Tag Archives: New Zealand

Tongariro Alpine crossing

Fellow travellers often ask me what was my favourite country on this trip. I usually pick one, not to be boring, but very honestly there has not been a single country I didn’t like or I didn’t feel like I wanted to come back to. There were three countries that I found difficult – those were Bolivia, USA and Indonesia. But even there I got some pretty unique experiences, perhaps the most memorable of the trip. I was thinking about all this today as I was walking to the top of Mount Victoria, towering over Wellington, the wind-swept capital of New Zealand. And I was inspired to wonder about my favourite country by the admiration I feel for New Zealand. It is a true heaven on Earth. I can easily understand why for example one German friend of mine spent six months hitch-hiking around it. As for me though, I have about six times less time for this beautiful country.

I was looking through the photos from various episodes from my trip and at the spur of the moment I processed the Tongariro crossing photos. I just could not resist. So I will publish them now, out of order, just because they asked for it. I did the Tongariro crossing the next day after skydiving, out of the same little place – Taupo. At that time New Zealand was being taken over by the cyclone Luci, which was expected to cover the North Island with incessant rain and fog on Saturday. On a day like this Tongariro crossing would definitely be closed. I was lucky to make it on Friday, and on that day the weather was wonderfully sunny – a mint day for doing the crossing.

Tongariro Alpine crossing is a trek of around 8 hours duration through volcanic desert. The length of the trek is 19.4 km. The path first climbs rather steeply up and then descends slowly on the forested mountain slope. There is no public transport and therefore you have to organise specialised transport. A minibus picked us up in Taupo at 5h30 in the morning and we were at the start of the trek at 7. The last bus leaves at 16h30, if you miss that you are in trouble. For those who are a bit crazy or in very good physical form the trek features a couple of diversions, of which the most titillating one is the possibility to climb Mount Ngauruhoe. This volcano is most famous for representing Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Frodo climbed it in order to rid Middle Earth of the Ring forever by throwing it into the flames. The climb of Mt Doom is around 3h return, and it is in addition to the main trek.

The first look at the trek early in the morning.

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In New Zealand’s sky

The bright light of the sun fills the bluest of skies. We are dressed in funny blue suits, leather aviator caps and plastic goggles. I take off my shoes to go bare footed. On a tiny pink plane we fly up to 15000 feet. In a narrow cigar of the plane we are all seated on the benches in the same direction – backwards. One next to another, instructor, diver, instructor, diver. The majestic panorama of lake Taupo, the small town and the mushroom-like hills is laid out before our eyes. My instructor is a young athletic Aboriginal Australian, his helmet is covered with Aboriginal patterns. We discuss Dreamtime before suddenly it is our turn. For a few seconds I am sitting in the open exit of the plan, my feet dangling in the abyss, my eyes widening from excitement. With a swift movement Mali holds me close and all of a sudden I am falling down. Wow! At first we fall backwards, back to the ground, then we get in the horisontal position and – oh my God! – for 60 seconds I am falling down like a stone and can’t stop laughing. Then Mali opens the parachute, the euphoria of weightlessness turns into another dynamic, slow relaxed gliding in the air, no longer ignoring the gravitation. At this moment I feel a strong disappointment, it is not enough, I desperately want more of the incredible free fall. Although my ears are totally blocked and the pressure on them will last for an hour more. We slowly descend, making circles above the lake, observing other divers. In the last moment I hold my feet parallel to the ground and carefully we slide on the grass. I shake Mali’s hand, he asks me if I want to jump again. The answer is obvious.

Lake Taupo above which the skydive took place: