Kia Ora! My last night in Taupo; I should be stretching. I will definitely stretch tomorrow morning before my bus. Today I completed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It was amazing. I arrived in Taupo in the afternoon on Thursday. After checking in, I hiked to Haku Falls. The falls is a big tourist attraction in New Zealand. The weather was awfully windy, but I would manage. The river that flows next to the trail was gorgeous. It had a color I had never seen in a river. More of a turquoise color. I hiked for about an hour and a half and then I reached a canyon. Now until that point the river had been swift but calm. These were the first real rapids. Basically the wide river was being forced into the narrow canyon, and since it does flow quite rapidly, when forced into the canyon the rapids are insane. The canyon is about 200 yards long or so and at the end is Huka Falls. Now the falls aren’t large, but they are intense because of the rapid flow of the river. It looked amazing. I wanted to hurry back to my room, so I could book my trek on the crossing for the following day. The weather was supposed to look up compared to today. I was all booked for 6:30am departure time the following morning. I made my lunch and got ready for bed. Big early day tomorrow. A group of us loaded on the bus at 6:30 and made our way to the National Park. I was wearing a thermal and had a fleece. I was already freezing. After an hour and a half bus ride we reached the trail head. It was snowing. And the wind was 80/kilometer/hour. The bus driver told us we had a few different options. One was to try again tomorrow, to get a refund, or to try and attempt the crossing. He did caution everyone to not try to attempt Mount Ngauruhoe which is Mount Doom from LOTR. He said you will get lost trying to climb it and if you lose your footing you will die. Over the radio we heard a lady come on saying, “We advise no one go up the trail today.” All of us on the bus were like…well. I did go outside, and it was awful. It was snowing, windy and bone-chilling cold. I really did not want to hike it that weather. I did not come prepared. I took some pictures and got back on the bus. I think only one boy got off the bus and was going to try the hike. We started to leave and made it to bus camp when they asked us to switch buses. Apparently the company I was using was cancelling the crossing for today, and our bus was going to be used to go get those who had left for it. After arriving back in Taupo, I was able to switch my sailing trip to that day and rebooked the crossing for the following day. Even in Taupo the weather wasn’t great. It was pretty cold while sailing on the lake. We got a picturesque view of the Tongariro mountain range. On our way back to shore the wind died down and the sun came out. I soaked up all the sun I could. Since the weather was better, I decided to take a walk along the lake and get some fish and chips. I went back to my room and once more prepared my lunch and got ready for bed. The bus was leaving at 5:30am the following morning. I ran into a few people who were on the bus with me yesterday that were also going for round two. We got to the top and could already tell the conditions were much better. It was cold. It was 7am, but the sun was coming over the mountain, and the wind was nothing like it was yesterday. I had met a girl on the bus, asked if she would like to walk together and we started our way up. To describe my trek through Mordor would be very much like describing the 3rd LOTR. Except unlike Frodo I did not climb Mount Doom to destroy the one ring. The entire area is volcanic. We climbed what they call the devil’s staircase and the red crater ridge. The wind pick up tremendously along the ridge. It was steep and slow going because if you lost your footing it was quite the tumble down. In addition to what I brought yesterday I also brought my rain coat and my warm headband. I was glad I did. My hands were freezing, but I was doing what I could to keep them warm. We reached the top of the red crater and make the decision to attempt the Tongariro Summit. We were making excellent time. The wind intensified as we made our way up, and as we could see where the trail lead to we realized we would be hiking in the snow. They was some beautiful views of the emerald pools and the ridge but once we reached the snow we decided to turn back. We made our way down the crater to the pools and had lunch. The worst part of the hike was over. We took in more volcanic views and wondered how those who had attempted Mount Doom were doing. We walked and walked and started the gradual decent. It felt like about 3 hours of downhill walking. We eventually hit the trees and then the car park. Our hike was complete. We started at 7am and were finished my 2:30. We hiked about 20 kilometers that day. It was time for the bus ride back home and to relax for the rest of the day. I will upload pictures to FB soon, but I am having some technical difficulties with my camera. Hopefully the issue will be resolved soon. My running joke is now…Boromir said one cannot simply walk into Mordor. Well Boromir I just did.