Tongariro

outh end of the North Island is a very hilly place where even the primary highways are just two-lane roads that defer to every curve and roll of the voluptuous topography. There are countless streams to cross on one-lane bridges and more scenic overlooks than we could count.

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After miles of driving though steep rolling pasturelands north of Wellington we were surprised by the snowy peaks of Mount Ruapehu creeping up behind the green hills.

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Zak and Kim came across some local sheep being herded by the hundreds under the backdrop of the mountain (see Zak’s awesome sheep video). The mountain is part of a national park where much of the Lord of The Rings trilogy was filmed. Soon we had a clear view of “Mount Doom” (or Mount Ngauruhoe).

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We spent the night in a campground next to a weird golf resort beneath Mt Ruapehu and resolved to visit Mt Doom with all the other vacationing Hobbits.

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We were four and we called ourselves The Fellowship of the Big Breakfast.

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The hot trail meandered through a terrible field of razor sharp rocks – newborns, geologically speaking –

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…with views of the Taranaki volcano to the west.

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Sulfurous streams stained the black ash and sulfury fumes spread on the wind.

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But the Fellowship was not shaken, in fact it made some of them hungry (K was already having Second Breakfast and planning for Elevenses). As we neared the volcano we could make out various huge river-like deposits of volcanic rock that had flowed down the mountain as recently as 1975.

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The deposits were bounded by levies that channelized the flow.

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The geologists among us were very excited by this nascent earthbuilding.

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After many hours and no battles we reached the high plateau at the base of the volcano.

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There was very little life in the harsh new land. The only thing growing was tussock grass and these glossy yellow flowers.

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We crossed the desolate plain…

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and eventually caught up with Zak & Kim, who were into their third course of a leisurely lunch and politely commented on how speedy we are.

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It could have been time to turn back but S was still longing for adventure.

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and so we pressed on to the ridge high above the Lunch Plain of Desolation.

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Soon we had the altitude over the slopes of Mt Doom…

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with good views of the summit and its wisps of volcanic steam.

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There was a great rift on the east side of the ridge where a lava tube erupted from the base of the mountain and minerals stained the slopes.

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And so it was that the Fellowship of the Big Breakfast came to dominate the alpine trail to the red crater of Mount Ngauruhoe and return to their un-burgled green van with blistered feet and empty water bottles and ziplocks.

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39°07.00’S 175°32.00’E 25-NOV-10 12:30 UTC

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One Response to “Tongariro”

  1. Dork: Second Over from Left to Right says:

    Great Pics Ken! Don’t stop…we need to see more!