The first major hike that I did in New Zealand was a 3 day tramp around the Northern Circuit of Tongariro National Park. A few friends and I rented a car from Juicy Rentals in Wellington. We started our drive around 5:00 pm and arrived at our hostel about five hours later. At the hostel we met others who had already done the circuit, however they had only done the single day one. We all went straight to sleep as we woke up at around 6:00 am the next day to start our journey.


On our first morning we hiked for about three hours. The landscape at this point was mostly flat. We walked through a little bit of forest too. At some points there was a wooden path built for you to walk along and at other parts you had to find your own way using trail markers. We stopped and had a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch at the first hut that we came across. At this point we were able to see the mountains ahead of us.

Mountains by Lauren Anderson After lunch, we began our trek to the base of the mountain. The scenery was totally unreal. Looking up at the mountain it looked impossible to even begin but that didn’t stop us. It was really difficult to get up the first part, just needed lots…and lots…and lots of leg power. Once we got to one of the peaks, we met up with our five other friends. They had already hiked Mt. Doom but they started the day earlier then we did. My friend and I decided to go with them rather then hike Mt. Doom in order to save our energy for the next days hike.

Blue Lakes
Photo with the beautiful Emerald Lakes

We began our trek up the next mountain next to us that was also very challenging, with a lot of loose rocks. However, once at the top it was absolutely breathtaking. The mountaintop looked over a massive red crater and it was astonishing.  At the very peak, we got an exquisite view of the emerald lakes. These thermal pools were probably the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Just vibrant blue lakes in a desert-like atmosphere.

Blue Lake by Lauren Anderson
The bright color is caused by volcanic minerals washing down from thermal areas

We finally finished our last stretch to the hut at which we were sleeping for the night, at about 5:30 pm. We went down to a stream nearby to wash our faces and bodies a bit. We did, however, make a bad mistake of not bringing sleeping bags with us, figuring the huts would provide them. In reality, they only had mattresses for us to sleep on.  Before we went to sleep we went out to look at the stars and I’ve never seen so many in my life! They covered the entire sky and it was amazing. Then we attempted to go to sleep, but I had the coldest sleep of my life with the whole no sleeping bag situation, a mistake I never made again on future hikes.


We woke up around 7 am to begin our next day. There was no huge mountain to climb this time but we hiked along side of Mt. Doom. This day was much shorter and we ended up getting in around 3:30 pm but then had to wait for the others. This was my first multi-day hiking trip in New Zealand and I could not have imagined a more incredible experience. My blisters did eventually heal but my memories of Tongariro will stay forever.

Danielle Silverman is a TEAN Alum and Global Ambassador at the University of Pittsburgh. She studied abroad with TEAN at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand