view.
From this point, the walk is largely all downhill, descending down the volcanic landscape and entering into thick, lush rainforest, and taking you past some steamy sulphur outputs and trickling streams. The landscape diversity on the walk is really amazing, and it feels like several different walks all in the same place.
The scramble up Ngauruhoe is a difficult 2-3 hour return that you can add onto the walk if you wish, and you will feel like it is two steps up, one step down as you are constantly scaling loose gravel which slips underfoot. Many people who attack this mountain are underprepared and encounter lots of problems, so make sure that you only take on the mountain if you are physically fit and feeling capable. Ensure you have sturdy footwear, which you should for the walk anyway, and plenty of water, sunscreen, and protective clothing.
Conditions in the mountains can change very quickly, and you should always be prepared for every weather condition imaginable. Start the walk with warm clothing, waterproofs, light clothing, and a first aid kit in case of any small emergencies. Also ensure you have plenty of water and food as the recommended walk time is seven hours (without the Ngauruhoe side trip), although this ranges between roughly five hours and eight depending on your physical fitness. Walking through Mordor was never supposed to be easy, so do ensure you have decent footwear that will support you in tough terrain. In winter, you may also need snow shoes and ice axes, and you should check with the local DOC office before you start for updates on weather and the equipment you require. Lastly, it is well worth checking the DOC websites on the day that you decide to do the walk to see that they haven't closed it due to bad weather or due to volcanic activity, and also make sure you take the time to read the signs in regard to the safe evacuation zones which are dotted along the walk.
The Tongariro crossing is an absolute must for anybody who is into nature or is visiting New Zealand to visit the movie set. Add this to your itinerary and you won't be disappointed.
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