Hiking through volcanoes.

Heading south from Lake Taupo, we head towards Tongariro National Park, the oldest national park in New Zealand, packed with volcanic features.

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The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a famous hike, heralded as the best one-day hike in New Zealand (and some would say it ranks among the top ten in the world). Kiwis call hiking ‘tramping’, however, so don’t get too confused at the info centres.

After a few near collisions on the highway and two missed turns, we pulled into a post office and got directions to the Whakapapa Village where you depart for the hikes. I am SO impressed: the men went and asked for directions.

We finally made it to Whakapapa Village and checked out the hikes we could go on. As it is the middle of winter, you can’t do the whole Alpine Crossing without a guide: so we settled on the roundtrip hike to Taranaki Falls.

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The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the waterfall situated around the half-way point. Tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, Taranaki Falls plunge into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are spectacular views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream. – Te Papa Atawhai Department of Conservation

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We set off in the cold with our gloves and ski jackets, through a damp, foggy morning and set out on the track. About five minutes in, the clouds cleared, the sun came out, and we could see Mount Ruapehu, one of the world’s most active volcanoes (and the shooting location of Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings) off in the distance.

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We hiked over streams, through rainforests, walking over icy rivers, bridges and jumped rocks.

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We made it to the waterfall and climbed down the rocks to the base of the stream. I climbed around the side and behind it, looking out from behind one of the most impressive waterfalls in New Zealand.

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We set up to the side of the stream and ate our picnic lunch in the light spray of the falls.

On the way back, Namita wanted a photo of the group amongst the trees. A hilarious succession of events which involved the boys ignoring her and then Peter asking for a photo and Eric quickly snapping the picture led to my favourite photograph of the whole trip:

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Sorry Namita, but it was worth it for that photo….

There is nothing like being outdoors with your friends, hiking one of the most scenic walks in the world in the crisp air and mild sun. Bliss!

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