16.01.2011 - 17.01.2011 30 °C
Whilst in the Taupo 'i-Site' (NZ has a fantastic network of information centres which can help in almost every way) I saw a leaflet for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, reportedly the best one day hike - or 'tramp', as they call it - in New Zealand. Of course, I decided to do it on the spot! The trek is one way so I used a shuttle service which took me from Taupo (at 6.20am!) into the National Park, to the beginning of the trail and picked my up from the finish.
At many points along the track there were boards warning about the dangers of being on active volcanoes.
It was pretty hard going and there was no shade for most of the walk, but the views were magnificent. (On the photo above, in the very distance, you can just about see Mt. Taranaki - near New Plymouth in the far west - on the horizon. Have a look on a map at the distances to get an idea of the scale of the view!)
Once again I'm having difficulty uploading videos...
I've added just one more to YouTube called: Taupo and the Tongariro National Park - Soda Springs and Mt. Ngauruhoe
(My YouTube account can be reached at:
Find the 'Videos' section - it should be there.
If it's not there when you look, try again in a couple of hours - it may still be formatting.)
Climbing up the slopes of Mount Ngauruhoe (the almost perfect conical volcano - one of NZ's most active and explosive - otherwise known as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings) the path crossed lava flows, old and new, and there was evidence of volcanic activity everywhere. This is actually a parasitic vent of Mt. Tongariro and and only 7500 years old.
At the highest point of the trek, near the summit of Mt. Tongariro, was Red Crater (so called because of the minerals colouring the rock). A very prominent dike - of the geological variety - formed as magma forced its way up through the ground from the chamber underneath the main volcano.
The way down from the ridge was extremely steep and the slope comprised mainly of dust, ash and small volcanic fragments meaning the descent required sliding, almost like skiing, down the mountainside.
At one point on the trail you pass Emerald Lakes - icy cold and located at the bottom of Central Crater. Again, the colour of the water is caused by the abundance of minerals in the area.
Red Crater and Ngauruhoe.
The bottom of some of the craters looked like the surface of another planet. That's the track on the right hand side.
Lake Taupo (not the nearest lake but the light blue in the far distance) - NZ's largest lake.
Towards the end of the walk the path re-aquainted itself with vegetation and life. Then, suddenly, I found myself in a rainforest with lush plants, trees and beautiful birdcall - a total contrast with the dry, barren, lunar landscape surrounding me earlier. No photos unfortunately as I had to rush (and, at times, run) through the last few kms to catch the shuttle bus which returned me to Taupo. I think I'd spent too long admiring the view earlier.