We arrived in Rotorua, a touristy town (think of Banff, only bigger) with geothermal activity everywhere (now think of Yellowstone, only more expensive). We spent two days wandering around, splurging on the Te Puia geysers and the Maori cultural show.
Now, just to give you an idea of the cost, almost every single and worthwhile ‘activity’ that you could do around Rotorua, costs a fair bit, starting at around $35 NZD. Because of this, we decided to choose wisely, and ended up going with the Te Puia geysers and Maori cultural show combo, at a cost of $65 NZD per person.
We realized then, that if we wanted to depart to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing from Rotorua, we would have to leave at 4 am in the morning, and on top of that, the shuttle would cost us $70 NZD per person, one way.
For a bit of background info on the Tongariro hike:
DURATION: 19.4 km
ELEVATION GAIN: about 800 m
APPROXIMATE TIME TO COMPLETE: 6 to 8 hours
The best town to leave from would be Turangi, which, according to a sign we passed on the drive in, is the trout fishing capital of the world.
We ended up staying for two nights at the Off the Track Backpackers Hostel in Turangi, where 100 % of the backpackers staying there were there for one reason only. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing hike.
The shuttle left at 6 am the next morning from our hostel, where we left with a handful of other backpackers from the hostel. It was about a 30 minute shuttle ride (longer if you include all of the stops on the way), and by the time we arrived at the head trail, the bus was packed full and it was 7 am. We stepped off the bus into the packs of hikers that had already arrived.
The next few hours of the hike were the busiest. If you stopped for a few minutes to take a photo, you would likely be passed by dozens of hikers.
The hikers finally started to spread out about half way through the hike, after everyone stopped to eat lunch by the lake.
The last half of the hike was the most relaxing, with a bit more room to breathe.
Overall, it was a very worthwhile hike. Part of the reason that we had so many people was that there had been three days of rain prior, with the shuttles cancelled due to the rain. I would love to do the hike again, but preferably in the off season and with much less people!