New Zealand is a land of fantasy landscapes. Beneath all the fantasy, we need to dust out the reality of preparing. Sharing 6 realistic FAQs to prepare you for one of your best adventures on one of NZ’s 9 Great Walks – The Tongariro Northern Circuit.
My cheat sheet itinerary for the hike including maps, landmarks and timing HERE. It’s sufficient to get you on the trip.
FAQ, here we go!
1. Which month should I go?
November. It’s the start of Summer, so the weather is still cool. Being cool is important. You’ll need lesser water, and the nice weather makes you more tolerant of anything annoying (including friends) on the trek. More importantly, it’s the month where bits of snow still remains, and you’ll get your trophy pic of a snow capped Mt Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in LOTR!). Otherwise in full blown Summer, it’s just a huge brown lump; in winter, it’s a huge white lump. The winter snow also makes the terrain less safe.
2. Do I need to be very fit?
Not really. We are averagely fit but no iron lady stamina. For reference, we take 30mins to climb 5x 15 storeys of stairs with a 3kg load, and end up feeling like vomiting. #slothbody. However, being fit helps you enjoy the whole trekking much better. So take this chance to train and tone up a bit before setting off.
3. What kind of food should I bring on the hike
You can get all your food supplies from Taupo town’s megamart, Pak n Sav.
i) Sweet treats
Gummy snakes were our favourite. Forget lunches, seriously. We didn’t had any lunch picnics as imagined cause we were quite slow (the timings provided by the Department of Conservation are Caucasian timings. Our shorter Asian legs couldn’t carry us that fast). So gummies and chips were our quick fuss free lunches.
ii) L & P Lemonade
Some of the Germans in our hut were drinking that at the end of the hike. We swear we will get that once we’re out of the mountains. If I have a chance, I’ll bring up a small bottle of L&P to share among friends and random hikers in the hut.
iii) Bring the mass tin and do some real outback hut cooking
If you’re heading to the palace of all huts, Hut Waihohonu, on Day 2, you will have time to cook at a proper kitchen with gas and warm water (heated by Solar Energy! See my video). When our European friends cooked their dinner in the evenings, the smell of real food was beyond wonderful. Like L&P, if I were to hike again, I will bring my mass tin and some proper food. At Taupo’s megamarts (Pak n Sav, Countdown), you can get those fresh-packed soup, or instant condensed pastas. Alternatively, Asians, bring up your Nongshim cup noodles (you will still need mass tin to boil the water).
iv) Protein/Muesli bar
A must. Keep them in your pockets. YUMS. Keeps you going.
4. Ranger tips: How to survive in the cold
A national park ranger told us that sleeping bags must always be water-proofed (in plastic bags, or proper water-resistant bags). The wind in the morning howls and is very chilly. So, whatever happens (rain/snow), at least at night, you know you have something dry and warm to crawl under.
5. Stanger tips: How to decline steep tracks
Asians are very interesting people in the hike because there was almost no Asians on the tracks. Other than the rarity effect, many strangers spoke to us because our decline was total noobcake. They couldn’t bear to watch, and need to help. Pro-tip: sink your heels in. Don’t be afraid, but keep your balance.
6. Should I drive there? How do I get to the Tongariro Northern Circuit?
Ditch the keys, and take a chartered van.
- Convenient pick-ups: One thing I’ve learnt about Taupo, the cosy town, is that pick-up and drop-off services (same for our sky dive and river rafting) can be anywhere in town. Just let them know where you want them to pick-up/drop you off.
- Saves budget & time: A chartered van saves you the money of renting the car and leaving it at the Whakapapa carpark. It also gives you the flexibility to save 1 day of hike by skipping the Whakapapa-Mangatepopo hike, which is not very exciting. Start at Mangatepopo directly, and let someone drive you back after days in the mountain.
Contact Paul. Alpine Hotbus never got back to me despite numerous emails. Paul from AdventureHQ replies emails. His van was reliable and very comfortable. My camera crashed in the mountains, and while fetching us back, he kindly found a camera shop (there’s only one in the whole of Taupo…), detoured, waited while we were at the service desk before picking us back to our accoms. He shared some nice eating places as well.
Email him. I emailed him and did my booking & payment online through his website. It’s NZD 60 per pax for a return trip
(M) +64 7-386 0969
You may reference my enquiry template
Hi! We would like to book the following trips to get to and fro Taupo & Tongariro. We’re attempting the Tongariro Northern Circuit, and would need the following trips which we hope to take with your buses!
Bus trip 1: Taupo to Mangatepopo Date (Day) Pick up earliest (5.50am, please confirm) 3x Adults
Bus trip 2: Whakapapa Village to Taupo Date (Day) Pick up in the afternoon (3.00pm, please confirm) 3x Adults
Looking forward to your confirmation on the pick-up times and price. Thank you!
HAVE A GOOD HIKE! Share with me how your hike was, I’m very excited to know.
Watch our realistic hike for a better idea why this is NZ’s Great Walk:
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