We enjoyed our Glow worm cave, but now we needed to get hiking!
Tongariro National Park was the 4th National Park established in the world, and has three active volcanos – Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro. We left a bit later than we anticipated, and had to drive the 45 minutes to the National Park entrance. We went to the visitor center first to see what hikes they recommended. The weather was a bit cold, and cloudy, so we weren’t sure if the hike to the volcano Mount Ruapehu would be worth it. The gentleman showed us live footage of the volcano, and said the cloud coverage was high enough you can still get views. We immediately hopped in the car and made our way for the volcano. Once we got there, we bought tickets for the ski lift to take us up half way. The tickets cost $35 NZD each (about $25 USD) and were well worth it. If you decide to hike up, the trail you take is a zig zag road up the hill with nothing really interesting to see. Once we got to the top of the lift, the employee told us due to weather we couldn’t climb to the crater, but can go to the ridge line which was just as pretty. There really isn’t a trail, but instead, markers you follow. Hiking on volcanic rock proved to be quite tricky. On an incline you would take 3 steps forward to find yourself slipping back another 2 steps. Your best bet is to walk on a heavily treaded path, but even that we found ourselves slipping going up. It took us about 90 minutes to reach the top of the ridge line, and we decided to just keep going. The crater was closed due to weather and we quickly learned why – it started snowing the further up the volcano we went. At some points the cloud was so dense we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead of us. We stopped, took a photo and headed back down. The weather kept getting worse and worse, so we decided it was time to get back to the lift. As frustrating as the climb up was, the trek down was equally challenging. Both Steve and I fell numerous times. I would try and use the heels of my feet to “ride” down the hill – fun at first till one foot got ahead of the other and I almost did the splits. We always joke to each other on each hike – going up is hard on the heart, and going down is hard on the joints, but in this case, ouch, everything hurt. From sore knees to a bruised bum – we looked pretty bad after.
Once we got back down, the weather was a little bit better, and we weren’t ready to call it a day. We decided to do Tawhai Falls hike. This waterfall is also from Lord of the Rings – maybe you can tell from the photos? The hike was a short, flat walk, but worth it. The best part was the pool at the bottom of the falls.
We drove back to our campsite area and decided to stop at the Makatote Viaduct, which is a railroad bridge. This bridge takes the North Island Main Trunk railway across the Makatote River and at the time of its completion in 1908, was the tallest viaduct in New Zealand (now it is 3rd).
Before returning to the campsite we had read about another waterfall, Mangawhero Falls, near our campsite and decided to check it out. Unfortunately the waterfalls were a bit empty and could hardly be seen from the lookout. We went back to camp, kept our eyes out for Kiwis, and called it a night.
Stay tuned – we make our way to the South Island!