On the slopes of Mount Doom

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Labour day bank holiday weekend rolled round, so Rick and I set off exploring again, this time to New Zealand's biggest lake, Taupo. The lake is the biggest in New Zealand- apparently large enough to fit the whole of Singapore into (if you can find someone big enough to carry Singapore). It is also the crater of a volcano, whose last eruption two thousand years ago was visible in Europe and put Vesuvius to shame.

We broke the journey by stopping at Orakei Korako, to visit the hidden valley. We reached the valley on a little boat, which delivered us into a multicoloured landscape of bubbling pools and mineral deposits. The views across the valley were lovely. We wound our way through the bush and down into the gaping mouth of a cave. At the bottom of the cave was a reflective pool, which is said to grant wishes.

We spent the night in Taupo, and were up bright and early the next day to walk the Tongiraro crossing. The elements were on our side after days of rain and snow which had left a cover of snow over the trail. The walk started with a stiff climb which took us up to the saddle between two volcanic peaks, Mount Ngauruhoe, which dominated the landscape, and Mount Tongiraro. Mount Tongiraro had a starring role in the Lord of the Rings, where it played the part of Mount Doom.

The tramp was beautiful. The mountains were snowcapped enough to meet my snowy mountain expectations, although the chilly white covering did mask alot of the mountain's trademark colours. In places, the heat from the ground melted the snow, revealing rainbow mountainsides. We ate lunch on the edge of one of Tongiraro's craters, where the ground felt warm- a toasty place for a picnic! The view as stunning; we could see the mountain peak reflected in the blue lake, and then descended a slippery gravelly slope to the jewel-bright emerald lakes. The trail descended further and took us into the bush and past hot springs, which flowed into a steamy stream. The pools themselves were out of bounds, but the stream was a popular site with trampers soaking tired feet. we stayed out of the water until we got back to Taupo, where we soaked in a private hot pool and treated our stiff legs to a massage.
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