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Tongariro Crossing–Easter Break Adventures

Tongariro Crossing–Easter Break Adventures

Alrighty, kids. The word of the day is “planning.”

First, if you book a bus with InterCity bus, it is non-refundable. Do not have that be the first thing you book. If you’re looking to book a spot in a hostel, book that first and THEN the bus. Or you’ll end up like me and my friend needing to scramble to get a hostel to make sure that we have a hostel together. Also, please make sure that you know where things will pick you up and drop you off. The Crossing is not a loop. You are dropped off in a completely different area than you are picked up from. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

The Tongariro Crossing is a feat of endurance and seeing just how well you can breathe in thin air. Oh, you’re from Illinois and are getting over a chest cold? Good freaking luck.

The views are absolutely spectacular, and unless you’ve actually gone mountain climbing with a moderate amount of risk involved, you haven’t done anything like this. There’s a sign saying “Are you SURE you’re fit for this?” They don’t just mean this for pregnant women and the disabled like on a roller coaster or something. They’re not playing around. You need sturdy hiking boots, enough water, food, and (of course) a camera. Layers are essential, as well. The weather on the Crossing is HIGHLY variable. It can be blistering sun and heat one minute and high-speed winds the next. Like, actually. We were blessed with phenomenal weather that didn’t vary a bit. Lucky for me because I would have picked up and turned around if things got out of hand.

My experience speaks to quite a few things to keep in mind when traveling overseas (especially when it’s your first time, like yours truly). PLAN. It seems straight-forward but make sure that everyone involved knows where you’re going and when. My friend and I had different ideas of what was happening, so we both packed differently. Sleeping bags are super handy to have. Invest in one that is small and warm (or borrow one from a neighbor like I did). A lot of hostels have linens for hire, but 1) I’m cheap; and 2) There’s a chance they could run out of them during a high-traffic weekend. That didn’t happen with us, but it’s still good to expect the worst.

Another thing to keep in mind when traveling is to be open to meet new people! My friend and I met a girl from Australia (originally from Brazil) at our bus stop in Auckland, and when we got off at the same stop, we figured out that we were all going to the same hostel! Cool, right?? My friend and I could have stayed at the first hostel, but (for whatever reason), we went to the hostel we originally tried to book for the remaining 2 nights of our adventure (the Crossing Backpackers). There, we met a girl from the Netherlands (Rebekka), and we all ended up hiking together! Rebekka had been in a car accident (not her fault lol) 2 weeks prior and broke her collar bone. I carried her stuff along with mine in her really nice backpack (another suggested investment). I’m glad I helped my friend, but, boy, did it slow me down. I essentially had an extra 20 pounds (9 kg) on my back for 19.5 km (12 miles), over half of which is up steep hills. I mean, you are on a mountain, after all. I wouldn’t take it back because I was able to help a friend, but I probably would take more water. Apples were my saving grace for that quick simple sugar pick-me-up and hydration mechanism. I had 3. I could have eaten 10.

Also, know that this thing is going to take you longer. People say that it takes folks 6 to 7 hours to complete. I don’t know who they’re basing these estimates on, but it must be people who have done this before. It took me a bit over 8 hours to do. I took a lot of breaks because of my congestion and added weight, but still. Most people I’ve talked to said that their first time took around 8 hours. It’s not uncommon to take that long, so if you’re trying to catch a bus back to your hostel, keep your watch handy.

I took a lot of breaks, so I was super embarrassed and told my friends to go on ahead of me. They were hauling ass while I was dragging ass. It was discouraging, but they did stop at the tops of cliffs to wait for me and take their own breaks. It would have probably been nicer to have someone to chat with during the walk because it can get a little lonely being inside your head for 8 hours. Giving yourself pep-talks out loud helps, though. This is the one time that you can talk to yourself and not look crazy.

Another thing to note: the bus isn’t going to wait for you. My friends trekked on far ahead of me to get the bus to wait for me. That didn’t work because they didn’t know how far behind I was because there was no cell reception (big surprise). But I hitched a ride with another van that was going to National Park Village. Ask and ye shall receive.

Overall, it was a great experience. It was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience…mainly because I wouldn’t want to do it again! My cup of tea that night was well-deserved.

Also, want to know how wonderful my host family is?? When I got back from my trip, they had a little party waiting for me with a cake and gifts! The kids made a big birthday sign for my door, made me a card, and made up a dance for me! How nice, right?? I really don’t think I could have been placed with a better family. I’m so thankful!


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