MOVING MOUNTAINS

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It’s weird to think that our 7-month trip around New Zealand is almost coming to an end. I guess the cliché is true; time sure does fly when you’re having fun.

I have to admit I’m really anxious about going home (to the Netherlands). I thought this time away would help me figure out what I want to do with my life, but actually, I’m even more confused now than I was when I left. I have no idea where I’d want to live or what direction I should go in career-wise. One thing I have learned though is that I just have to trust that things will work out, and forcing any decisions isn’t going to do me any good. As the kiwi’s say, ‘she’ll be right’.

ANYWHO, enough with the mushy stuff. I’m not here to talk about what goes on in that weird brain of mine, but to tell you about our last multi-day road trip in New Zealand!

We have driven past/through Tongariro National Park 3 times now, and only one of those times we had a clear sky. However, this was when we were on our way to the south island, so the timing wasn’t right at all. We’ve been hemming and hawing over when to go back to Tongariro, because the weather in New Zealand is so unpredictable and we didn’t want to end up on top of a mountain in a downpour.

Last week the weather seemed to be on our side (although you can never –I repeat, NEVER– fully rely on New Zealand weather reports) so we decided to trust the weather-gods and headed off to Tongariro National Park.

As I have mentioned numerous times, we’re LOTR-nerds. So if there was one thing we wanted to get out of this Tongariro trip, it was to get a sick view of Mount Ngauruhoe (no dad, I didn’t make up this name either), also known as.. Mount Doom. *cue ominous music*

Before I start telling you about our adventures in this area, let me give you a little Tongariro 101. Tongariro, located in the central north island, is New Zealand’s oldest national park and has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 28 mixed natural and cultural world heritage sites. Tongariro is home to three active volcanoes: Mount Tongariro, Mount Ruapehu and Mount Ngauruhoe.

LEGEND OF TONGARIRO
According to Māori belief, mountains were once gods and warriors of great strength.

Tongariro was one of the seven mountains that stood next to each other around Lake Taupo (New Zealand’s largest lake). All these mountains were male, except for Pihanga. Pihanga was a huge babe, and all the other mountains had the hots for her. And what do warriors do when they get caught up in a massive love dilemma? You guessed it! They fight! The Warrior Mountains fought fiercely for the right to win Pihanga. Tongariro was the one who ended up winning Pihanga’s devotion and the right to stand next to her; he became the supreme leader of the land. The defeated mountains were given one night to move away from the couple. The next day they would be forever fixed to the place where they rested.

Ngaruhoe and Ruapehu moved south of Tongariro, Putauaki and Tauhara headed east. Taranaki was consumed by anger and gouged a great trail in the earth as he moved west. The trail he left behind was filled with tears cried for Pihanga, and is now known as the great Whanganui River.

THE MORE YOU KNOW!

We decided to do the Skyline Ridge Walk, which is a 2-hour return walk up Mount Ruapehu that can be done from the ‘Knoll Ridge Café’ (at 1600 metres it’s the highest café in New Zealand). This track climbs up Skyline Ridge to an altitude of 2300m. To get to Knoll Ridge Café we took the chairlifts from the Whakapapa ski area, which go between 9 am and 4 pm every day.

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The weather gods ended up staying on our side that day, and we got amazing views of Mount Doom, the blue lake and even Mount Taranaki. We were the first to get there and didn’t run into any other hikers on our way to the top, which was perfect. The view up there is absolutely unreal and looking down at Mount Doom and the pinnacles surrounding it made us feel like Sam & Frodo on their quest to destroy the ring (no I will not stop nerding out about this, ever).

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This was definitely one of our favorite adventures in New Zealand and we’re both so happy that we got the perfect day to do it. This country really never ceases to amaze.

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(These last photo’s were taken at Taranaki Falls in Tongariro National Park, which also is a 2 hour return walk)

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