Many people come to New Zealand to hike the eight-hour Tongariro Crossing at Tongariro National Park. I am definitely not one of those people. However, because there were a few hikers on my bus, we had to wake up early and leave Blue Duck Lodge at 6 am.
After we quickly ate breakfast and threw our bags into the bus, many of us went right back to sleep for the next hour or so. When we arrived at National Park, we immediately dropped off the hikers so they could gear up and get going. By now it was about 7:30 am, and they’d still need to get briefed by their guide and get their essentials before making the trek.
The rest of us headed to our accommodation, The Park. Alba and I were staying for three nights to take advantage of special they were running. We’d pay for two nights and get a third free. Since I’m not hiking the Crossing, I will use these next few days to catch up on some reading and just chill out.
The Park is by far the most luxurious accommodation so far. It’s a multipurpose facility that includes dorm rooms and regular hotel-style rooms, a heated, outdoor pool and restaurant. The reception can hook you up with bikes for hire, transport and lift tickets to nearby ski slopes and Tongariro Crossing trips. It has a huge kitchen with ample stoves and prepping tables.
The only negative about the place is the six-bed dorm room we stayed in. Despite the dorm having an en suite bathroom, the room was definitely too small to house six people and their bags. There was only about three feet between two of the bunk beds and four backpacks took up most of the space. Getting through that obstacle course to the bathroom was tricky.
Alba shared this tiny space with four German guys for the next three days. At first I worried about our close living quarters and the odors that four guys, especially backpackers, could create. But, surprisingly, it was okay. The boys weren’t smelly, even though I’m pretty sure they hiked nearby trails every day. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the room smelled pretty good with all the deodorant spraying going on.
When Alba and Jimmy, one of the Germans, returned from the Tongariro Crossing that evening, they reported that they couldn’t even get halfway through due to ice and snow. They would try again tomorrow, even though Alba’s heels were rubbed raw from the crampons. Crampons are metal spikes that clip on your boots to help you grip the slippery ice. Some of the other hikers also bore these badges of courage, but they were determined to give the Crossing another go. “Good luck” is what I say to that as I snuggled into a couch and read a book near the wood-burning fire.