Day 41. Ketetahi Carpark – Whakapapa Village. 28km + Ngauruhoe Summit. Total 1146km.
It seems I was too excited about what’s next, I didn’t sleep much at night but get up anyway at 4am to start hiking in the dark with my headtorch through the rainforest. I want to be out of the forest for the sunrise, but it seems I started a little late as the forest section is longer than expected and it’s all uphill so I cannot walk that fast. I try anyway to be fast and am already sweating although I am usually cold I’m the morning. Finally I reach the scrub and can see how the sun beautifully lit the cloud covered valley below. I take plenty of pictures while moving on because it will be even better the higher I get. I just should have started one hour earlier or even camp out in the bush.
I reach the Ketetahi hut, which is not in use anylonger although you can enter inside for shelter during the day, around 8.30am (if I remember well) and have a break and some snacks and enjoy the view. I continue uphill and meet a few people coming down, they watched the sunrise from the crater and hiked up at 3am. Oh I wish I had done the same, but in my direction it will take much longer to get there.
Finally I am at the Blue Lake and can see the Ngauruhoe summit and the Torangiro craters. Only a few people are around yet. When I hike towards the red crater and the Ngauruhoe summit I can’t help but think about how Frodo could have gotten more easily to the crater to throw the ring with these orange markers to guide him 😉
But now I have to climb first up to the crater through the stones, scree and dust. It’s very steep and hard for me with my heavy pack. More people are now coming down the other way. Finally up the red crater there is another fantastic view of the Blue Lake, the Emerald Lakes and the valley.
Then it’s easy down and flat towards the Southern crater. So many people around now, I didn’t expect that! Before 10am I reach the point where you can hike up the Ngauruhoe summit. I have something to eat and hide my backpack, walking up only with my camera, phone and valuables in my hip bag. I also take my rain coat and wrap it around my hips as it will probably be windy up the summit.
The first 15 minutes feel amazingly light, I enjoy hiking without my heavy backpack! But then it’s getting tough. I mean, look at the pictures, that volcano is steep and full of ash, dust, stones. It’s not easy to walk on it and going up is hard work. From time to time someone is shouting ‘rock’ and then you check and hide if needed. But that’s mainly on the outer side where people are coming down. After a while I ask someone if this is halfway but he replies ‘a quarter. Just shut your eyes and continue… ‘ Ok, keeping my eyes wide open but continue. Then two guys are just about to take out some sweets and share with me. Nice. Then I reach some red rocks and it’s getting a bit easier before finally being on the outer rim after 1h40. I climb up further on the outer rim for great views. The wind is blowing hard and dust is everywhere, in my eyes…. But here you can actually feel that the volcano is still active.
Already on the way up from the carpark you could smell that sulphur and see sometimes steam coming out of a rock. But now it’s just next to me and the stone is actually warm, no wonder the snow melted that fast here! The inner rim is still snow covered though, and it’s an enjoyable further hike up through the snow to the red stones of the inner crater. I almost expect some fire to be burning so I can throw the ring into it. But it’s just nice colours and stones. I sit and enjoy a lot being up here. The view is stunning and I have the feeling I am at a very special place.
As it’s getting too cold and windy I start my descent, first running down the bit through the snow, then struggling a little to get to the part where I can slide down. But then it’s amazing, I am actually not walking but flowing with the stones and ash downhill. The descent is only 40 minutes. At 1.30pm I finally continue the trail – with my backpack again and in the hot sun! It’s now very easy, a fast hike downhill on plenty of stairs. At 3pm I reach the intersection to the hut and make the short detour. Although I took 3l I am out of water, the hot sun and dry ad dusty air made me drink even more. I feel close to a heatstroke when reaching the hut and drink more than 1l of water sitting in the shadow.
I fill up my bottle again and continue the trail. I still have to get to Whakapapa village today – the hut is fully booked as it’s part of the Great Walks you can’t just pop in as for the other huts. I am very tired now as the day was already long and exhausting and I didn’t really sleep the night. But as always, no matter what, you just continue hiking. And now under the burning hot sun through scrub and luckily rather easy terrain. I hike and hike and wish to get faster to the village. But it’s always another downhill followed by an uphill part.
When I can finally see the chateau of Whakapapa village it’s not getting easier, no, it’s more down and up and a waterfall and up again and not getting any closer. I am close to crying due to exhaustion every time it’s going uphill a bit further. Finally the road and not far away the holiday Park which I reach at 6pm.It’s completely full. If I am a hiker? Yes. We won’t send you away then, you can stay and try to find a spot somewhere. Thank you! They even do a small discount for Te Araroa hikers. I also take an ice cream to cool down further. At the tent site Robin and Chloé are already there. I am almost crashing after this long day. I just get out all of my gear, set up my tent and leave my stuff with them while taking a shower. I feel a little better afterwards and manage to set up the rest for the night and have some conversation. Liz from the Netherlands and Liz from the USA are also here now. The US one is going to a restaurant for dinner as it’s thanksgiving and we others just into the kitchen. It’s very full and I eat standing while the others still cook. Without saying goodnight I simply disappear for my tent. I manage to upload parts of my blog (bad Wi-Fi), it then takes me all I have to get up again to brush my teeth and go to the loo before sleeping like a baby at 9pm. Even though I am completely exhausted, the day was totally worth it!