Tongariro - Part Two
(back to Kaikoura)
Tuesday, March 28, 2006 (continued)
As I was leaving Wellington after the ferry ride, I really wasn't sure where I was headed. I needed to go north back towards Auckland because I had to catch my flight back to the states in a few days. So I headed north without an exact plan. I didn't really consciously plan to do the Tongariro Crossing a second time... it just kinda happened... next thing I knew I was settling down to sleep in my tent at Discovery Lodge... where I stayed for Tongariro - Part One.... and I was once again, booked for the bus in the morning to the Tongariro Crossing trailhead.
This is the night I finally saw the southern cross - a star formation that can only be seen in the southern hemisphere. I bought a postcard with a photo of the formation and finally got a clear night. The southern cross can be found on the New Zealand flag. (I've included an image of the New Zealand flag on the General Thoughts page.) I also tried to see if water really does go down the drain in the opposite direction while I was in New Zealand... AND when I was in Fiordlands National Park, I drove across the 45th parallel - there was a sign marking it. THAT was pretty neat too. I would've gotten a photo of the sign, but there was someone on my tail (as I described on the driving on the left page) and no good place to pull over...
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The weather was much better the second time I started out for the Tongariro Crossing. The first time I could barely see the next pole... the photo to the left has yellow arrows pointing to the next two poles off in the distance. I didn't even see this little ravine the first time, it was filled with fog - much less those two poles.
And to the right is a photo of Mount Ngauruhoe taken from the trail... this is Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. :-) I didn't see any of this view the first time either. This is the mountain that my friend from the first crossing tried to peak
Below is a photo of another stunning view looking back that I couldn't see the first time out.
From the very beginning I was glad I did the Tongariro Crossing the second time. After a month of all new experiences, it was nice to do something that was somewhat familiar to me. I knew the layout of the trail, what to expect, what to look for... and that felt good. In fact the last couple of days I could feel myself getting ready to go back to the states. The month timeframe was just right. Although, I could easily do another month in New Zealand some day - because there's still more I'd like to see - I was ready to be done after a month.
I particularly like this photo below of two hikers disappearing into the mist. There was still fog trapped in this valley but not nearly as much as there was the first time.
I did see these emerald pools in the photo below the first time, but I was too miserable to get my camera out and take a photo then. This time I was warm, dry and comfortable and my camera was at the ready. The yellow circle is of two guys sitting behind a rock having lunch. I wanted to highlight them so you could have an idea of scale - of how large the emerald pool was - and this was one of three pools! There was a smell of sulfur in this area.
This photo to the right shows my favorite part of the Tongariro Crossing - coming down from the peak and crossing this wide open valley. The yellow arrow indicates the peak of the Crossing... and then I followed the yellow line down through the ash along side the emerald pools by the green arrow. The purple arrow is Mount Ngauruhoe, and the red arrow is the red crater. The circles are around hikers to help give you a sense of scale - you can't even SEE hikers on the crossing, that's how far away it is. I ended up hiking with the guy circled in red - his name is Sean from New York and we had really nice trail conversation as we went along. He and his wife took a year off to travel around the world, and his wife didn't like to hike as much as he did. Sean thought I was nuts when I told him this was the second time I was doing the Crossing. :-)
This photo to the right almost the same view as above, except with fewer clouds. I really like the redness of the crater. I was expecting to see bubbling red liquid at the bottom of it, but it was filled with fog both times I hiked past it, so I never was able to see down into. Sean assured me there was no liquid - just the walls of the crater were that rich, red color. So I felt better when I saw this view. I guess that's why I just had to include this photo too.
Sometimes when I look at these photos I can't believe I did this... TWICE! But I'm so glad I did.
The Blue Lake was behind me when I took the two photos above. It's a huge, crystal clear lake. The photo to the left shows only half of Blue Lake... and the dot on the other side of the shore is a hiker, to give you a sense of scale.
After passing Blue Lake there's another lower, more gradual summit and then a gradual decent back down through a very pretty valley. The photo to the right is of one of the thermals in that valley. You can see some steam in the photo if you look for it. And the red color of the rocks is some kind of moss/lichen growing on them. All the sulfur in the area causes unusual life to be there. I don't know the guy in the photo, he was just standing there so I included him for scale.
This photo on the left is of me as we went through the rainforest at the end of the trail. And the photo below is Sean at the end of the trail as we sat waiting for our respective buses.
Below is a photo of Mount Ngauruhoe I took from the bus on the way back to Discovery Lodge... don't ask me how to pronounce it because I never did quite get it. Some of those Maori words were impossible to keep straight. In fact, the word Maori was difficult to remember how to pronounce - and the Maori don't like it if you mispronounce it. Sean gave me a trick though. He said he thinks of General Mao of China, and adds a "ree". It has worked for me.
Anyway, driving in this area was also particularly nice because of these volcanoes and flat valleys. In fact, the first time I drove in this area I often thought "the south island can't possibly be as pretty as the north island... and it was!
After finishing the Crossing, I got in my car and continued north with a vague idea of finding Kauri Trees (redwoods of New Zealand) before ending up in Auckland to catch my flight out. I heard there were some kauri trees on the Coromandel Peninsula so I headed that way in a general sense...
(on to Coromandel Peninsula)