Tuesday 23 January. After some Maori rock carvings we stay at Lake Aniwherua for a Maori experience. Well, the place is the same as the rest of New Zealand, but we see how they prepare a traditional meal. First heat the stones until they’re glowing red, put the food on top and cover it with lots of wet cloth. Sand on top and wait for 2,5 hours. In the meantime, some Maori games and a Haka.
Next two days Blue Duck Station is the place to be. Huge farm with over 20.000 sheep and cows. Even more forest with Manuka trees for the bees. Honey is the big business here. Dinner with Dutch couple Charlie and Dainara and Dutch-speaking Swiss Patrizia. Some evening games and the next morning a relaxing walk to the nearby falls with Justus and Lonneke. The views at the farm and forest are great. Steep hills, dense forest and a fast river deep down in the valley.
Friday, early breakfast, because the bus leaves at 6 am. Check in at the park office and change bus. The old bus takes us to the starting point of the Tongariro Crossing, 1130 m above sea level. Today we have to climb to around 1900 m and decent again to 760 m. In total 19,4 km, without the small detours. The first part is easy, then steep up, the Devil’s Staircases. Have a short rest and enjoy the view. More stairs to come. The reward is a view in the valley and the Red Crater. Deep red and with a weird grey rock formation. Seems the earth has split here. More steep hill to go. Even harder because there are no stairs anymore. On top, more amazing views. Down is on slippery or more rolling stones to the Emerald Lakes. Deep green with steam in the background. Unbelievable beautiful. A bit up again and lunch at Blue Lake. From now on it is a bit up, but mostly down. At Ketetahi Hut we have another rest, kill some time, because we still have much time left. When we are on the track again a thunderstorm comes over the mountain. We’re just in the forest when the rain starts. In the forest, the thunder gets very close, within a few hundred meters. Scary. We, Justus, Tom and I, arrive at the pickup point. Here’s a shelter and we stay mostly dry. Lots of people arrive later and are really soaked. Even hail comes on them. At 16:30 h, after 1,5 h waiting the bus arrives and brings us to an old hospital in Raetithi. Check-in and enjoy the hot-tub, bbq dinner and later in the evening a nice card game with Justus and Lonneke.