Feilding Herald : January 8th 2015
18 THURSDAY, JANUARY 8, 2015 Rare beauty forged amid a fury of fire The North Island’s extraordinary landscapes are constantly transforming, writes Andrew Bain. The Tongariro Crossing is regularly called the best day walk in New Zealand, but with big claims come big crowds. At the height of summer, up to 1000 people file across the 19-kilometre trail every day, passing between two volcanoes and witnessing a spectacle of steaming craters and neon-bright lakes. However, to walk the Tongariro Crossing is to experience only a small portion of the extraordinary volcanic landscape of Tongariro National Park. In 1887 the Ngati Tuwharetoa land was named our first national park and only the fourth in the world. If the crossing is a condensed book, the 43km Tongariro Northern Circuit is a novel. One of New Zealand’s nine listed Great Walks, the circuit loops around Mt Ngauruhoe, the most striking of the North Island volcanoes. For most walkers it’s a three to four-day hike, taking in dramatic and vibrant volcanic scenes, including those along the Tongariro Crossing. Walk the Tongariro Northern Cir- cuit and you are likely to be among dozens of walkers, rather than hundreds. I have come to the park with Adrift, a local guiding company with a concession to hike the circuit and explore beyond the trail. In the next couple of days we will effectively complete the Northern Circuit, while walking for a large part off the circuit. One of the most exciting aspects of hiking in Tongariro National Park is that you are walking through a dynamic landscape. New craters open, land shifts and rocks rain from above. As recently as August 2012, Te Maari (a crater near the trail) erupted twice, spewing ash and rock kilometres into the sky. Tom Green, my guide, was just a couple of kilometres from the crater, guiding a group of walkers, at the time of the second eruption. ‘‘The whole ground that day just went wallop, ‘‘ he says. ‘‘With all the eruptions, there’s just so much more to see there now. It’s changed big time.’’ We begin walking from Whakapapa, at the foot of the vol- canoes, hiking through thick beech forest that seems almost out of place in the otherwise harsh, barren landscape. Taranaki Falls bursts through a break in a line of lava cliffs, tumbling into the forest. The trail follows ancient lava flows as it funnels between Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu. The latter glows in full sun, while the former is clogged with cloud. The ground is a carpet of pink heather, introduced by early English settlers to create a grouse moor. ‘‘There’s a bit of a rule in the park,’’ says Green. ‘‘If it’s got colour, it’s not native.’’ Two hours from Whakapapa we turn off the main trail and begin the climb to the Tama Lakes. As blazingly vivid as any of the ➤TRIP NOTES ❚ Adrift offers guided three-day hikes on the Tongariro Northern Circuit for $950, departing from National Park Village. See adrift.co.nz. ❚ A DOC permit is required if hiking the Northern Circuit independently. Bookings are open for summer. See doc.govt.nz/ tongariro northerncircuit. lakes along the Tongariro Crossing, the Tama Lakes are pooled inside a line of impact craters, where boulders from the volcanoes crashed to earth like meteorites. For most walkers on the Northern CONTINUED Page 19 Dramatic: Sunset at Mt Ngauruhoe, the most striking of the North Island’s volcanoes. TRAVEL The Bayleys Coast to Coast country team are looking forward to working with you in 2015. Utilise the experience, and enthusiasm of a team that is BIG on results! Feilding 06 323 0333 Palmerston North 06 357 4989 Wanganui 06 348 0573 COAST TO COAST LTD, BAYLEYS, LICENSED UNDER THE REAACT 2008 HOT DEALS ON DVD PLAYERS, RECORDERS, REFRIGERATION, WASHERS, DRYERS, MICROWAVE OVENS, TELEVISION, AUDIO AND SMALL APPIANCES. Make this year YOUR YEAR!
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