It took almost 9 months’ hard work saving and training for our adventure to
complete one of New Zealand’s ‘great walks’ – the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
We are 14 year old twins who enjoy outdoor adventures with our sister
Corrine, the 3rd member of our team. This is our journey involving spending 5
nights in the Northern Circuit.
Our training mainly consisted of running/walking/hiking on the port hills of our
hometown Christchurch. Occasionally we trained up the likes of Mt Herbert
(which is the highest point in Banks Peninsula at 920m high), Mt Grey and a
day trip to Aoraki National Park to do the Hooker Valley Track which leads right
to the lake next to the highest mountain in New Zealand, Mt Cook. We would
say that those 3 tracks and mountains were the most helpful for the Northern
Circuit. The saving was almost as hard as the training considering we were 14
and couldn’t get a job, but we finally made enough money after 1 cupcake
fundraiser, 3 lotto bonus ball raffles and the help of our sister Corrine.
On September 27 th 2016 we finally headed off to embark on our crazy
adventure. After a whole day to get to Whakapapa village and seeing the
scenery of the 3 mountains we couldn’t wait to get underway the next
The next morning we ventured off into the mountains. We decided to do the
circuit anti-clockwise because it was more convenient to have the shortest day
last so we started our journey to the Waihohonu hut. The sun was out for very
little that day, which we were kind of thankful for because after carrying our
bags, having 2 thermals and 2 jackets on and climbing 1000m mountains we
were already hot enough. This day was long but a very awesome experience;
we got to see the Tama Lakes, Taranaki Falls, Ngauruhoe and being so close to
Ruapehu was awesome. On top of the Tama Saddle we were beyond tired, and
we were trying to see if we could see the hut, which we thought we did but as
we got to the bottom it disappeared. We kept getting out the map and trying
to get a clue on how far away we were, but in the end we couldn’t have seen it
because it was behind a foothill of Ruapehu. Then the torrential rain started
and we got completely soaked in a matter of seconds. It turns out the hut was
not so close to where we were so we spent another 1 or so hours in the very
heavy rain, our clothes were all dripping wet, but luckily the hut had a fire –
the hut we were extremely happy to see.
Inside the hut, things got worse when we realised there was no cell phone
reception. So with not much to do we quickly made dinner and went to sleep
thinking if tomorrow is anything like today, we would need our rest.
We took 7 hours to get from Whakapapa Village to Waihohonu Hut.
After the misfortune of the previous day, we decided to set off a bit earlier at
10am and hoped to make the next hut – Oterere Hut by 2pm.
The track started with some amazing scenery but a hard climb through a damp
forest. Although it was sunny, the ground was still wet from yesterday’s rain.
We soon had to strip down because the heat got to us again, as we slowly
moved closer to the infamous Mt Doom. We crossed a stunning river and some
interesting rocks and boulders. Now this is where the challenging bit began –
we went up and down hill after hill, through some amazing landscapes and
some awesome Instagram shots. We were again in high spirits thinking we
were close until déjà vu struck when the torrential rain started pouring down
again. Only this time was worse. Fortunately, the day was estimated for 3
hours but unfortunately, the 3 hour mark was only ¾ of the way, although it
did go quicker sliding down some of the mountains. After saying “one more
hill” 15 times, we eventually saw a massive boulder that we huddled under to
dodge the rain and to catch our breath. Then we depressingly trudged over
some monstrous hills (one literally looked like a dragon) we were pretty much
crawling and desperately hoped we hadn’t taken a wrong turn on a one track
trail. Depressed, exhausted and drenched we saw tucked into a corner a pretty
shabby looking hut- Oterere Hut. We soon found out that we took Waihohonu
for granted, but we still sprinted in and got out of our wet clothes and tried to
get the gas fire going, so imagine our disappointment when we saw a sign
saying there was no gas during the winter season. After moaning for 20
minutes, we picked up some playing cards and hopped into our sleeping bags.
The hut filled up pretty quickly with some American and Australian college
students adding some humour to the dispirited night, followed by some kind
After our luck the past 2 days we decided to wake up at 6am and get on our
way for the longest day to the Mangatepopo hut. As we left there was an
awesome sunrise behind Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe looked so close. The start of
this track reminded me a lot of Lord of the Rings, which is the movie that was
filmed up there. Our packs felt a lot lighter and the sun was out so our wet
clothes dried very quickly. After the Lord of the Rings trail we had to climb up
this huge rocky ridge, which looked impossible from down on the ground, but
as we kept climbing it started looking a lot easier. Looking down from the top
was amazing and we were already so far away from the previous hut.
A couple of hills later we finally got to the very photogenic Emerald Lakes. This
was the busiest part of the circuit because it was a part of the crossing, which
we decided would be our next adventure. We were up in clouds which made
our Instagram shots seem more crazy. While climbing up to the highest point
of the Circuit- the Red Crater, at almost 1900m high, the climb down to the
south crater was short and we were thankful the clouds had gone and there
was sun again! Being on the foothills of Ngauruhoe was awesome! So far the
day was going great, we were on time for what we predicted, there was no
rain and we got to see some spectacular views. After that we had to go down
the devils staircase which was a short and easy journey. We could see the
Mangatepopo hut and about an hour after that we finally reached the hut in a
time of 7 ½ hours. This was definitely my favourite day and made me enjoy the
circuit a lot more. The hut once again got busy and we met some new and
interesting people. We finally had cell phone reception and we wanted off the
mountains. But our money was almost gone and every cheap accommodation
was booked so we decided to stay two nights at the hut and venture up to the
summit of Tongariro the next day. Much to our disappointment it was too
cloudy to go to the summit but we did make it all the way to the turn off but to
be safe we decided to turn around. Whilst going up the Devils Staircase I
understood the name, our legs were burning and tired. But we were happy and
proud that we had almost finished the Circuit and that was going to be our last
night in those unpredictable Tongariro conditions.
We started the final day at 10am; this day being the easiest and shortest we
expected to be done by 1.30 or 2pm. This was an interesting trail. I have no idea
why the track was sloshy and wet when the sun had been shining for back to
back days (first time in a while according to the locals) and made us all slip over
at least 10 times each. The views were still astonishing, and we figured out that
we had nearly done a full 360 degrees around Ngauruhoe. As we closed in on
Whakapapa village we all got pretty excited for the café as we could see the
Chateau Tongariro looming in the backdrop. We all felt like Cookies n Cream
ice cream after glaring at Ngauruhoe for 4 days, with the snow and rocks
gleaming like ice cream. This day we enjoyed some laughs looking back at the
trip and all those times we thought we might’ve died and all the nice people
who we met. We reached the finish line and the rewarding feed around 30
minutes slower than planned before we disembarked on our trip back to the
In conclusion, our trip to Tongariro was an amazing yet challenging experience,
and although there was a lot of moaning and not your ideal holiday it was fun.
We got some great pictures and all the stress was totally worth it. I would love to go back and enjoy the pure New Zealand scenery. The Tongariro Northern Circuit is a New Zealand ‘must do’! If you think you would be interested in keeping up with our other adventures please follow us on Instagram at –
we would definitely appreciate it!
Thank you for reading our story of completing the Tongariro Northern Circuit.
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