On Friday evening, eight of us piled into a rented mini van and headed towards Tongariro National Park. After getting slightly turned around in Hamilton and adding four extra hours to our trip, we arrived at The Crossing Backpackers hostel around 1:30 a.m.
We woke up to a cold, frosty morning, unlike the weather we're accustomed to in Auckland, and hit the road by 8 o'clock. We drove a few minutes to Whakapapa (The "Wh" in Maori language makes the "F" sound so we obviously enjoyed the pronunciation), the main town in the are. There, we dropped off a couple to ski Mount Rupehu, but the pricey costs, crowded slopes and mediocre conditions turned me off of the idea.
Instead, the rest of the group set off for a day tramp through the National Park. The scenery that surrounded us was that used to represent the Kingdom of Mordor in Lord of the Rings. And as we walked, the view of the snow-capped Mount Ngauruhoe (Mount Doom in the LOTR trilogy) became clearer which created a good backdrop setting during our walk.
Our final destination was Tama Lake where we stopped to enjoy the view, have some snacks and rest up before the three hour hike back to the van. The lake sat at the bottom of an enormous crater, so of course Mark and I decided to hike down to it. After a fifteen minute trek down ankle-deep loose rock, we finally made it down to skip stones across the pristine water with an open view of "Mt. Doom" in the distance. I'm definitely glad I ventured down to the water, but the hike out of the basin to the top of the hill was grueling. Mark stayed close behind me in case the rocks tumbled and was keen to take a few breaks which was nice because we still had a long walk ahead of us.
Later that night we treated ourselves to a good dinner and a few beers at a local restaurant before a relaxing night back at the hostel. The next morning we drove to Hamilton to explore the small town and have lunch before getting back to Auckland.
Overall, it was a low-key weekend but it felt good to get out of the city once again.
The group just beginning our long hike
Typical Kristen and Mads
Mark in the midst of "Mordor"
Mads perched on a rock above the waterfall
Audrey and Mark resting above Tama Lake
Self-timer with Mount Ngauruhoe in the background