Stage 10: Napier, Tongariro, Mt. Egmont

This stage on the North Island included two bus rides and wonderful day hike Tongariro National Park. The red stretch were done by bus; the green one we cycled. From Gisborne we took the bus to Napier where we spent two days waiting out the weather, then bused to Taupo and started cycling again. On the last day we bused back from New Plymouth to Auckland.

napier-art-decoFebruary 1-3, 2005 Napier is the Art Deco capital of New Zealand. A strong earthquake and fire on February 3, 1931 destroyed much of the town, but the town was rebuilt in two years. As it states in the Napier Art Deco Walk guide: “What makes Napier unique was that this happened at the lowest point of the Great Depression, when the building industry had virtually closed down world-wide. Nowhere else in the world is there a town or city built entirely in the styles of the early thirties”.
napier-art-deco-2During the 60s Art Deco buildings were being torn down and replaced with modern buildings, until people started to realize that Napier’s Art Deco buildings made it a special city. Concerned citizens established the Art Deco Trust, which has preserved and restored the remaining Art Deco buildings.

napper-bus-stationFebruary 3, 2005 Waiting at the Napier bus station for the bus to Taupo We spent two full days and three nights in Napier. We originally planned just one day, but from Napier we were going to Tongariro National Park to hike the Tongariro crossing. As the weather was poor in Tongariro, we decided to stay in Napier to wait for better conditions. Most of the towns near Tongariro are small, so hanging out in Napier in a comfortable hostel and close to stores and cafes seemed a better alternative.

tongariro-crossing1February 5,2005 The Tongariro crossing is the most popular 1-day hike in New Zealand. The Tongariro National Park is a volcanic area and hiking through this landscape is a very different experience from hiking through the BC coastal rainforests.

tongariro-crossing2The weather can change very quickly in this area. Hikers are advised to be prepared for all conditions. The day we did the hike the weather was good, although clouds rolled in when we got to the top, obscuring our view for a while. But as you can imagine, walking across a plain like this in foggy weather, you could easily get lost. DOC (Dept. of Conservation) does a great job maintaining the trails. The poles, placed at approximately 25 meters intervals, clearly mark the route and make it safe to hike here, even with poor visibility.

tongariro-crossing3More hikers making their way up. I estimate that the day we hiked the trail 200 – 300 people hiked the trail with us. Not a solitary experience, but it worked well. Everyone is looking for the same experience, and after the initial crowding when setting out, you eventually find your own pace and enjoy the trail in your own way.

tongariro-red-craterRed Crater  one of the highlights of the Tongariro crossing

tongariro-emerald-lakesEmerald lakes–near the red crate–with steam rising from the ground. What you can’t see in the picture is the strong smell of sulfur.

tongariro-crossing4The crossing isn’t a loop. Shuttle buses drop hikers at the trailhead on the west side of the park, and pick them up again at the end point at the north-end of the park.

The landscape on the way down is different from the volcanic ground we saw on our way to the summit. This side of the mountains is much more forested.

motunui-mt-egmontLooking towards Mt. Egmont from Motunui. Mt. Egmont is just visible and looks like Mt. Fuji.

February 6-9, 2005 After the Tongoriro crossing we returned to our hostel in Ohakune. From there we cycled down highway 4 to Wanganui, then followed highway 3, a.k.a. the Surf Highway, to New Plymouth. This area is known as Taranaki with Mt. Egmont (a.k.a. Mt. Taranaki) forming the focal point. From New Plymouth we took the bus back to Auckland.