Tongariro Northern Circuit Day 1 (March 14, 2017)

Here’s a few pictures of the important information on the Tongariro Northern Circuit brochure. Just a little info on where I was.

Of course the cover is important.  🙂 

Route map on the back of the brochure with arrows that I wrote on thereto indicate my hiking direction.  My starting point was also the finish point.  

Elevation and distance chart with the dates of the nights that I would arrive at that hut. 

In a similar fashion to the Greenstone-Routeburn epic adventure, I’ve written some phone notes on my phone during the hike. I’ve copied them below and so will write a lot more detail below them.  Also similar, the fonts are not consistent between the phone notes and regular blog post.

Day 1 – March 14th:

Got to the visitors center at 750am. Nerves weren’t really an issue on the ride from Taupo.

Ate breakfast at the visitors center before leaving to hike taranaki falls. Wouldnt have time to see the falls on the last day before shuttle pick up.

The hike went smoothly. Surprisingly didn’t mind being alone too much. I think that’s because Jorgo and I didn’t actually talk much while walking. Leap frogged four young Taiwanese ladies and a couple on the trail until we all reached the mongatepopo hut together at about 2pm.

I found my camp site and set up camp before going to the deck to chill out with the other hikers. This is when I started missing having company. It was early in the day, but there wasn’t any side trails nearby to walk and so I just ended up laying down and listening to podcasts, took a nap, and then got back up to brush my teeth and watch the sunset.

This is when I started missing having company. It was early in the day, but there wasn’t any side trails nearby to walk and so I just ended up laying down and listening to podcasts, took a nap, and then got back up to brush my teeth and watch the sunset.

Started talking to this girl Daisy from Connecticut. She was really nice. She’s mostly vegan. We became fast friends and decided to hike the next day together.

The sunset was beautiful!!

—- – – – – – – – – – – –

It was an early morning. I was awake at 4:45am in order to give myself time enough to get ready without racing. I had showered the previous night and so that was out-of-the-way. But I had to prepare my 3-liter water bag, make sure I had all my food packed, my clothes set, boots ready, etc. Also, since it was a Wednesday the trash needed to be taken out. I knew time was getting short before I had to meet my shuttle next door at the petrol station. Trash out, everything packed, weight of backpack assessed and slightly worried about, parents and a couple of friends messaged that I’m leaving for Tongariro…and, then I look at the shuttle is there in the petrol station waiting. Oh SNAP!

At this one hostel where the shuttled picked up some people, the driver hopped out and it took a couple of seconds to notice but the van was starting to roll backwards. Uh…driver!!!! Quickly hopping in, she stopped the van from moving and then loaded a few more people in.

The sun came up as we were driving to the Whakapapa Village where I would start my hike. First though we stopped at the Mangatepopo car park where all the shuttles drop off the folks just doing the Tongariro Crossing. The van basically emptied leaving me and the driver. I was hoping to have at least one other person on that shuttled doing the circuit. Either way I would be fine. I knew there would be other people on the trail if not in my specific shuttle to the trail.

I got dropped at the Whakapapa Village iSite/DOC Visitor’s Center (near the Chateau Tongariro – google it) at about quarter to 8am so I had to wait a few minutes. I was hoping I would pick up tickets for the campsite similar to the the ticket I got for Routeburn Flats so that I would have something small, paper-ish, and cool to glue into my scrapbook at a later date. But, per the iSite staff, they “weren’t as cool as the south island…” or something to that effect. I’ll just have to print out the booking receipt from the DOC and glue that in along with my brochure.

I ate breakfast at the visitor’s center before I left. PB&J with Barker’s Cherry Jam (yummmmmmmy) and a sweet tango apple = breakfast of champions. 🙂 Side note: PB&J could technically be considered breakfast, lunch, and dinner of champions. It is my go-to meal when there is nothing else. 🙂

The main lobby area of the iSite/DOC Visitor’s Center.  All packed up and ready to go (before I had to put my rain jacket and rain cover on).  

Breakfast packed up, last restroom stop, then I head outside only to find that it is very lightly raining. So, just outside the visitor’s center, I paused to take off my heavy sweater, replace it with my raincoat, and put my rain cover over my backpack and tent. Ok, NOW I’m ready.

I decide that since I only have nine kilometers to walk to the hut and since it’s only about 8:30am, that it’s too early to head there just yet. I wanted to see Taranaki Falls which I’ve heard is really nice. So I decided to walk there; 1 hour (˜3km) each way. No big deal.

It was a little bit cold starting out, but I definitely warmed up to the point of sweating.

A pretty creek that could make a nice swimming hole (if it was about 20 degrees warmer outside and less windy and sunny). 

Taranaki Falls

Little closer view of Taranaki Falls.  

Taranaki Falls trail can be walked in a loop; the upper half and lower half. I walked the upper half on the way to the falls and then the lower half on the way back. The iSite told me that there was a bridge not quite back to the road where I would turn to head to my first hut: Mangatepopo Hut.

The trail that I walked was/is unofficially called the “ditch trail.” I see why – it was basically walking in a ditch created by runoff water for most of the way. As I got closer and closer to the hut, the clouds started to break and the sun was able to make an appearance. It turned into a gorgeous day.

I ended up leap-frogging a group of four young ladies from Taiwan as well as a couple (not sure where they were from). We ended up coagulating and reaching the hut all together.

Later in the hike, about 3/4 of the way to the hut I think. Such a beautiful day it turned out to be.  

Joined up with the Tongariro Crossing track only minutes from the Mangatepopo Hut.

Not a bad view from my tent.  :-p

My tent with the rain fly.  

It was about 2pm I think when we reached the hut. Pretty early. I didn’t really want to walk anywhere else, even without my big pack, because my feet hurt and I knew that tomorrow would be super challenging. So I went and laid down on the deck area where other hikers were gathering. Nobody was really striking up a conversation so after a little while I went back to my tent to lay down. I listened to a podcast or two before nodding off and napping for a little while.

I woke up at about 4 or 5 – I’m really guestimating these times. I haven’t been wearing a watch and had my phones off most of the time and didn’t really pay attention to the time when they were on. I ate dinner at my tent. Then went to sit and watch the sun go down. It really was a beautiful sunset!

I found that I didn’t really miss having company during the hiking portion of the day. I rather enjoyed the quiet and peacefulness of being on my own. It was in the afternoons/evening, when there wasn’t much to do or see, that I missed having a friend around to keep me going. 🙂

Panorama from the deck of the hut looking towards the alpine crossing.


Hut name and elevation.  

Selfie with Mount Doom (in Lord of the Rings).  It’s actually called Mount Ngauruhoe (pronounced like “nangarahoee”).  

Another young lady had set up her tent near mine and so we started talking. She was from Connecticut and had graduated high school this past year and was waiting to hear from her college application from her top-choice school. I realized….I am 10 years older than here…. wow. Oh that’s right. My 10-year highschool reunion was this past August. Couldn’t make it though because of my brother’s wedding. No big deal.Perhaps the 15-year or 20-year reunion I’ll go to.

We somehow got onto the subject of diet and found out that we are both mostly vegan now. We decided to hike together for the Crossing portion the next day.

Sunset speaks for itself.  

It was a pretty chilly night. I don’t know if the insulation in my air mattress is more on one side than another, but I’m glad I had as many layers on as I had. I was warm enough a vast majority of the night, but if I went to sleep on my side, the cold would start seeping in through my sleeping-bag zipper more than if I slept on my back. It was weird. I’ve never had that issue before. I put my extra sweater and thermal around my feet which helped keep my feet warm enough.

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