I’m not going to write much for this one. I hope the pictures can do all the talking.
This walk is 19.4km long and takes you up to elevations of approx. 1800 meters and runs through the heart of the Tongoriro National Park. This Park is the oldest in New Zealand and the fourth eldest in the world. The Park lies almost central in the North Island.
Mount Tongoriro is an active volcano and is a vent for its elder brother Mount Raupheu, which is the tallest mountain on the island. This volcano erupted in 1996 and caused devastation to the immediate area. It also has a sibling named Mount Ngauruhoe aka ‘Mount Doom’ (from Lord of the Rings). The Walk itself cuts through the north western side of the park and takes you through the central split between Tongoriro and Ngauruhoe.
It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen and the best walk I’ve done by far.
We set off around 7pm to get to the northern car park which names begins with a ‘K’ but is too long for me to remember. I couldn’t even pronounce it when I was told it. The car park was full when we got there so we did what everyone else was doing and parked on the road outside. From their we jumped an already pre-booked taxi which took you around to the west side of the National Park to a car park beginning with ‘M’. From here you pretty much just set off and head back to the ‘K’ car park.
The local taxi driver who was a Mauri fellow, gave us a nice blessing before we set off (he must have known I was travelling with Milly) and we made our way along the pilgrimage.
The weather was wonderful and from the very start the scenes were simply stunning in every sense. It was very hard not to stumble over the rocky terrain when your eyes were constantly focussed on the imperious landscape.
It was a fair drag upto the foot (which was actually more like the shoulder) of Ngauruhoe – but it was well worth it. You can chose to summit the mountain from there and peer into its crater, however with 13km still more to trek and only scree and ash to walk up and down, we decided against it. To be honest, as much as I would have loved it, the view from just below was impressive enough. All the stone and rock in the volcano’s vicinity was scorched red and you cannot help but think of the final scenes from LOTR’s and of how Frodo and Sam managed to somehow climb the beast. You can easily see why they used it for the film; its the very epitome of what you’d expect a daunting, overpowering volcano to look like, with its red-rock oozing from its summit.
Just past the summit stop is the Red Crater, a barren part of land simply named by its inhabitant rocks which are coloured as such due to furious eruptions of many years’ past. The massive crack down the centre of it like a bottomless pit and ironically looked like something not too distant from a bottom. The only thing at the bottom of the great hole is a magma chamber, buried deep, deep beneath the Earth’s surface and far too hot for any probe or implement.
Just past this impressive bit of earth, forged by earthquake and volcanic eruption, is the Emerland Lake. A smallish lake of distinct colour due to the sulphuric deposits nearby. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to swim in the lake. Milly already had most of her kit off before I had to tell her that skinny dipping was strictly prohibited. Getting down to it was a mission in itself, Milly cleverly adopted the “skiing” style which had her gliding swiftly past other less adventurous types.
We marched on past here (we already had our sights set on smashing the estimated time of 6-8 hours) and saw one of the vents on Mount Tongoriro bellowing out smoke. The taxi driver had mentioned to us that this has been growing since November and they have to monitor the volcano constantly to ensure its safe to cross due to the likelihood of an magma rock fire show.
Coming out of the North side of the trek you can see an impressive show of force from Tongoriro; a previous lava spill has drooled down its eastern flank and crushed everything beneath it. I hope you can see from the picture where the darker land lies. Its an impressive sight to behold and you can only think of what it much have been like to have seen it first hand. We were impressed with our efforts of making it across in five hours but were disappointed in not distroying Milly’s new Kiwi ring (as Frodo did The Ring).