Bucket list

Blast from the past issue 201

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

Belgian travellers.


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

“Garden City”.

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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