Monday, 26 March 2012

More of the Tongariro

18 March
We weren’t suffering as much as expected after the doing Tongariro but wanted to loosen up a bit, and as it was another lovely day we went up to Whakapapa (bear in mind that the Maori pronunciation of ‘wh’ is ‘f’) and did a short 2 hour walk from there. Whakapapa is the end of the road where you get a ski lift up to the slopes of Ruapehu, a big skiing resort and another location for the Lord of the Rings movie. It’s also the home of the famous Chateau Tongariro built in 1929, a rather grand hotel, chandeliers and all.

Looking one way towards the misty slopes of Mt Ngauruhoe . . .
. . . and the other way towards Mt Ruapehu

We set off on the Taranaki Falls walk which takes us over land between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ruapehu, heathland with lava flows. There are great views up to both mountains either side. A number of streams and rivers have cut their way through creating quite a varied landscape: a mixture of flat land with tussock grass, heather, manuka and hebes, then valleys with dense woods of mainly beech trees, nice and cool on a hot morning. The hebes are native to New Zealand and grow as large bushes here covered tiny white flowers. Early European settlers called many of the native NZ trees by their European counterparts and NZ black beech trees aren’t really like ours at all.

Crossing a bridge over the river

We follow the path eventually crossing the river and walking beside it till we get to the Taranaki Falls, where the river drops from a great height at the top of cliffs above us, down into a beautiful circular pool surrounded by large boulders. A good lunch spot. There are people right up above us just where the river drops over the edge of the cliff. The walk climbs from here up to the cliff top over the river and across more heathland back to the start.

The Taranaki Falls

We drive from Whakapapa down towards Tourangi where we stop for a soak in the thermal pools at Tokaanu. We start off in a private pool which is really deep and almost too hot, then move into the public pool which is empty so we can swim and soak in not quite such hot water. A lovely relaxing thing to do after a strenuous w/e. We decided it had to be a day of pampering, so went back to Whakapapa to the Chateau for a cream tea.

19 March
We‘re off back to Auckland today and the weather’s on the turn but we just have time for a 2 hour stroll around Lake Rotopounamu in a tiny outpost of the Tongariro National Park, which is on the way back towards Taupo. We walk through ancient forest with lots of large black beech trees and enormous old rimus with really flaky bark. One can’t help being reminded of the walking, talking trees in Lord of the Rings. The lake really lives up to its Maori name which means ‘Greenstone’. In this early grey light it’s the most beautiful deep grey-green colour.

From the shore of Lake Rotopounamu
Looking down on the beautiful symmetry of the tree fern

The path takes us along the beach in a couple of places and we realise it’s all made of pumice stone which floats on the lake. All very strange and we end up with pockets full of pumice stone to bring home. It’s very peaceful here with just a few ducks to keep us company and a few other birds hiding in the trees. The rain begins to fall gently as we get back to the car, but by the time we reach Taupo it’s chucking it down. We stop for lunch then continue the 4 hour drive back to Auckland.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely lovely pics as always! Love how you write Sue, is a natural talent for you!:o)