Thursday, 24 January 2013

New Zealand Adventure - Tongariro National Park

We have spent the last 2 days tramping in Tongariro National Park. To get there from Waitomo we drove past some amazing scenery.

The national park is the home to several active volcanoes including Mount Doom (aka Mt. Ngauruhoe) of Lord Of The Rings fame. We stayed in Whakapapa village just below the volcano Mt. Ruapehu. We were very excited to discover at the visitors centre that both Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Tongariro were at alert level 1 meaning that there is currently greater than normal activity in the volcano. I was less excited when I found out we were staying directly on the lahar flow path. There are emergency evacuation posters up everywhere. The children are still too young to manage a full day walk so we chose several shorter tracks. Firstly we took the chair lifts part way up Mt Ruapehu to the snow line (and closer to the eruption crater).

Dad and L on the chairlift

Mt. Ngauruhoe and Mt. Tongariro seen from Mt Ruapehu

After tea and cake at the cafe on the top we went back down to the valley for the 6km Taranaki Falls loop track. This lead across the volcanic plain with great views of the volcanoes. The path continued into forest and scrub land. The dwarf trees looked just like a fairy landscape. The falls themselves were pretty impressive; cascading down over an old lava flow. Then it was time for some rock spotting and geology lessons on the way back to the village.

Mt. Ngauruhoe - Mount  Doom

Touching lava

The next morning we took the short nature walk outside the visitors centre to find out more about plants in the mountains.

Next we were off to see Tawhai Falls, a 20 minute hike through the volcanic plain.

Our last walk around Whakapapa was the short Mounds Walk which took us over avalanche debris from a previous eruption.

Mt. Ruapehu from the mounds walk - we're standing in the path of avalanches and lahars

We drive a few kilometres around the volcanoes from Whakapapa to Ohakune. Here we went on the Mangawhero Forest Walk. The forest here is spectacular. There are huge tall trees surrounded by hundreds of ferns of all different types. Some trees support a huge community of other life including vines, ferns, lichens and mosses. The forest is also full of tree ferns, shrubs and wild flowers. It seemed very ancient and magical, the camera seemed unable to capture a true likeness.

Large tree supports lots of other plants

See sign below

It was then a long drive down to the nations capital, Wellington, for the next stage of our adventure.......

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