December 07, 2005

Tongariro National Park

Walked 17 kms across Tongariro Crossing, possibly NZ's best 1 day trek. Started off in a tshirt and sunshine with some threatening clouds. Passed piles of black pumice rock in interesting formations. Some covered with flourescent orange mosses which made me believe that colour is my main influence. It's so basic yet stands out and best describes everything I see. Climbed up the steep, rocky slope between Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe. That's when the clouds turned to rain and the path turned to mud.

The fog looked very mystical, fading with each layer of rock and disappearing slightly to give us quick glimpses of what lay beyond. The second large accent gave me shivers from the harder winds and cold rain. Waited a few minutes and had a part in the clouds to see the enormous volcano that was looming above without us knowing. This is Mt. Ngauruhoe, also known as Mt. Doom! A very huge, dark volcano, perfect shape, snow capped and just BIG. The peak where we stood looked down into bright depths of red crator. Although, we could only see about 10 meters ahead and then total whiteness. A bit dissappointing but too cold to linger, slid rollerblade-style down the deep, black, sandy slope toward the Emerald Lakes.

The passing clouds gave way to magnificently green-blue pools below, unbelievable, especially under a gray sky. Walking forward but continually looking back, the sky began to clear and we could see the people still up top admiring a great view of Red Crater. Too bad for us, but already falling behind, had a quick stop sliding down a patch of snow, got a couple shots of a bit of red from afar and zig-zaged down through the tussock grasses towards the alpine forest. The grass is the only native grass of NZ, (the green stuff only came with the cattle) and it waves in soft clumps of green-gold-orange-yellow strands. I should have rolled in it, probably would have made the decent faster! To a great relief and achy joints, finally finished the walk after 7 hours, 20 minutes. P

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