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Robin John’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 12 Oct 2011

Location: National Park Village, New Zealand

MapIn Tongariro National Park
For the past two days I have been in National Park Village for Tongariro National Park. This Park includes three volcanoes, Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu, the latter two of which are still active, with Ruapehu having an extended series of eruptions through 1995/96. The three peaks were in land belonging to the local Maori tribe and they have the status of sacred mountains to the Maori. They feature in many Maori legends concerning the origins of their country. In 1887, the Maori chief, in a far-sighted decision, gifted the land to the New Zealand Government to ensure its protection and continuing accessibility. The mountains were the basis of the first ever New Zealand National Park (and only the fourth in the world) and today have World Heritage Site status.
There are many great tramps in the Park and my aim was to tackle the Tongariro Crossing, described as 'the best one-day walk in New Zealand'. It is a high level track crossing a saddle between Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. However, this walk, which ascends to 1900m and is still covered in snow, is only feasible in good weather, and this week has seen heavy rain and low cloud. So it was no-go for the Crossing this week. Instead I was able to complete a lower level walk during a dryer spell to Tama Lakes, which are in the area between Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. It was a very enjoyable walk, affording views of the lower slopes of both mountains, the peaks being immersed in cloud, These are the two mountains which I saw originally from the east on my drive down to Wellington (see 'Beautiful Mountains' photos).
Tongariro is also a very popular ski area, with ski slopes, chair lifts, etc, on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. Completely out of character with the area, the magnificent Chateau Tongariro was built in the 1920's after the sport was introduced to New Zealand in the early part of the 20th century.
So, with no prospect of good weather here for the rest of the week, tomorrow I will head back to Auckland for some final sight-seeing and in time for the RWC semi-final Wales v France. It's an exciting prospect - I can't wait!