The Tongariro Crossing

In the center of the North Island there is a landscape that could well be from a different planet: Rugged volcanic mountains reach high in the sky and are surrounded by a flat desert. The dominant colors are red, brown and black. And in the middle of it all lie a few lakes, improbable in color, their turquoise water presenting a startling contrast to the surrounding rocks.

Volcanic landscape

When I first arrived in the area the mountain was hidden underneath an ominous pile of dark clouds. So this was where I was headed to? The next day did not look much more promising to me (with its misty veils of rain in the air) but a local assured me it would be fine.

Which proved to be an understatement: After a dismal ascent through the clouds I reached the pass where the actual hike with the views started – and all the clouds were gone!

Volcanic desert

Three turquoise lakes

I did the spectacular Tongariro Crossing (which is part of a 3-day “Great Walk”) and decided to also scale the mountain that had dominated my view throughout the hike: Mount Ngaruhoe, or as people more often refer to it; Mount Doom (it served as inspiration for the center of Mordor in the Lord of the Rings sequel).

Mt Ngaruhoe

Its sides were steep and covered in some kind of ashy rubble, but I quickly figured out the proper technique to conquer this unstable slope, and was at the top after only about 30 minutes of effort. And again I was above the clouds (which had reappeared and risen over the course of the day)!

View from Mt Ngaruhoe

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