Went hiking on the slopes of Mount Doom today. The hike we took was part of the Tongario Crossing tail, which loops up and over the most volcanically active part of NZ. I was totally up for the doing the entire crossing (including the extra three hours or so to climb to the top of both giant volcanoes) but there was no way my sister could have hacked even the simple Crossing, let alone the summiting. So instead we just hiked the end part of the trail the opposite way, starting from the finish of the Crossing up to the first hut where people sometimes stay when doing multiple day hikes. About a four hour roundtrip hike. It was exactly the sort of hike I love, very similar to those in Rocky Mountain National Park or the Smokies. These are the sorts of hikes that feature a lot of uphill hiking, but it is not all steep and there are patches between the uphill sections where it is either level or only gently inclined. They are trails where it is very easy to maintain a constant speed and hike for long periods of time without being fatigued. They contrast with trails in places like Yosemite, which are just continuous uphill switchbacks, providing no trail space to recover or rest. You have to stop far more often and it is harder to get into a good rhythm. So I loved this trail. My sister, on the other hand, completely had her ass kicked by it, mostly I think because the sun was very intense and most of the trail was out in the open. But we still made it to the top in two hours and twenty, even though it was listed as being a three hour ascent.
After the hike, we drove into Auckland to our hotel. We’re staying here for the night and then driving up to the north peninsula for our last hike. Since it was our only night in Auckland, we’re staying at the five star Sky Hotel Grand. We got dinner at The Observatory restaurant, a seafood buffet perched atop the Sky Tower, the larger free standing tower in the Southern Hemisphere. It was quite tasty, although the service (considering it was a nice restaurant and buffets really aren’t that hard to manage) was pretty terrible. Not as bad as the restaurant in Picton where we had to wait twenty something minutes to place our order, but not what I’d expect in a good restaurant. Tomorrow is the last hike followed by crashing it Dargaville, then it is back to Auckland to see the aquarium and then board a plane to return. Crazy how it has all gone by so fast.