Into Mordor - There and back again
It was a wet, foggy, miserable day in National Park, so what better than watching all three Lord of the Rings in the comfort of the National Park Hostels Lounge? If we could see outside the window we would have seen the towering presence of Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom across the fields. As we watched Lord of the Rings (LOTR) we prided ourselves that we had seen a lot of this landscape in the film, from snowy topped mountains to waterfalls in forests; a lot of the scenery is classic New Zealand scenery. All I needed for our epic journey on Friday is a good looking blonde haired elf, a short ginger dwarf, an old grey haired man and a couple of very small people. Oh and not to forgot a Ranger who mysteriously is the real leader of men on earth. Excellent.
We set off first thing in the morning (7am!) to a brighter day. We started quite high up; above the low cloud level anyway! We first skirted round the infamous Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom!) looking angry and forbidding, red dust and jet black scree in a perfect cone. We trudged over marsh (fortunately with no dead things with glowing eys to lead us to our doom) then up a very very steep rock climb (Frodo and Sam surely had blisters by the end?) and to a stunning lookout over the mountain. As we looked into the West (no not elf ships!) we saw Mt Taranaki on the horizon peeping out through the clouds.
We carried on, our mission to catch the 3pm bus at the other end; through craters, volcanic rock, scree sloped mountains. We had beautiful views of "Orc country" no wonder than Peter Jackson chose this landscape for Mordor. Our highest point was "Red Crater" a stunning view of a massive red rock crater, before the journey down. This wasn't as easy as expected, over a kilometre of rough, slippery grey scree or gravel. No wonder Boromir was so adamant that he wasn't going anywhere near the place. After pretty much sliding down, praying that we weren't going to break anything we got to a look out point over the Emerald Lakes.
The Emerald lakes, are, exactly how they sound, 3 bright turquiose lakes at the bottom of the mountain. They were pretty impressive at the top, looking like little puddles but closer inspection found them eeriley still....as if some monster with tentacles was biding its time before snatching small hobbit sized creatures.....hmmmm. We braved it and sat down near the edge for a well earned scroggin snack.
Off again, across a vast crater guided by white poles the Tongariro Crossing continues over Central Crater to Blue Lake. Blue Lake (an old volcanic vent) is also known as Te Wai-whakaata-o-te-Rangihiroa (Rangihiroaâ€™s Mirror). Quite a mouthful. We were on the way down now towards Ketetahi Hut. The walk to the hut had magnificent views across to Lake Taupo (at least 100km away) and what felt like half of Middle Earth...sorry New Zealand. It might well could have been, there was no houses, settlements or any sign of human interference for as far as the eye could see, and it was a long way.
After refreshing ourselves at the Hut (but no lambas bread for us) we carried on down, through alpine scrub and further to dense rainforest with waterfalls and bubbling streams. We arrived for the bus 1 minute too late, the bus had gone, our mission seemingly failed. However there was a glipse of good fortune (Elvish magic me thinks) there was also a bus a 4.15. Phew! What an adventure!