Billed as one of New Zealand’s best day hikes, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing winds through a national park best known as Peter Jackson’s Mordor. Could you turn down a chance to follow in Frodo’s footsteps?

I can’t remember how I met tall, lanky Yorkshire Joe. Was he alongside me at the Lake Taupo stop before dawn, waiting for the transfer bus to Tongariro National Park? Did he sit next to me? Did we laugh together when Kiwi Mike, the bus guide, warned us irreverently to be “wary of the Ngauruhoe volcano ‘cos it’s an open anus with the smelliest farts in the Pacific”?

Whatever—without a word being exchanged, here we are, walkmates on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Billed as the best one-day hike in New Zealand, this 19-kilometer trail bisects the North Island’s central volcanic plateau reaching a summit of 1,886 meters.