Rotorua and Tongariro

October 28, 2009 - Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

After a very brief 2 hour tour of Auckland (avoided mostly due to the advice of other travellers) our New Zealand experience began in the town of Rotorua, located in one of the North Island's many volcanic hotspots. The town offers a number of opportunities to view geothermal areas however, operating on an extremely tight schedule that will probably be obvious from future blog entries, we opted for the most famous area - the Wai-O-Tapu 'Thermal Wonderland'. The trip involved a stop at a bubling mud pool before visiting the extremely regular Lady Nox geyser, which erupts at exactly 10:15 every day! Thinking that this was pretty cool we arrived only to find out that the staff cause the eruption by pouring soap into the geyser every day (which lowers the surface tension of the water below), but despite this minor dissapointment the geyser put on a spectacular display with an initial eruption reaching over 10 meters high. We then went on a walk around the 'Thermal Wonderland', an area of brightly coloured volcanic pools (different colours resulting from the varrying mineral content of the water) and craters releasing some extremely strong smelling sulphurous gases. The remainder of the day was spent in Rotorua, which at all times retains a sulphurous aroma that takes a bit of getting used to!

After spending just one full day in Rotorua (the maximum allowed by our schedule) we headed south to Tongariro National Park, to attempt the famous 'Tongariro Crossing' day walk. On the way we stopped off in a place called Taupo to have a go at jet boating - perhaps one of the more crazy sports invented by the Kiwis. Not wanting to miss out on anything we had opted for the most hard-core company which actually tackles white water rapids and has so far sunk 3 boats (with no injuries though)! We arrived for our trip (timed to coincide with the release of water from the local dam) and were loaded into a 500+ horse power, bright yeallow jet boat. We were then taken on a short 'warm-up' run upstream including some pretty high speed stuff and a couple of 180 degree spins before tackling the rapids. This was extremely good fun and our driver managed to get some serious air at times! After returning to dry land we continued our journey to Tongariro listening to horor stories about the need for crampons and ice axes - apparently they were experiencing some quite bad weather!

As it turns out though, we woke on the morning of our crossing attempt to beautiful weather and bright sunshine. We powered up the first climb to lose the other walkers and were some of the first to the south crater (Mordor - well looks like it anyway), sandwiched between the imposing Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom?) and Mt Tongariro. Well ahead of schedule we decided to climb the slightly smaller Mt Tongariro despite the thick covering of snow all the way up. One section required some snow scrambling but the majority was quite soft and good fun (expecially the descent where Mike attempted a 'Klingsman' football celebration). We reached Tongariro's second summit (only 6 meters lower than the first) when thick cloud closed in and we beat a rapid retreat worried by the risk of worsening weather. We then continued through the spectacular red crater half sliding our way down the ash deposits towards the emerald lakes. Apart from a few niche glacier crossings the final stages of the walk were less interesting, consisting of a never-ending descent to the pick up point.


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Pictures

Jet Boating
Jet Boating
Jet Boating
Jet Boating
 
 

2 Comments

Keith:
October 29, 2009
Great story - glad we're only hearing about the jet boat after the event though!
Jenny Leppard:
November 2, 2009
wow - some amazing photos! looking forward to a properly epic slideshow when you're back!! and the jet boating looks like soooooo much fun! jealous! xxx
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