New Zealand – Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Rotorua is one of the further pickup spots for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, so in the early morning, it’s easy to spot other trekkers and make a pact to cross the Lord of the Ring’s “Middle Earth” together. The photos from a couple who had completed it the day prior were amazing, but as we approached the drop off point, the weather started looking bleak and we were advised to NOT go up “Mt Doom” due to poor visibility, rain and possible death. The path is marked though it’s definitely possible to get lost were it not for the trail of people going the same general direction (probably following a guide at the front). A few shacks along the way offer some respite, and halfway you cross paths with groups that started at the other end. I was surprised to people from the reverse route because the sideways rain and wind hitting our backs practically prevented us from turning back – which was an interesting motivation. At one steep slope, a large group of us feared we had detoured to Mt Doom, but I confirmed the path with my offline map’s GPS. At the end of the arduous day long 20km trek was a much warmer lush forest and musky comfortable buses. Once we got back, we discovered two other hikers and all threw our clothes into the washer/dryer. One of the hikers told me about her recent stop at Papua New Guinea (one of my next countries), which piqued my interest enough that I agreed to follow her hitch hiking to Wellington to trade safety for information. I ditched yet another bus ticket, scheduled for later that night thinking I could arrive earlier. We made cardboard signs and got a ride to Turangi where we met two spiritual women who just arrived from Wellington, warned us about strangers, and felt compelled to offer us a room at their cabin retreat and a direct ride with them to Wellington the next morning. We agreed.
When hitch hiking, it’s safer to travel in groups but lots of people also hitch hike solo. Be aware that it usually takes multiple rides to reach your destination, so it’s best to split it up into shorter segments. Some people are very nice and even offer housing, so our case isn’t unique.