Steve and Mad's mini adventure travel blog

Whippet enjoying the vista of the Lower Crater Lake

Mount Ngauruhoe / Mount Doom (for nerds)

Mount Ruapehu Ski Lifts

Mount Ruapehu from Mount Ngauruhoe

The Taraniki Falls

The Emerald Lakes (Can't see why they are called that!)

The Red Crater (Another imaginative name!)

The View From Mount Ngauruhoe Towards Rotorua

From Wellington we went up to Tongariro National Park for a couple of days to do some walking. It's about a 4 hour drive and National Park has a population of 470 so we didn't hurry. It's where a lot of the Lord of the Rings was filmed, mainly the bits in Mordor, including Mount Doom. There are 3 active volcanoes in the area - Tongariro, Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom) and Ruapehu. Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world which is the first thing we found out upon arrival. According to the blurb THE walk to do is the Tongariro Crossing which is an all day job. It's only 17k but includes a climb of 1000 metres at the beginning which kind of makes it a little less appealing. The other thing that made it unappealing is that the bus leaves the motel at 7.30 am. Steve opted to do it but after some deliberation, Whippet & I decided to opt out and do the Tama Lake walk instead, which is also 17k but with a lot less climbing and also incorporates the Taraniki Falls. The lakes are very spectacular, formed in the craters of previous eruptions between Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe.

[Steve here] Being a little mad, I set out on the Tongariro Crossing which is considered to be the best one day walk in all of New Zealand. On the bus to start, I indulged in the a little nationality spotting. They were all there on the bus, the Germans with backpacks so large they must contain a complete field hospital and a flat packed helicopter in case the field hospital doesn't suffice, the Japanese with Hello Kitty bags and far from suitable shoes, and finally the Brits, young ones in jeans and thick cotton tops (very sensible) and the old ones in well worn boots with an array of walking poles. End of stereotypes!

The crossing walk is absolutely spectacular taking in all kinds of volcanic scenery. There are deep blue lakes, emerald lakes and deep red craters all along the route. On the first section of the walk, I was suddenly gripped by the desire to climb up Mount Ngauruhoe / Mount Doom. I'm not sure why perhaps it was to look for the ring that eventually thrown into it at the end of the interminable Lord of Rings so I could believe the trilogy was mercifully over! Anyway it was a 3 hour, 500m vertical detour up seemingly vertical scree slopes. The view from the top was abolsolutely fantastic, enhanced by steam pouring out of holes all over the summit. The air temperature was below freezing, so lunch was had sat in a steam emitting hole. It has to be said that the smell of sulphur didn't much enhance my cheese sarnies though. The Mount Doom detour did mean that the rest of the crossing was a little rushed, but spectacular none the less. Mount Doom and most of the surrounding area are less than 2,500 years old. In geological terms this is new born and so the surface still doesn't support any kind of plant life. It really did feel like walking on Mars at times. At the end of the walk, there's a car park with hundreds of trampers waiting for the their coaches. An ice cream van could have made an absolute killing!

After we all got back we went to the local pub which happily is used to ravenous, knackered people turning up and does a great line in cheap pub grub. Hoorah! Although I'm ashamed to report that we were all so knackered it was lights out just after 10.

The next day was Whippets last with us and he had to be on a train at 1.40 so we decided to spend the morning going up the ski lift on Mount Ruapehu (naturally there is a cafe at the top so that helped). There are 2 ski lifts and it takes about 20 minutes each way. The first lift seats 2 and is a pleasant feet dangling watch the world go by experience. The second one seats 4 and hurtles out the station at quite a cracking pace which was rather a surprise. Mount Ruapehu last erupted in 1995 & again in 1996, upsetting the ski season which seems to be the main beef about it. The landscape at the top is quite eerie as there is no vegetation at all, just rocks, rocks and more rocks. Anyway, we got down in time to deliver Whippet to the station. There is 1 train a day from Wellington to Auckland and the journey time is 12 hours. Luckily it stops at National Park for 45 minutes so the driver can have his lunch (!) so there wasn't much chance of us missing it. The trains here are terrible, there are hardly any services and when there are it takes so long to get anywhere it's almost not worth it. When the train arrived it was all of 3 carriages long!

Having seen Whippet off on his long journey to Rotherhole, we set of for Lake Taupo about 1.5 hours northwards.

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