Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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The Club had planned a trip to the Tongariro Crossing in May last year, but a bad weather forecast caused the leaders to cancel the trip. It was rescheduled for November, but again down came the rain and it was put off - and each one who had booked had to fork out about $15 to share a non-refundable deposit for booking the Whakapapa-based bus transport to and from the crossing.

This time it seemed touch-and-go, but with a reasonable forecast on the Friday the leaders decided to go ahead, especially that an alternative trip had been planned in the Tongariro Forest, but little did they know what they would be in for!


We left The Bracken as usual soon after 6:15pm and stopped at Ngaruawahia for munchies before carrying on through Whatawhata, Te Kuiti and Taumarunui to arrive at the Mangatepopo Camp School about 11:30pm. And a mountain weather forecast predicted rain and strong winds, and it was cloudy and misty when we arrived at Mangatepopo.

Mangatepopo Camp School was originally the local school in the days of timber milling in the area. It now serves as a camp for school and other groups, the original school building now being the campís schoolroom. Two dorm blocks - Ngauruhoe and Tongariro - and a kitchen/common room have been added, each of the dorm blocks having a number of small dorms plus toilet/shower facilities.


The day started before light with the Vice-Presidential Cups Of Tea In Bed Service - and stars in the sky outside. As it got light over breakfast about am we could see the three mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu against a clear sky!

Amongst the handouts given at the breakfast table were info sheets on the Tongariro Crossing and a light-hearted sheet likening the weekend to a musical show, with the musical numbers for Act 2 (Sunday - St Patricks Day) being well-known song titles with green in them!

Three options were offered (a) Ngauruhoe + Tongariro Crossing led by Nelson; (b) Tongariro Crossing led by John M and Jackie; (c) Ngauruhoe led by Phillip N.

The two Ngauruhoe options were away by 7:30am for Mangatepopo road-end and the start of the Tongariro Crossing track to Mangatepopo Saddle. The others were away by about 8:15am. The cloud came in and by the time we were at the road-end it was overcast, but it was a low cloud rather than threatening rainclouds.

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Mangatepopo Hut was on a short side-track off the main track about 15min from the road-end. John M, Jackie and Terri placed a Bible pack in the hut as part of the ministry of Seek Freedom. This had grown out of a vision by Ria Summerhayes of Great Britain when she was on holiday in New Zealand a few years ago, of placing Godís Word in back-country huts where trampers, hunters, etc. would read it and seriously consider accepting Christ while amongst His creation. Ria has since moved to New Zealand. What we had placed in the hut was in fact a pocket-size New Testament and Psalms with a bright red cover, plus a booklet Why Jesus? by Nicky Gumbel who started the popular Alpha course for enquirers after the Christian faith. The three of us prayed over the Bible pack before leaving it inside the hut.

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There was about an hour of very gentle travel through tussock following up the Mangatepopo Stream. To our right were the bluffs of Pukekaikiore. We had people overtaking us running the track - they had arrived at the roadend on pushbikes, and were running the Tongariro Crossing as part of a multisport ironman race.

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We then skirted the edge of the lava flow from the eruption of Ngauruhoe in 1948. The cloud cleared momentarily for us to see Ngauruhoe itself towering up behind.

The Soda Springs we decided were worth a miss as they were just a cold spring and we wanted to get on with our tramp to Tongariro and/or Ngauruhoe. It was a 45 minute grunt up a steep rocky slope to the Mangatepopo Saddle.

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We stopped for morning tea at the top, and to our delight we were out of the clouds and we saw what would be ahead of us - either Tongariro or Ngauruhoe - in brilliant sunshine! The group doing the Tongariro Crossing was able to look up and see the other groups near the summit of Ngauruhoe. Praise God that He kept the cloud on the western side of the mountains and not allowed it to roll across!
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The frustrating effort of the Ngauruhoe groupís climb up the steep scree slopes of Ngauruhoe was rewarded with fantastic views from the summit - Mt Egmont in the west, Lakes Rotoaira and Taupo plus Mt Tauhara to the north with the spectacular Tongariro plateau in the foreground, and brother-active-volcano Ruapehu to the south.

The crater of Ngauruhoe looked ominous with volcanic coloured rocks and steam emerging from fissures, reminding us that it was an active volcano. A few daring people went into the crater, but were warned away by intense sulphurous fumes once on the crater floor.

As we sat and gazed into the crater, Phillip N told us about the Christian value of the beauty of natural creation, and we responded by affirming our appreciation for all that has been given to us to enjoy.

The Tongariro Crossing group crossed the broad bare South Crater, not really a volcanic crater but a drainage area between the two mountains.
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We had a further grunt beyond the South Crater up a spur from where we could look down into the Oturere Valley and the Desert Road/Kaimanawa Ranges beyond. As we climbed the spur we passed several rock formations including one large outcrop.
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At the top the side track to Tongariro Summit went off to our left. We did not have time to do this two-hour return trip. We had a great view looking back to Ngauruhoe and could see the others at the top of the mountain. Looking ahead there was a little knoll we would have to go over.
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After waiting till all the group had arrived, we carried on to this knoll. We could look down to our right into the Red Crater, testimony to a time of violent eruption sometime in the past.

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From the top of the knoll, the highest point on the Tongariro Crossing we could look down into the spectacular Central Crater area with the North Crater plateau behind, and Lake Taupo in the distance.

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As we negotiated the steep downhill slope of loose scree new things came into view - each of the three Emerald Lakes in turn - made us think of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness with the line Morning by morning new mercies I see replaced by Minute by minute new mercies I see.
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Our lunch possie was beside the two upper Emerald Lakes, the larger one of which had hot springs and fumaroles on its side.

Warren told us that like most of us he liked life in the city - manmade objects, art, night life, etc - but this was not nearly as good as being in the great outdoors, such as on the Tongariro Crossing, and this is why he believes in God. Everything in the great outdoors is so good because it was created by God. He said that going out on tramps reinforces our faith in God, and that we can see something of God in the things He has made. The Emerald Lake reminded him of jewels, and that jewels made many of the people in the Bible think of God. Terri told us that God provides the company of other people, and John M said that Godís hand was on the weather, rolling back the clouds so that we could enjoy the tramp in excellent sunny weather. He also said that a friend told him years ago on a tramp that God enjoys His creation through our eyes.

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We carried on, dropping down to cross the Central Crater, another ďcraterĒ of the same type as the South Crater.

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From there we climbed up onto a ridge overlooking the Blue Lake, a cold-water lake that had formed in a volcanic crater.

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The track then sidled around the eastern side of North Crater - we looked down and saw two people have a game of cricket on the broad floor of the Central Crater!  We soon left the moonscape of the central Tongariro and started our way down the tussocky northern slopes of the mountain. Lake Rotoaira came into view, with Mt Pihanga behind and Lake Taupo and the faint outline of Mt Tauhara in the distance.

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Below us we could see Ketetahi Hut and the steam of the Ketetahi Hot Springs, and the snake-like route of our track - signs beside the track asked us to stay on the track and resist the temptation to take shortcuts through the fragile tussock.
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Inside the Ketetahi Hut we placed another Bible pack, with Warren and John M praying over it.
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We were not allowed to visit the Ketetahi Springs as they were on private land - in the past the Maori landowners allowed public access, but have clamped down in recent years. God still wants us to enjoy the more unusual aspects of His creation so has made a small area of hot springs on the track just before the Ketetahi Springs for the public to see.
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A notice on the wall of Ketetahi Hut said that the walk down to Ketetahi road-end was 90 minutes and about 2700 steps! As we continued on the long gradual but steady descent through open tussock with the views of Lake Rotoaira and Mt Pihanga below us, there was a never-ending succession of single steps anything from 2 to 20 metres apart, putting strain on feel already tired from the climb over Tongariro. A short rest stop just before dropping into the native bush did relieve the feet a little. It was a quick descent into the valley, then we crossed one stream then followed another one for quite a way - signs warned us not to drink from the stream as there could be giardia or other bugs. Eventually the track left the stream and continued following the line of an old logging tramline (1930s) to eventually come out to the road-end.
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The Mangatepopo Camp School caretaker came to meet us and take the drivers back to the camp to bring their cars back to the roadend to take us back.

We showered our tired bodies and had our dinner, then relaxed in the common room area reading books, etc. Several of us went straight home that night for commitments next day

Sunday (St Patricks Day)

It was already light when we had our Vice-Presidential Cups Of Tea In Bed Service - we had just said goodbye to daylight saving. Drizzly rain made us have second thoughts about our walk on the Tongariro River Walkway near Turangi, but by the time we had packed up, cleaned the kitchen area and hoovered the dorms, blue sky had come out.

Our hosts came and showed us the schoolroom, which is now used for more formal instruction at school camps.
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Being St Patricks Day, most of us donned something green, be it a jersey, shirt, pants or socks, and John sported a green tinsel wig!
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Some of us went on directly to the Tokaanu hot pools, arriving 9am, one hour too early (they opened at 10am) so carried on homewards. The rest of us, totalling 11 people, went to the start of the Tongariro River Walkway at Red Hut Suspension Bridge about 5.5km south of Turangi on S.H.1 north of the Desert Road. The three cars were then driven to the end of the walkway, at Turangi, with the drivers returning in one of the cars.

We crossed the suspension bridge, then followed the walkway as it climbed through native bush and followed the river terrace on the true right bank of the Tongariro River.
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In contrast to the day before, the track was a wide and well formed bush track suitable for light shoes or jandals, running level for most of its length. There were a few views of the river with Mt Pihanga behind.
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For quite a fair bit of the walkway, the track skirted farmland with views out towards the Kaimanawa Ranges. Much of the farm land in the area is prison farms.
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After about one-and-a-half hours from the start we came out to the end of the walkway, crossing another suspension bridge across the river, all with our green clothing still on!
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A soak in the hot pools was very welcome, even though the pool was ordinary water heated by the thermal waters.
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Some of us had lunch in a picnic area at the start of the nearby thermal reserve before joining the rest of the group at a nearby tearooms. There was light-hearted conversation about Grey Power - apparently one of the group who had no grey in his hear and a touch of grey in his beard had been given a Grey Power membership by an unknown friend as a joke for his 50th birthday recently!

Rain set in as we headed home to Auckland afterwards - some via the usual State Highway 27 and others through the back road to Taumarunui and home via Te Kuiti (not only did we have to have green ice creams and/or drinks for St Patrickís Day, but the car had to have its lunch at a green BP petrol station), Whatawhata, and Ngaruawahia (green ice creams) arriving at The Bracken about 6pm.

Many thanks to the leaders and organisers, and a great thank you to God for rolling back the clouds on Tongariro and Ngauruhoe and keeping the rain at bay till we were homewards on St Patrickís Day.

COST: $75