Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tongariro Crossing with a little Huka Falls on the side

On January 4th, we ate oatmeal in our 7am shuttle en route to the beginning of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The Crossing is often referred to as New Zealand's most spectacular one-day tramp. It passes over the volcanic terrain of the multi-cratered active volcano Mt Tongariro. The walk is renowned for its barren yet beautiful volcanic landscape, unusual geological features, visible volcanic activity and views of the surrounding countryside below (thank you, Wikipedia).

The 19km hike is supposed to take 7-9 hours, but I'm proud to claim that it took us 5.5 hours, and that INCLUDES lunch & snack breaks as well as many many many photo (st)ops.

It started out as a rather flat walk with clear views of Mt Ruapehu (one of the world's most active volcanoes, and also home of New Zealand's two largest ski fields)...

..and Mt Ngauruhoe, aka Mt Doom from The Lord of the Rings- *ahem* FAMOUS MOUNTAIN!! This area was used for Mordor, the evil stronghold of Lord Sauron.

"My Precious!"

Lowell felt that it would be appropriate to mimic Gollum at the base of the mount. Creepy... but appropriate.

January 4th was the first nice day of the new year, so the Crossing was backlogged with people.

This point was the first snack stop (as well as an optimal opportunity to pose on rocks)...

It was at this stop that our mouths tasted the gloriousness that is dried kiwi fruit for the first time. Mmmmmm....

As we were hiking closer to and around Mt. Doom, oh so very many photo opportunities presented themselves. One second it was completely clear...

The next second it was covered in cloud (although the cloud moved so fast that I missed the HEAVY cloud coverage)...

Then it was clear again...

It's difficult (and I'll wager, impossible) to truly capture the beauty of this hike with pictures. The stunning scenery was vast and EVERYWHERE. An array of smells accompanied the hike, as well as temperatures and textures. It's an amazing journey through volcanic moonscape, steaming volcanic activity and colourful craters- its unlike anything we've ever seen.

I'm fairly certain the following pictures are in the appropriate order, but you must understand that we were constantly taking pictures ahead of, beside, as well as behind us. THERE'S JUST SO STINKIN MUCH BEAUTY!!

WHEW! 7.25kms down, 11.3 to go...

Emerald Lakes! They were lovely, and also quite inviting (although swimming was prohibited)...

Their vibrant colour is caused by minerals they stole from the surrounding rocks.

(This is basically the same shot as earlier except for the important addition of the tiny black sillhouetttes that are us!)

We have accumulated quite the collection of "Lowell jumping shots". He's just so dreeeeamy!

Scouting out the perfect "cushions" for lunch...

There was even snow on (a very small portion of) the trail. Just giving Julie Anne a tiny taste of what she was about to fly home to...

Poor Julie Anne had a little accident. She was in the midst of sharing with us how pleasant the path was, when a rock got in the way of her foot and she went for a tumble. She never did get all the dirt and volcanic ash cleaned out, so now she quite literally is part Kiwi (or at least part Mt. Doom)!

Ah, 5.5 hours later, we're ready for a good stretch and another snack...

We had to wait for an extra hour for a Swiss dude that was a fellow passenger on our shuttle. He had decided to do a side hike and apparently misunderstood what time the shuttle was departing. At least he was not hurt (although we kind of felt like hurting him while we were waiting...)

Before heading back to Auckland, we made a quick stop at Huka falls.

The Waikato River (which is normally 100m wide) is squeezed through a 15 metre wide gorge and over a 20m drop. Every second up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the gorge and shoots out over 8 metres beyond to create a breathtaking blueish/greenish pool.

OOOOooooo....

Ahhhhhhhhhh....

After "oooing" and "ahhhing" over the falls, we drove the 6 hours back to Auckland and plopped our exhausted little bums into bed.

Well folks, it is now time to say good-bye to Julie Anne as part of our Kiwi adventures. We were sad to see her go...

(Julie Anne is posing with a koru. Koru is the name that the Maori's gave to the "unfurling fern frond". The 'koru' shape symbolizes new life, growth, strength and peace.)

We miss our little sis like crazy, but we now eagerly anticipate the January 18th arrival of the always fun and entertaining... MARC & KYLIE!!!

7 comments :

Bloggy Mama said...

Wow, do you guys ever know how to have a good time. Loved those stories. The scenery is breath-taking in the photos, I can't even imagine actually being there!

marcandorkylie said...

lowell does look a little freaky in that picture.
oh, btw...
we leave TOMORROW!

Shelley said...

FANTASTIC pictures!!! I SOOOOOO wish i were there climbing that mountain. But instead, i'm here reading my sociology textbook. *sigh*

nora said...

hi there~ i was looking for information on working abroad and found you guys's blog! First of all, you guys have the best blog i've ever seen. And i love all those photos you post along with the captions.

so was wondering how did you guys find a job in NZ and if you could give me some tips and stuff.

I'm actually hoping to find something in the UK~ and go on a working holiday visa, is that what you guys got?

Any tips or anything would be great~

Lowell & Julie said...

Hi Nora!

Surely! send us your email address and we'll contact you ASAP:)

JulieAnne said...

Ok, lovely post...but I have to burst your "we are amazing bubble". Our little hike adventure started at 8:00 and finished at 2:30 = 6.5 hours.

Yay for more adventures with more family...I'm happy for you that marc and kylie are arriving soon!

Lowell & Julie said...

Math? What's that?!

Thanks, JAJ! Apparently math is taking a bit of a hit on this holiday...
:)