Mount Doom Tongariro to Taupo

We had an early start, made easier with radio on at breakfast. It was decidedly warm, a welcome change on previous stays in the national parks. The plan was one of the famous walks around the volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park in the centre of the North Island.

After nearly slipping over on black ice in the car park, the man at the Department of Conservation visitor centre talked us out of doing the 8 hour one-way Alpine Crossing that had forecast -14°C wind chill. In hindsight we should have ploughed on, these people always overstate the difficulty because of the idiots who try to do it in shorts and a t-shirt before being airlifted out with hypothermia. Anyway, he sent us on a slightly tamer (6hr return) tramp around some lakes to the foot of Mount Doom.

It’s not really called that, but the real Maori name is impossible to pronounce. It starred in The Lord of the Rings films, but on a sunny day doesn’t look all that foreboding! It’s pretty cool, a volcano that looks like volcanoes should look, how you drew them as a kid: symmetrical cone with a crater at the top.

The walk took us up through the snow line again, in fact over a lot of slippery icy path early on (Jo’s bruised bottom can attest to the lack of traction). The vegetation is very different here, with no trees once you get close to the edge of where the lava flows. So you can see for miles over gently rolling hills punctuated by the snow-capped volcanoes.

It was not a well-trodden path – entirely snow covered by a dump the previous night. There were only two sets of footprints ahead of us, one of which came from that rare occurrence of someone walking faster than us.

Much of the route was spent calculating escape routes should the volcano erupt. Should we try to outrun the lava and ballistic molten rocks, or try to take cover and wait it out? No clear answer that doesn’t end with us melting.

A good walking track and yet more different scenery from this crazy country.