Waterfalls, snow and a game of hide and seek
First off apologies for the crappy blog title but we’ve now reached the point where our joint artistic well has all but dried up and it has been a long time since its rained. Secondly as you may have gathered this title concerns the legendary Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. Being slightly crazy LOTR fans (Rach especially, something to do with Hobbit fetishes) we’d agreed that if we were in the vicinity of any filming locations we would stop off and have a bit of a squizz.
So being at Lake Taupo it meant that we were next to the Tongariro National Park which held the locations of Mount Doom and Mordor. They were very easy to get to from a central village called Whakapapa, which is just a short drive off a major highway. We’d planned to walk to a beautiful feature we’d found in one of our many guidebooks called the Emerald Lakes, a four hour walk that would take us across the bottom slopes of Mount Doom. Its actual name is Ngauruhoe but we’re going to refer to it as Mt. Doom throughout the rest of the blog, why, because we can! There was however the small issue of several million tonnes of water in frozen form blocking our way and the kind lady at the visitor centre told us that unless we had crampons and ice picks to attempt the crossing we’d more than likely be getting a lift back home with the mountain rescue. Luckily as it is such a popular place there are loads of walks to do and she recommended some of the shorter routes. There was one that caught our attention in particular that led to some spectacular waterfalls and so after a quick change of clothes and shoes (jandals* not being entirely appropriate) we were off.
The walk was brilliant, brief moments of embarrassment when we met other travellers due to Rach’s insistence that we dress as Hobbits along the way aside, and the views of the mountains were spectacular. There was however some confusion on our part as to which mountain was actually Mt. Doom as it could have been one of two mountains in the range and the crappy tourist info map didn’t really clear the matter up. Rach wanting to pose in front of Mt. Doom managed on more than one occasion to actually be snapped in front of Mt. Ruapehu. It wasn’t until much later in the day that this mistake was actually rectified. The arrival of the waterfall in our path more than pushed any thoughts of Mt. Doom from our minds however. It was a proper waterfall and it even had the hollow behind it. So with child like glee we took it in turns to run around the back of the waterfall and hide behind the cascading water. We got absolutely drenched in the process and had it not been for the freezing temperature of the water we would have gone in for a dip.
Instead we carried on up the path to the top of the waterfall had a bit of peer out over the edge before wending our way back to Whakapapa. From there we set out up to the nearby ski fields on Mt. Ruapehu to have lunch at the film location for Mordor, but it didn’t look very Mordor like as it was still covered in snow and we weren’t really too sure what we were looking for. We just pointed our camera in the general direction and hoped for the best! Lunch was amazing with the beautiful snowy panoramas unfolding from our little campervan windows.
After lunch we still had a little bit of energy left in us so we decided to do one more short walk on our way out of the National Park that the lady from the info centre had said was also a filming location for LOTR (Henneth Annûn?). Tawahi Falls were just a short walk away from the road and although not as spectacular as the Taranaki Falls still impressive in its own right. We managed to climb around the side of this fall and again get soaked in process still not having learnt our lesson from earlier on in the day. By this point the sun was starting to set so we waved our goodbyes to Mount Doom and we headed off to our next destination and luckily found a free campsite along the way to Palmerston North. No more picnic areas for us!
Rex’s Rules of the Road
- *Jandals – otherwise known as flip-flops, thongs, havis, sandals, take your pick. New Zealanders call them jandles as an abbreviation of Jesus sandals.
- There are loads of mountain walks in the Tongario National Parks, but before you go check with the local info office; some you need guides for, some you need previous Alpine experience and some will be simply impassable due to recent volcanic eruptions!
- Rach has done a review of the Mt Ruapehu area.