Walking in Dian Fossey’s footsteps… Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

“When you realise the value of all life, you dwell less on what has past and concentrate on the preservation of the future” – Dian Fossey

A silver back sitting eating in the Volacnoes National Park, Rwanda

A silver back sitting eating in the Volacnoes National Park, Rwanda

It seemed fitting to finally trek and visit where Dian Fossey or Nyiramacyibili, as local Rwandans call her, had spent her days researching and working so hard to protect the mountain gorillas in Rwanda and neighbouring DRC and Uganda.

So a few days after our climb in the DRC we were meant to hike to the top of Bisoke to view the crater lake but with sore and tired legs we decided to take a smaller hike and visit Karisoke and the area Dian Fossey had spent so much time in working to protect the mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

Sunrise over Sabiyano Volcano

Sunrise over Sabiyano Volcano in the Virunga Volcano Range

We set off early in the morning ahead of the groups trekking to the Gorillas – hoping maybe we might stumble upon them first and have a wee glimpse at the great apes she had worked so hard to protect.

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Walking through farmland towards the park and Bisoke

“Little did I know then that by setting up two small tents in the wilderness of the Virungas I had launched the beginnings of what was to become an internationally renowned research station eventually to be utilized by students and scientists from many countries.”  — Dian Fossey, writing in her book “Gorillas in the Mist,” about the founding of the “Karisoke” Research Center, a name she created from the nearby Mt. Karisimbi and Mt. Visoke (Bisoke). 

There were signs along the trail that one of the Gorilla groups were near. We saw prints and fresh pooh but they stayed hidden from us amongst the forest and we were all hoping to catch a quick glimpse of them but it was not to be.

Gorilla prints fresh on the trail

Gorilla prints fresh on the trail

I can’t recommend this hike enough. I have been up into this range of mountains three times prior to this, each time on a different mountain and every time has been different in the trail and the experience. The jungle on this trek was nothing short of stunning throughout the hike, that alone and the views of the mountains (we did have an exceptionally clear day) were truly breath taking – along with knowing you were trudging the trail a true legend had many times before.

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Becoming at one with nature

At 2967 meters the trail splits, with the left branch leading to the grave site of Dian Fossey and the right climbing to the summit of Bisoke.

IMG_9808_thumbWe reached the area Dian Fossey and her team lived in worked in which was a  relatively flat area that was being reclaimed by the forest. There were many pieces of the old buildings still remaining in place and we could see why she had chosen such an amazing spot to live and protect the gorillas.

IMG_4990Dian Fossey spent 18 years in and out of the forest studying and trying to protect the Mountain Gorillas. She brought much attention to their plight and surely without her efforts they would certainly not be around today. In 1967 she founded Karisoke research centre – those two tents she first set up were the beginnings of a world known research centre. Sadly on December 27 in 1985 Dian Fossey was killed at the age of 54. There are many theories on her murder but it was never determined who killed her.

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Dian Fosseys grave – known to the people of Rwanda as Nyiramacyibili

The Gorilla graveyard was the final place we stopped at on our visit to the area. It was quiet and peaceful with beautiful light coming through the trees. Dian was laid to rest along one of her favourite gorillas Digit who she had met in 1967 but was brutally killed by poachers in 1977.

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Her beloved Digit’s gravesite right next to where Dian Fossey was laid to rest

Learn more about the Volcanoes National Park here and other treks you can do or visit Rwanda Tourism to learn more about activities in Rwanda.

To book your trek to visit and pay respects to Dian Fossey visit  contact reservation@rwandatourism.com

The trek costs $75 usd and you will need to have your own transport as you have to meet at the park head quarters in the morning and be transported across to the trek.

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Camping in Menagesha Forest

We’re lucky to have a great spot as close as an hour to Addis Ababa that we can spend a weekend camping and feel like you’ve been on holiday for a week when you come back to the city dirty and dusty. These shots are from Mika’s first camping trip we took with a group of friends I work with here in February 2016.

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There are several camping spots in the park this is for sure our favourite under the trees with loads of spots to hang hammocks and settle really in.

Mikas first camping trip at 9 months – her small camp chair was a big hit and she certainly owned it!

Was so fun to be there with our friends, get time to hang out and relax for the weekend.

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The forest is pretty stunning to hike up through. We’ve seen colobus monkeys before and baboons even came to visit the campsite.

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Taking a hike

Mika got into the backpack for the first time and we went for a hike. About 10 minutes in she passed out.

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The crew

Exploring Lalibela with Mika

In May we decided it was time to take on our first real adventure as a team – Mika and I. We headed to Lalibela, Mika in the backpack, for a long weekend with a friend visiting Ethiopia, Jenn, who I had taught with in India and Chris a friend and colleague from school in Addis.

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Standing in front of St George Church

It was certainly a different experience for me and I was grateful to help friends to help us out along the way as I developed my new skills of how to travel rough with a baby. Lucky for me Mika is such a social wee girl, loves being in the backpack and is up for as much as an adventure as I am.

 

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Mika sitting in the entrance to one of the churches

It was a great weekend exploring the city and churches and I was glad for the company and support to help carry Mika around in the heat. She loved the priests and their crosses.

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Making friends everywhere

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The markets are always one of my favourite places when I travel. I love seeing what is for sale, how people go about their sales and trades, the movement and conversations. This market did not disappoint it was bustling with so much activity and friendly faces welcoming us.

On Sunday morning Jenn and I got up early to head down to one of the cluster of churches to see how busy it would be when service was happening. We weren’t disappointed, around every corner there were floods of people praying, priests blessing people and movement in and out of the churches.

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Young girl we met outside one of the churches

 

We had a great weekend exploring the town, churches and markets — this girl is always smiling, always waving, always happy… thank you Lalibela for your warmth and beautiful people just like my little Habesha.

Climbing Nyiragongo Volcano in DRC

I inched out of my damp sleeping bag that had been caught in the rain on the climb up the volcano. Even though my head was saying no, I couldn’t get comfortable with the thin ground mat and tent between me and the volcanic rock I was trying to settle in on. My head was thumping and I felt like crap but the rangers had called us out convinced we had to take a look. We crawled across the volcanic rock and up a few meters from our camping ledge and peered down… I instantly felt heat on my face, could hear the gas explosions below and was mesmerized by the sight in front of me, I hadn’t imagined this at all.

I had gazed up at the volcano seeing the golden glow in the sky late at night from Rwanda for a year before I managed to convince my friend Shannon to take a trip back with me to Rwanda and cross the boarder into DRC to make the climb up. I am not sure I mentioned we would be sleeping on volcanic rock on a small ledge and only meters from the craters edge… I’m not sure I really knew either but it was so worth the effort!

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That was in October 2010 and now almost five years on I was back again to take on Mount Nyiragongo with more great friends. They asked how tough it was and I mentioned it must have been an easy climb as I couldn’t really remember it being a challenge. However, five years on, a bunch more kilos under the belt, age catching up on me and still not having got my act together following a broken ankle last year it was far from easy!

We were picked up from the boarder where Gisenyi (Rwanda’s most North western town) meets Goma at the top of Lake Kivu which boarders both countries. The crossing is simple once you have your paperwork for the DRC side (see information below in ‘how to’ section below) and make sure you bring your yellow fever certificate for DRC. The process took about 15 minutes and then we were met by Elie from Virunga Parks and taken to the office to sign in for the hike.

Park signs at the bottom of the trail

Park signs at the bottom of the trail – show a bit of wear and tear

Once we were signed in at the office we set off up the road towards Nyiragongo to meet up with the rest of the group and start the climb. The drive is about 30 minutes from Goma town and as we got closed the volcano started to appear. Mount Nyiragongo is Africa’s most active volcano standing at 3470m at the crater rim just North of Goma in the East of DRC. The volcano last erupted in 2002 causing large scale evacuation and destroying part of Goma town and the airport. All the roads around Goma bare signs of this with volcanic rock on every road you’re on.

Heading up the road towards the start of the climb

Heading up the road towards the start of the climb

By 11am we were ready to set off from the starting point at 1996m we had to climb to 3470m to the top. A group of fifteen tourists set off on the trail after a briefing from the guides and rangers. Most people had hired a porter who are readily available at the start of the trek (great to support the local community) between two of them carrying their packs and gear for the night. So with the rangers and porters we were close to 30 people.

Starting point at 1996m

Starting point at 1996m… only 1500m vertical to ascend. Nyiragongo rising up in the background.

The first section of the climb was through the bush

The first section of the climb was a very gradual climb through the bush

We took scheduled breaks along the way as each section of the climb changed in terms of vegetation and steepness. This also allowed the group to keep together and everyone to catch up. The pace our group had set was pretty fast at first and certainly slowed as we got to a higher altitude – my lungs were in my ears by the time we reached the last break.

Large section that was over rough volcanic rock

Then into a large section over rough volcanic rock and gradually got steeper after each break.

Nearing the final section

Rain came in for part of the climb and it cooled off

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Looking down

Looking back down towards Goma over the final steep section of volcanic rock

Once we reached the top, after about 5 and a half hours of climbing, we made a fast move into our cabin/ tent and changed out of our wet clothes. The temperature at the top was significantly cooler and we were feeling pretty rough from the last section of the climb so after having a brief look into the crater took a short nap. I won’t lie I felt like a new woman after sleeping even for just 30 minutes (I highly recommend it if you feel crappy when you get to the top).

Cabins at the top

Cabins at the top – home for the night.

View into the Crater from the top

View into the Crater from the top

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The main crater is about two kilometers in width

Groupie at the top

Groupie at the top

View into the crater

View into the crater at night – you can feel the head and see the larva bubbling

Amazing smell, sounds and views - mesmerising

Amazing smell, sounds and views – mesmerising

After a solid nights sleep of about 10 hours (everyone was in bed early) we started the decent. We started walking before 7am and were back down at the car park by 11am. I recommend you take a rain coat if you plan to do this trek no matter what time of year – about 15 minutes from the end of the trail the rain came in hard – we felt sorry for the people who were just starting to head up for the night as they were going to be drenched all day.

Heading back down

Heading back down – a steep decent from the top.

The trek back down

The trek back down

Printing some photos from the porters on my Polaroid printer

Spent some time taking photos and printing some photos from the porters on my Polaroid printer

So want to make the trip and want to know how and some TIPS?

I highly recommend the trek – its safe and you are well supported. Contact the Virunga Parks directly for advice they are helpful on email and respond quickly to questions.

What to take?

Food supplies…  You need to take food for lunch on the way up and dinner at the top. You will also need something from breakfast before you start the climb down early in the morning. We prepared some pasta for dinner pre-cooked so we didn’t need to buy coal and cook at the top (its way too cold to sit outside for too long). We also took a bunch of snacks to eat on the way up and down – so at each stopping point had a snack rather than a big meal.

Clothing wise. Its cold at the top and its likely to rain at some stage on the way up or down (we had rain both ways) so bring a jacket and cover for your bag. You need a change of clothes to put on at the top. I took a long sleeve thermal and large warm sweatshirt, beanie (woolen hat), long skin pants, long wooly socks. I also would have liked to have had gloves as it would have been more comfortable staying outside to watch the volcano at night.

Sleeping. There is a wooden hut with a tent inside for you to sleep in. Inside the tent has a good mat and pillow to sleep on. You need to bring your own sleeping bag. We were warm in our clothes and sleeping bags.

Shoes? It really depends on your preference and how strong your ankles are. We all wore trainers but there were some in hiking boots. I hate boots so my Asics running shoes did the trick for me and I had a broken ankle just last year. However, there is a huge amount of volcanic rock you have to walk on so make sure your shoes at least have good grip – I also used a walking stick (as did loads of others) which was really helpful on the way down.

Money for tips and other. Make sure you have small USD and make sure none of them have as much as a small nick in them. They won’t be accepted in DRC by anyone if they even have a tiny tear in them, so make sure you have recent notes and small denominations. You will need to pay a porter to carry your bag (trust me you want this – I’m pretty sure everyone in the group used someone) 12usd per day (24 total for the way up and back). You will also have at least 3 rangers with the group who deserve a  tip as well. Coal is 5usd a bag as is a walking stick you can get to use if you think you want either. The walking stick I ended up using and it was really helpful on the way down on the loose rock.

How do you do it?

Visit Virunga National Parks website that will talk you through everything. Permits for the climb and park including overnight at the top cost $250usd can all be booked online http://visitvirunga.org/treks/

Once you have your permit order number you will be able to apply for a DRC Visa (Valid for 2 weeks) for $105usd https://visitvirunga.org/visa/visa-application/

You will also need to book transport from Goma to Kibati (the start of the trek) which can be done online for $28usd per head (Again through Virunga National parks website)

You can stay in Gisenyi on Rwanda side and cross over the morning of your hike and leave the day you come down or stay in Goma to do some other activities – plenty of information on the website also. Crossing over at the boarder took about 20-30 mins either way and was simple with the permit and pre-approved visa.

More than FAITH needed – Ethiopia

We picked up our local guide Gebre from a small town as we headed towards the Gheralta Mountains. After four days of trekking through breathtaking landscape of Tigray in Northern Ethiopia we were headed for our final adventure before heading back to Addis, our visit to the rock-hewn church of Abuna Yemata Guh tucked away in some cliffs a hair raising climb away.

Starting the walk towards the rock face we need to climb

Starting the walk towards the rock face we need to climb

The churches in the Gheralta cluster of churches, around 30, are believed by locals to have been built back in the 4th to 6th century but its more commonly thought they were built between the 9th and 12th centuries. Either way they are phenomenal in their location, structure and certainly not built for those afraid of heights. If you’re wanting to get closer to God and have your prayers sent on up – you’re certainly in the right place by taking an adventure here.

A young girl herding the goats

A young girl herding the goats

Even though I had visited the area and this church five years earlier, and had been rambling on about it to my friends for weeks, nothing looked familiar. When we pulled off the road to park I still couldn’t make out the rock face we had climbed years earlier and was convinced we were in the wrong place. However, as we started our walk across the flat valley towards the rock face my memory partly restored and the landscape reveled a glimpse at the climb up ahead of us.

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The church entrance is tucked around the backside of the right hand rock pillar and completely out of sight until you enter the cave door. Unless you have a local guide you would possibly never find it as once you reach the rock face there is no clear path showing the way.
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The walk across the valley floor leading up is gradual and starts to reveal how steep the final parts of the decent will be but its not until you hit the end of the trail that you realise what is potentially ahead of you. It was mid morning when we reached the face and already hot when we started to use our hands to help negotiate the first section of the climb over the rocks.
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Once we reached the free climb section which consisted of sandstone walls we were asked to take our shoes off and leave them in order to continue the climb. At this point we had reached what was considered the church grounds and taking our shoes off also provided much needed grip for the 90 degree rock face we were ascending.
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The pack of men who had joined us and we had all been thinking the same thing “I can carry my own bag and I really don’t need your help”, soon became our safety nets and mules for safely carrying our bags and supporting us up the rock faces. They placed themselves ahead and behind us offering protection and guidance for every small foot and hand hold we could use. This is when my battle with keeping my camera out and the men looking at me slightly flustered asking to take it began. My stubbornness versus their extensive knowledge and climbing ability were a fine match which they eventually won and only the iPHONE stayed out.
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I had warned my friends that there was one tough section that really was like rock climbing but I hadn’t remembered it being as challenging or long as it seemed this time – maybe my age was catching up to me, I certainly didn’t feel as nimble as I had years earlier but also was on my own so wasn’t thinking about others.  I worried about the stress I was putting my friend through and hoped that I hadn’t built the view and church up to something more than what it was and I had remembered. I wondered if maybe the exhilaration of the climb had made the church and its location seem amazing and I did my own little prayer that they would be as impressed and amazed by the whole experience as I was.
The entrance to the church is along this ledge

Friends and Gebre peaking out the entrance to the church is along this ledge you make the final walk

So many questions entered my mind again as I reached the final ledge that you have to walk leading to the cave like entrance of the
Why? How? Why was it built here? How did they do it?
The view out the doorway of the entrance

The view out the doorway of the church entrance

As we rested in the church looking at the paintings, catching our breath and pondering how difficult the climb down would be seeing where you were headed, Gebre told us about the history of the church. He mentioned and showed us where the elders would rest and how baptisms happened at the church – mothers would climb with their babies up to have them baptised. We all looked at each other as if he was possibly joking – no joke. I certainly sat humbled at people’s conviction to their faith and the heights they would go to in order to get their blessings and have their prayers heard.

9 of the 12 apostles on the roof of the church

9 of the 12 apostles on the roof of the church

Old paintings cover the walls

Old paintings cover the walls

The priest shows us old texts

The priest shows us old texts

Old texts inside Abun

Old texts

The climb down was epic but not as frightening as anticipated. With our new built trust in our guides and the adrenaline still pumping we were all pretty pleased to reach our shoes and resume the walk on more level ground.

Is the climb worth it? Yep… I’d do it a third time for sure!

The climb down

Meghan & Edy negotiating the climb down

My Harari Adventure

I first came to Ethiopia in 2010… I only had a month to adventure around this incredible country, it wasn’t long enough!  Extending my visa seemed like too much effort and I left absolutely gutted to not get to Harar.  I thought about coming back to Ethiopia for years just to go see what I had missed.  However, when I decided to move here last year I knew I would be able to finally go and a few weeks ago my dream came true. I will admit I was worried I had built it up in my mind and might be disappointed… was I? Not at all… it was amazing!

One of the original gates to the city daily hosts a busy colourful market

One of the original gates to the city daily hosts a busy colourful market

I think my best decision was to drive the 500km from Addis Ababa to Harar…

“You’re driving? Why not fly?”
“You’re going on your own? You should fly! ”

This was what I was asked time and time again before the trip…

Here’s what you don’t get when you fly…

You don’t get the cool mountain air blowing in the window as you steam across passes. You don’t get the smell of eucalyptus trees on a plane, you can’t hear the children yelling “you you Faranji”, or see the smiles, waves and heads turn as you drive past. You don’t get the waves or the yells and whistles from the truck drivers as you pass them in blocked up villages. You don’t get the chance to harness your driving skills to dodge cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels, while young boys who can barely see over the backs of the cows pull their tails to drag them back off the road. You don’t see that every second man has a huge bag of khat (qat) and have them try to fling at you. You miss the chance to be sold birds, charcoal and wood as well. You can’t see the rolling hills and the deep valleys. You miss the women taking the donkeys with jerry cans to wait in a huge line at the village well to fill up with water for the daily chores. You miss it all on a plane – there is no sensory feast like I got… so when I can I will take the road – the journey is as good as (sometimes better than) the destination !

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The journey east can take anywhere from 7-9 hours depending on your luck with khat trucks, buses, camels, overloaded donkeys, and other life stock crossing the road. The drive once you are past Awash is amazing as you enter the drive up through the Chercher and Abra Gugu mountains and finally down into Harar where the gates to the walled city greet you filled with colour and movement. I managed a 8 hour drive over and a quick 7 hour trip back with a quick stop in Awash for petrol and a coke.

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Termed the ‘City of Saints’, Harar is a predominantly considered a muslim city with over 80 mosques hidden in its alleyways and considered by many to be the 4th holy city of Islam. Despite its Muslim appearance in 2003 UNESCO awarded Harar the City of Peace prize for existing with all of its varied religious group in harmony for so long. In the center of the city you can come across the grand mosque, a Catholic church and an Orthodox Church all within a stone throw from one another.

One of the many mosques hidden int he alleyways of the city

One of the many mosques hidden int he alleyways of the city

Its a maze of 368 alleyways inside the walls and a fun place to get lost – although you can always find your way back to the center. The alleyways are filled with people and activity and around any of the gates you will find busy markets in the late afternoon.

Children playing while women are busy carrying goods off to the market

Children playing while women are busy carrying goods off to the market

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I would have had little chance navigating the alleyways as behind many gates were hidden sites to check out.  I was recommended Biniyam from a friend at work, not someone who usually takes a guide I worried that he may not get what I was about and try to take me go and see things I really wasn’t interested in. This was not the case and we immediately hit it off talking like old friends, joking and enjoying each others company.

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She knew how to work the camera

We spent some time while walking with my polaroid camera taking photos and giving them to the children we met. We found some real characters along the way who knew how to work the camera with no prompting!

My great guide Biniyam using the polaroid camera so we could print out some pictures for the young girls

My awesome guide Biniyam using the polaroid camera so we could print out some pictures for the young girls.

So much character

So much character!

The best smile we met for sure

The best smile we met for sure

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Yellows

I loved just picking a spot by the gate and sitting watching the women dressed so birightly going about their business and shopping. They were happy (through translation) to engage in conversation, many of them were not from the city but had walked a long way to come in and sell their goods and would after sunset be taking the walk home.

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Busy market

Busy market

Chillies

Chillies

They say no trip to Harar is complete without meeting the ‘Hyena man’ – Yusuf. We drove along the wall of the city and then headed for a few minutes off road past Yusuf’s house and into a field. As we approached the lights from the car shone and we could see a lot of eyes shinning back, amongst all the eyes a man and a young boy sitting feeding the twenty hyenas who had gathered. We were the only ones there and Biniyam informed me that the hyena man came out every night to feed the hyenas even if there were no tourists. If he doesn’t then they come to his house and hang about waiting to be fed.

Biniyam shows me how its done - just a casual hyena on your back being fed!

Biniyam shows me how its done – just a casual hyena on your back being fed!

Yusuf has been doing this for years and they way he handles the hyenas immediately sets you at ease. They respond to his scolding and he pushes them off like misbehaving dogs, once I had watched him for a few minutes I felt more than confident being in their presence despite the fact they are wild animals. It was interesting to watch the dominant females feed while the others had to wait around for scraps to be thrown their way – they didn’t dare challenge the bosses of the pack.

Eye contact while I squat down only a meter from this hyena

Eye contact while I squat down only a meter from this hyena

I took some adventures outside of the city of Harar as well and I highly recommend Biniyam if you are looking for a guide on your adventure to Harar. He will tailor your experience to meet your needs, which may include taking in all the ‘tourist’ spots or just sitting in a market watching life move around you. His email is feresmegala@gmail.com – send him a message and let him know when you are heading over!

Tongariro Crossing New Zealand

I have lived outside NZ now for 14 years…. insane! I decided every time I go back I have to do something new that I haven’t done so I can be a traveller at home. Relive the beauty and experience what travellers I meet around the world keep telling me when they learn I am from New Zealand – “Oh my god its the most beautiful place I have ever been”.  I always feel so happy and proud when they go on to tell me about how friendly and hospitable people are and what an amazing time they had visiting.

So I decided to do the Tongariro Crossing with my best friend from growing up last year when I was home. A 20km day hike, one of the most popular in the country, heading up and over some craters, past volcanos, incredible scenery and will take you  7-9 hours.

Start of the trail from

Start of the trail

The first section is a easy climb up from the starting point at Mangatepopo car park to Soda springs on some really nice board walks.

Nice path cuts through

Nice path cuts through the long grasses and old lava flow

Once you reach Soda springs you have a pretty quick 200m climb up to the South Crater which is a huge flat expanse and you can take a nice break walking across it. Some keen people take the side detour and head up and down Mount Ngauruhoe – I wasn’t up for the challenge but next time will for sure take it on. It’s all volcanic rock so a challenging scramble on your hands for some of it!

Looking back across the crater to Ng

Looking back across the South crater to Mount Ngauruhoe

Once across the South crater you make a climb up onto an exposed ridge that can be windy and cold. You get stunning 360 views back over Mount Ngauruhoe and across the crater and out over the valley below as well. Our day was picture perfect… a few clouds but a beautiful clear day!

iPHONE panorama of he view overlooking the South crater

iPHONE panorama of the view overlooking the South crater

Daph checking out N

Daph checking out Mount Ngauruhoe

At the peak there is another option to head up onto Tongariro or you can continue along the crossing path and head down towards the red crater.

Top of the crossing before heading down past the Emerald lakes to the red crater

Top of the crossing before heading down past the Emerald lakes to the red crater

I decided to put my camera away for this decent which was a good idea as the rock was really loose under foot and I bit the dirt when I was just standing admiring the view. There were a few people I saw take some good slides down.

Views of the Emerald lakes, red crater and up to the Blue lake

Views of the Emerald lakes, red crater and up to the Blue lake

Minerals from the rocks around give the Emerald lakes their colour. There is a distinct sulphur smell in the air which comes from the vents near the lakes.

iPHONE panorama overlooking the Emerald Lakes, Red Crater and up to the Blue Lake

iPHONE panorama overlooking the Emerald Lakes, Red Crater and up to the Blue Lake

We had a laugh at what we thought this looked like

Some interesting landscape as a result of volcanic activity

Taking a short break enjoying the views

Taking a short break enjoying great day and views

Emerald Lakes

Emerald Lakes

The Emerald lakes are a great spot to take a lunch break. Once you leave them you continue across the red crater and start the last wee climb up towards the Blue Lake.

Looking back across the red crater

Looking back across the red crater

The blue lake is considered Tapu (sacred) so its disrespectful to drink and eat – so don’t stop here for a break, even though it looks really inviting to take a dip.

Heading around the blue lake looking back

Heading around the blue lake looking back

Daph coming around the blue Lake

Daph coming around the blue Lake

Down the final section

Down the final section looking over Lake Taupo and Lake Rotorua

Final leg home

Final leg home

The final leg is from the North crater down to Ketetahi Hut and the car park. This for me was the most challenging part of the trek as it is a number of switch backs, where you can see the trail the whole way and feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

I think the camera went away at this stage and we just got into the grind of finishing the hike. Was a fun day and as long as you have some sort of base fitness you will be fine doing the walk – the scenery and good company will see you through!