Hot: Rotorua – Tongariro

On the way to the Waihohonu hut with Mt Ruapehu in the backgroundTwo weeks have passed again and I made it to Wellington already. Soon I will take the ferry to the South Island. So the North island is done for now. It was again a very interesting time (as you also can see in the length of this entry) but there is still a lot more to see. More will come maybe later :-). We will see.

Hahei –  Whangamata
After we stayed for another day in the hostel in Hahei because of the bad knee of my co-cyclist Thomas from Finland and the bad weather, we finally continued the next day. It was very nice to cycle again with somebody instead of being on the road solo. The good thing in New Zealand is, that you almost can’t get lost because there are only a limited amount of roads. However, Thomas and myself managed to loose each other on the first cycling day. Thanks to modern telecommunication, we found each other again after lunch time :-). We continued together along the east coast towards south. Up and down. It’s definitively not flat here. The weather was changeable but at least it didn’t rain till we arrived in Whangamata. First we planned to stay in a hostel but it was too dirty for the price. We ended up in a motor park instead. On the way to there, we got soaked in the rain but the lady at the motor park just said that this was nothing. They actually had a tornado shortly before in Auckland (people got killed there) and this bad weather is heading straight towards Whangamata. I always wanted to see a tornado. However, preferable not when I’m staying at a campground… We pitched our tents and it started raining heavily shortly afterwards. But luckily there was no tornado… For dinner we got a family portion of fish and chips with some horrible sausages… and big beers. All this can also be eaten with mustard, if you don’t have mayonnaise and ketchup 🙂

Whangamata – Waihi – Katikati – Rotorua
We continued towards south and the weather changed all the time between rain, sun and rain. Only snow was missing. Around lunchtime, we reached the village of Waihi and found refuge in the local bakery. The impressive thing at this place is the open pit gold mine. A huge hole just next to the city center. We continued on highway 2. It’s also called suicide highway. And it’s really not fun to cycle on it, because of heavy traffic (lot of trucks), fast drivers and its narrowness. Our plan was to drive a bit further that day but when we reached Katikati, we just had enough and put up our tents in the garden of a hostel (a cheap and good way for accommodation). We just made around 55km that day and this of course meant, that we had to cycle further the day after… However, you are not thinking about such things in those moments ;-).
The rain continued during the night and we had first to let our tents dry a bit in the morning. A late start isn’t really a good thing, if you have to get far. Luckily it’s not getting dark here before 9pm. We continued along the coast and left the dangerous highway 2. And shortly afterwards I also had to celebrate something: I passed 10’000km (more than 6’000 miles) on this journey so far! After a sip of Gatorade, we continued up the hill. The sun was very intense and we had to be careful during lunch break to not getting sun burned. Also the road was pretty intense. Especially the gorges on the way were exhausting. We finally reached the highest point and continued downhill towards Lake Rotorua. A strong thunderstorm had formed above this one. And when we arrived at the campground, rotation in the storm was clearly visible. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a tornado would have touched down but it didn’t happen. I had to take some pictures of this, of course. Thomas organized in the mean time, that we could stay over night in the meeting room of the campground and using some mattresses there. It was very comfortable and also safer during this stormy weather.
Our next destination was Rotorua and this was only a few kilometers away. We arrived there already at lunchtime and left our luggage at a hostel. Rotorua is famous for its hot springs and you can really smell that. We wanted to visit those hot springs as well but weren’t sure if we want to pay that much. For the biggest geyser Pohutu, you can either see it from a distance for 24 USD per person or you can get closer for around 50 USD. In both cases you are also getting a short Maori show. We decided to take the cheaper version and visited the Maori Thermal Village in Whakarewarewa. It was pretty interesting and also the geyser was close enough.

Rotorua – Taupo – Turangi
After Rotorua, we continued towards Taupo. On the way, there multiple hot springs and mud pools. We were planing on visiting some of them in Waiotapu. But again they wanted 24 USD for something nature gave for free and only some paths had to be constructed. Too much in our opinion and we decided to take a bath in a close bye hot river instead. This together with some Kiwis. In Rotorua, we met two older cyclist ladies from France. They told us, that there would be a campsite with a hot pool in Golden Springs, shortly before Taupo. Our goal was to cycle past Taupo that day but after the bath, our legs were too tired to cycle and we stayed in the mentioned campground instead, together with the French. They were looking forward to this bath but we were told by them, that it wasn’t very inviting. Luckily we had our hot bath already that day…
Shortly before Taupo, we visited the next day the Huka Falls with their bright blue water. Also a helicopter flight or a jet boat tour would have been possible. We continued and reached the city of Taupo, which lies on the lake with the same name, on the early afternoon. And this lake isn’t just a normal lake. It’s a caldera of a huge volcano. If this one is erupting, somethings is going on. Similar to the one in Yellowstone. But nothing is happening at the moment. We cycled further along the shore and because we couldn’t find a good spot to camp, we continued till after sunset, which was pretty spectacular and ended up at a hostel in Turangi. On the way, it was possible to see the vapor column of the active Te Maari crater at the Tongariro volcano. It got active again this August after a longer break. However, it calmed down again.

Turangi – Whakapapa Village
New Zealand is also famous for hiking (they call it tramping). And one of the most famous hikes is the Tongariro Crossing. At the moment, the hike is partly closed because of the active crater. Nevertheless, I wanted to go hiking in the region. Thomas had to continue cycling, because he had to be in Christchurch on time for meeting another guy. Therefore, we separated shortly after Turangi. He continued on the Desert Road and I took the road towards the Tongariro National Park. This road also brought me a bit closer to the active craters, which was a coincident, of course ;-). The road to the craters itself was closed. I continued across the hilly road towards the National Park Village. On the way, I decided not to go to the National Park Village but to take the road towards volcano Ruapehu or more precise the Whakapapa Village instead. From there, it’s possible to start another of the great walks: The Northern Circuit. And the Tongariro Crossing is part of it. I would also get two hikes that way. After registering at the campsite, I went straight to the visitor center to book the huts. The first thing I was told, was that they they would be closing in 10 minutes. So I had to decide very fast in which huts I would stay. I heard from another cyclist, that he just stayed for one night at a hut. I decided to stay two nights, so that I have a bit more time. It was nevertheless pretty intense…

Tongariro Northern Circuit
It rained multiple times during the night and it therefor took some time to get my tent a bit dryer. This was needed, because I wanted to store my bicycle and some luggage including the tent at the campground during my hike. My backpack was too small for also carrying the tent with me. The huts at the Northern Circuit have stoves but you need your own pots and cutlery. Also food has to be brought in and garbage out. All this together for three days is already enough. There is water available in the huts but it’s unpurified rain water.
I finally started. My first longer hike since a while. But the first day should be an easy one. They say, it takes three hours to get from Whakapapa Village to the Mangatepopo hut. It took me 2 hours and 15 minutes. I planned to continued a bit towards the summits around there. Unfortunately I got soaked by rain shortly before the hut, so that I was busy the rest of the day with drying my clothes and equipment… But I enjoyed the sunset in the evening.
After a pretty bad night (I had a horrible snorer in my room…), I left the hut shortly before seven. I was one of the first ones but that was also needed because it will would be pretty steep and I also would have to walk pretty far. I would bypass one of the huts. I was still one of the first ones, when I reached the saddle between the volcanoes Tongariro and Ngauruhoe (also known as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) in the fog. I knew, that it would be a bit too much to also climb Ngauruhoe but I had to try it. The beginning was still pretty easy and well marked. But after around half of the distance, it got very steep and slippery (ash). And I felt my heavy backpack. I stopped for a break but then decided to go back again. It just didn’t feel wise to continue. I anyway burnt already too much energy, which I would feel the rest of the day. Back on the main track, I continued uphill. Not alone anymore, because the first busses with Tongariro Crossing day visitors arrived in the mean time. Some of them had pretty bad equipment and also tried to climb Ngauruhoe that way…
The fog was pretty dense and a pretty strong and cold wind was going. However, the landscape was still pretty amazing. And just in time at the Emerald Lakes, the sun came out. Here was the momentarily end of the Tongariro Crossing hike, because erupted stones from the craters could fly as far as 3km. I respected this limit but other ones didn’t. The active craters were behind another hill and you couldn’t see what was going on there… I finally reached the Oturere hut and had lunch break there. I was already pretty tired and my feed hurt but I had to continue for another three hours. I slowly started walking. The good thing was, that I still had almost the whole afternoon. Volcano Ruapehu got closer and closer but its summit and also the one of Ngauruhoe were hidden by clouds.
Shortly before reaching the Waihohonu hut (the destination of the day), I met a young Belgian guy which stayed in the same hut the night before. He thought, that we missed the path to the hut and wanted to get back therefor. I just had the same thought and therefor followed him. However, we couldn’t find another path. He then continued just straight down the hill towards the river, which we had to cross to get to the hut. I was to tired to think properly and just followed him through dense forest. We finally reached the river and he crossed it by jumping from one stone to the other. Because I already fell a few times that day, I didn’t trust my shoes anymore and was afraid of falling into the river. I tried to build a bridge with stones, but it didn’t work. I finally decided to walk back up the hill to the path. And that was much harder than I thought. The low forest was so thick, that I had partly to walk across it. It took me almost one hour to get back… I continued on the path and finally made it to the hut. We just would have had to continue a bit further… I was extremely tired and had a hard time to eat something. I wasn’t that tired since a long time. I felt slowly better and enjoyed another nice sunset. However, I was too tired to take some time lapse shoots, which I planned to before. That day, I walked for more than 10 hours… This does not include the lunch break.
After a much better night, I got up early, enjoyed the sunrise, ate breakfast and started walking. It should take around 5 hours and 30 minutes to get back to Whakapapa Village. And that was also the time it took me. My legs and feed were sore but I reached the campground once more happy. That was it, the Northern Circuit. Maybe I will get to the summit of Tongariro and Ngauruhoe another time ;-). After a good talk with an American cyclist, which is traveling with her German husband, I went to bed.
I had an easy day the next day and only cycled to the National Park Village. From there I took the train to Wellington and will continue on the 21st of December by ferry to the South Island. Ready to start the second part of the cycling journey across New Zealand.
All the best from Wellington,
PS: Check also the pictures in the Gallery.


The english translation is following later. Sorry for the delay. Use Google Translate and check the pictures in the gallery in the mean time.

About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my wife Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website Stefan, Switzerland

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One thought on “Hot: Rotorua – Tongariro

  • Bernhard

    Hello Steff

    Wandern ist des Stefan’s Lust. Du kannst ja noch versuchen, den 10’000 sten Wanderkilometer zu schaffen ; )
    Ich gratuliere Dir zu Deiner Radfahrerleistung, da hast du wohl schon etwas Profil liegengelassen !
    Auf diesem Wege auch Dir schöne Weihnachten. Hast Du schon ein Weihnachtsmenü ?
    Nun gute Weiterreise, viel Glück und bleib gesund.