Simply Tongariro

One of the easiest way to cover both North and South Islands of New Zealand is thru a backpacker bus, which combines some of the flexibility of independent travel (it allows you to hop on and off at different locations) and the convenience of a tour (it makes easy for you to go off the beaten tracks). You can either choose between their North Island pass or South Island pass, or do both.  In my case, I joined Stray Bus.

DSC06607Backpackers who join these type of buses are usually between 18 – 31 yrs. of age.  The group is mostly a mixture of European travelers.  So when I joined the trip, I was pretty much the oldest, and my country, the Philippines, was pretty much unknown.

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Photo taken during our stay at a Maori home in Lake Aniwhenua, where we were taught the Haka (traditional war song used before going to war)


One of the highlights of the North Island pass is a stop at Tongariro National Park.  A day hike at Tongariro (the Tongariro Alpine Crossing) was rated by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s greatest one day hikes. On that Christmas day, that one-day hike changed my life, and you’ll read why!

File 19-06-2017, 8 42 37 PMThe Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a tramping track in New Zealand.  It passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mount Tongariro, passing the eastern base of Mount Ngauruhoe which can optionally be climbed as a side trip (yeah right, you can take that side trip if you’re the man of steel!).  The full distance of the track is 19.4 kilometers, estimated to take between six and eight hours (yup, if you’re the man of steel!). 

File 19-06-2017, 9 15 30 PMTongariro National Park was made more famous by its star appearance in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The alpine, volcanic scenery is the setting of Mordor, in which stands Mt. Doom (aka Mt. Ngauruhoe). For the entire trilogy, Frodo and Sam are trying to get to Mt. Doom in order to destroy the ring. (source:

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Mt. Doom (aka Mt. Ngauruhoe)


In August 2012, a small eruption of 10,000 cubic meters of ash from the Te Māri crater on Mount Tongariro sent a shower of ash and blocks up to 1m in diameter over the track.  In late November 2012, Te Māri crater again erupted an ash cloud 4,000m high over a 5-minute period.  Oh yeah, I did my Tongariro Alpine Crossing in December 2011. FTW!

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As I mentioned, the experience was life-changing for me, based on two reasons.

Firstly, for having personally experienced mother nature’s dramatic, awe-inspiring, beautiful scenery.  See for yourself –







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Emerald Lakes – their colors are partly caused by dissolved minerals, washed down from the thermal area of nearby Red Crater

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Secondly, after completing the hike (barely!!!), the nails on each of my big toes (you read it right – big toes, also known as the hallux, on each foot – yup, left foot and right foot!) FELL OFF (DETACHED FROM NAIL BED!) as a result of the life-changing experience, or should I say, traumatic injurious experience! BAD SHOES!!!

I have purposely moved the next three photos further down (you need to scroll down) because of their graphic nature – so please, viewer discretion is advised (ulk!) 

So if given the chance to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing for the second time, would I do it again? HELL NO!!! But one thing is certain – I survived the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and I AM DAMN PROUD OF IT!  

Kia Ora!!!


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