Thursday, November 18, 2010

Volcano Country: Central North Island 17 November

 Time for Grace to take a road rrip (and a couple of days off school) with Grandmom and Granddad.  Destination: the Glow Worm Caves in Waitomo, the Kiwi House in Otorohanga, and stinking mud pools in Rotorua.

The drive took us up the middle of the North Island, or perhaps we should say through the center of Middle Earth, to the land of the volcanoes.  There are three active volcanoes in these parts, Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro.

Mount Ruapehu
The first as we drove north was Mount Ruapehu, 2,797 metres high, the volcano with the highest peak and the only one with glaciers.  It is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the most active in New Zealand.  The last significant eruptions were in 1995-1996.   Spectacular eruptions resulted in the cessation of air traffic over the North Island.  Smaller eruptions occurred in 2004 and 2006.  Ruapehu played  Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Amy is convinced that almost all of the scenery on the  North Island is reminiscent of Middle Earth, as you'll see in a moment.  For more on Lord to the Rings locations, click here or here.

 Mounts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe
As we continued on the drive north, Mount Ngauruhoe came into view. Mount Ngauruhoe, 2,287 metres, is the only one with a classic volcano cone shape, and can be seen at the right of Ruapehu in this picture.   Although Ngauruhoe has shown significant earthquake activity as late as 2008, it is basically dormant at present.  It was quite a sight, rising up  from the desert floor.  The desert is tundra -- not the sandy desert of the Gobi or Sahara. 
Mount Ngauruhoe rising from the desert floor

As we reached the southern end of Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, we cut west from Turangi to Taumaranui, crossing from the Desert Road (Route 1) to the King Country (Route 4).  The view back to the mountain ranges put the three volcanoes into perspective.  Mount Ruapehu is the snow covered peak on the right.  Mount Ngauruhoe doesn't have as much on its west side; it is the conical peak in the middle of the picture.  The longer set of peaks to the left (north)  is Mount Tongariro.  In reality, Mount Tongariro is a volcanic complex with at least twelve vents: Mount Ngauruhoe is technically not a separate mountain but a vent of Mount  Tongariro.  Nonetheless, people refer to these as three separate volcanoes.  They are all part of the Tongariro National Park.  For more information, including the Maori legends about the area, click here.

South-west end of Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo, the largest fresh water lake in Oceana, is the crater created by as supervolcanic eruption which occurred approximately 26,500 years ago.  It has some of the best trout fishing in the world.  The geothermal activity in the area includes geysers, steaming craters, boiling mud pools and some of the largest silica terraces in the world.  But more of that when we get to Rotorua!

Grace below look out point on pass between routes 1 and 3.

As we drove further northwest through the area known as the King Country to our destination, Waitomo, the scenery was striking, like something straight from the Hobbbit or Lord of the Rings.  It is impossible to do justice to the views unless you are a professional photographer, but we tried below.

On to Waitomo!

1 comment:

  1. Such fun reading this. Gary has great memories of trout fishing on Lake Taupo (and tagging along at the beginning of Melissa's honeymoon !)