Great Weather Too!!!
26.10.2010 23 °C
Friday October 22
We woke on our last morning in New Plymouth with the least amount of cloud in the sky we had seen yet. As we packed up Gwen and Claire noticed that they could see most of Mt Taranaki from a spot near the camp office. As we headed towards Raurimu near Tongaririo National Park, our next destination on our journey, we decided to use the Forgotten Highway because it would take us around Mt Taranaki and give us one last chance to see this mount free of cloud and rain. We were not disappointed. We had full on views of the mountain.
The Forgotten Highway that we were travelling on was built to take people to a new town that was going to be constructed. However, there was a problem with building the town and the desires of the Maori and it was decided that the town would not be created and further construction on the highway was stopped, hence the name. As we drove down this very curvy highway through rolling pastures, we drove through the only tunnel that was completed out of the five that were planned.
Oct 22-25 is labour-day weekend in New Zealand. We met the Cronsberry family at a bach just outside of Tongaririo National Park. This park is the home of Mt. Ruapehu, Mt. Tongariro, and Mt. Ngauruhoe, all volcanic. Besides being absolutely beautiful mounts, this areas claim to fame is that it is one of the locations in New Zealand where the movie The Lord of The Ring was filmed. Mt. Ngauruhoe is also known as Mt. Doom from the Lord of the Rings movies. At this time of the year these mounts are still snow covered providing a beautiful visual contrast between the white snow caps, the black lava rocks and the green of the plant life.
Mt. Ruapehu; Mount Doom !!!!!(Ngaruhoe)
Our first full day in Tongariro National Park saw us hiking 13km along two walks; the Taranaki Falls walk and the Silica Rapids walk. Once again we are struggling to find the words to adequately describe how beautiful this area is. If you can imagine a perfectly blue sky, a light cool breeze, the company of wonderful friends and an absolutely magnificent view of mountains to your left and right as you walk, then you are dreaming of hiking in Tongariro National Park. In this park we had our first opportunity to see lava rocks up close. As we looked at the distribution of these rocks all over the base of the mounts it was easy to imagine the power of the volcanoes when they erupted. After hiking hard all day we relaxed back at the bach reminiscing about the hikes and enjoying home made lasagna, and cinnamon buns (thank you Tim!!!)
Young Hikers; Gang at Taranaki Falls; Taranaki Falls, not near Mount Taranaki; Mount Ruapehu; Boardwalk with Mt Ngauruhoe in Background
We woke on Sunday to find, once again, a beautiful blue sky with hardly a cloud in sight. Eager to see more of Tongariro National Park, we headed to the Soda Springs hike, a 10km return hike at the base of Mt. Ngauruhoe, and the start of the famous Tongariro Crossing Hike, one of the 10 most famous hikes in New Zealand. As we hiked along we could imagine Frodo and Sam as they approached Mt. Doom to get rid of “the one ring that ruled them all”. We believe we saw the rock outcropping where Frodo and Sam resigned themselves to death after completing their task. As you can guess it was very cool for us all to see how things look in real life and how they are ‘doctored’ for a movie screen!
Lava Girl; Soda Springs; Tongariro National Park; Gang at Tongariro Crossing
After a picnic lunch we headed to the ski area at Mt. Ruapehu and took two sight seeing chair lifts to a chalet located close to the top of the mount. The benefit of this trip is that you get to sit back and take in the panoramic view of the park as well as the surrounding area. Once again, photographs cannot adequately capture the grand vista that we saw. They also do not capture the fun that we all had zooming up a chair lift that moves quite fast at first!!! We read that it was supposed to travel at 50km/h, a scary thought, but it wasn't quite that fast.
Girls at the Ski Resort; Guys at the Ski Resort; Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom)
After saying goodbye to our bach buddies, we headed to the town of Taupo. Lake Taupo is New Zealand’s largest lake and it is freshwater at that. The Top 10 we stayed at is very new and has great facilities. Camp kitchen with 6 sinks, tv and computer room, games room, pool that is heated by thermal pools in the park, jumping pillows, large playground and other things we did not have time to check out.
While staying at the Top 10 we visited the Aratiatia dam that lets out water about 3-4 times a day. The water generates about 15% of the electricity used by New Zealand as it fills up natural basins and creates rapids that would dump any kayaker. The dam is part of the Waikato River, New Zealand’s largest which runs 425km from Lake Taupo to the sea just south of Auckland.
After the dam we headed to Huka Falls. The name means “foam” in Maori and this is because the water coming over the short 9m drop mixes with a lot of air and creates a lot of white water. The water falls are the only exit for water from Lake Taupo though there are 11 rivers and creeks running into Lake Taupo. The falls are at the end of a small gorge that is 10m deep and 14m wide so it has a high speed as it passes through.
Taking advantage of the beautiful sunny day we lunched on the shores of Lake Taupo and then browsed through the stores in town. The day was topped off with a nice relaxing swim in the thermal pool back at the campground.
On Wednesday Oct.27 we are heading back to the Tauranga to spend a few days with the Cronsberry Family before we take a bit of a side trip to Fiji. Will fill you in on this wonder in about one week!