Wow – the alarm goes off at 05.30 and I very nearly spring out of bed, this is bizarre. A quick hot shower and we’re off to the car park at Ketatahi at 736m above sea level. This point marks the end of the hike, and we say farewell to our motorhome as we board the trek bus that will take us to the starting point at Mangatepopo (1100m), 30 mins drive away.
Laura prepared well, eating a peanut butter sandwich and drinking a mug of tea on the bus journey, whereas I sat in confused silence – by this point I’d reverted back to my usual state this early in the morning – pretty much a zombie! Still, I made my preparations by downing a Diet Coke.
Delivered to the starting point the biting cold meant we had hats on, multiple layers and gloves, it was hovering around zero and we were about to go up!
All in all it’s about a 20km hike, and the first hours were spent ascending to Red Crater (1886m), via the Mangatepopo Saddle (1650m) with the sun rising behind us. The views were spectacular and as the sun rose, so did the temperatures, so layers were coming off thick and fast – in fact, I was panicking that I hadn’t sun-blocked the weather was that good. Total rookie error, and I know better.
The ascent was tough, but the descent from Red Crater to the Emerald Lake (1730m) had Laura panicking. It was steep, narrow and underfoot was very loose scree, that was ok for me (being a heavy lump), but was proving tricky for Laura – imagine Bambi on ice and you’d have a fairly accurate image! Still, she only fell over twice and so we were still in good spirits for the rest of the descent which was about 10km down to the car park, passing through lush forests.
The guidebook says that this walk can be finished between 6-8 hours – it took us 6, although the last 5km saw us both yomping at quite a pace – I think hunger and tiredness was beginning to take hold and we both wanted to sit down and have lunch! The joys of having parked your house at the end of the walk, meant we could sit in comfort and eat our food and have an ice cold drink fresh from the fridge (I know this sounds simple, but trust me it was an absolute pleasure).
Surprisingly we felt pretty fresh so decided to get some mileage done and headed south for Ohakune, a small but lively town. On arrival we hooked up the motorhome and headed straight out into town for some food, although I got sidetracked by a tavern and Speights beer….admittedly there was also rugby on the tv so dinner had to wait. 3 beers later, I was starting to feel a bit wobbly – I think the early start and lack of food was catching up with me (or I’m just more of a lightweight than I thought I was).
An Italian restaurant across the road had caught our eye and the food was delicious and the red wine flowed (a lovely bottle of Pinot noir) – it perfectly ended a fantastic day.