Our North Island outdoor adventure consisted of both planned and unplanned activities, we conquered Great Walks, Volcano’s and walked, albeit not easily, into Mordor. We have compiled a few clips of these adventures into a short video below.
Our first outdoor adventure was our second Great Walk, the Whanganui Journey. Even though it is labelled as one of the 9 Great Walks, it is actually a river, so there is no walking involved at all, not even a single portage. Outfitters give you two choices for the Journey, a Kayak or a Canadian Canoe or as the Kiwi’s call it, simply a Canadian…I think the choice is an obvious one. We booked a 3 day, 2 night trip and we quickly became a little famous, there were a bunch of groups starting when we did and of course everyone does the usual pleasantries “where are you from…” We were the only Canadians and everyone was assuming we would be great at canoeing…I think purely based on the fact that they were sitting in something called a Canadian. Each day we would leave our campsite at the same time as all the other groups, 8ish, paddle leisurely down the river, stop for lunch, look around, even did a hike one day, and both days we would get into camp at about 2 p.m, set up, get out our chairs, change and sit and drink our beer, read and snack. Everyone else would show up around 6, wet and exhausted, climb up to the campsite and the first thing they would see was us relaxing by our tent enjoying a cold one. One day all the groups were having trouble getting out of the canoes at the takeout, we chatted after and they were saying how hard it was, and I told them it really was a horrible spot for people to take out their canoes…as he walked away I heard him yell “Hey guys, it is bad….even the Canadians say so”. We have to say though, that as much as we enjoyed our trip, nothing beats canoeing in Canada.
As soon as we climbed out of our canoe, we headed off to the base of our next adventure, National Park…it’s an actual town called National Park, we were confused to….from here we would tackle the Tongariro Alpine crossing, otherwise known as the hike into Mordor. Tongariro National Park is New Zealands oldest national park as well as a World Heritage Site, it’s landforms are so unique that at times we thought we were on the moon, it really was awe-inspiring scenery. Some say that the Tongariro Crossing is one of, if not the best day hike in the world. The trek is 19.4 Km long and takes you up into alpine terrain that consists of active volcanic peaks Ngauruhow, Tongariro and Ruapehu. The trek is challenging and can take up to 8 hours, in addition, you can climb Mount Ruapehu, otherwise known as Mount DOOM from Lord of the Rings. Of course for us, it was not enough to simply take on the challenge of the crossing, we needed to conquer Mount Doom (Mt Ruapehu) as well!
Mt Ruapehu is 2287m to the summit and it is a perfect volcanic cone and is still active – when you are climbing it and various parts of the ground is stemming around you, you are exceedingly aware of this fact – and it last erupted in 1975. It’s average pitch is 45 degrees, it takes about 2 hours to get up and it is an unmarked trail, so you have to devise your own root. When we initially set off, there were 6 of us, two Scots, two Dutch and us two Canucks, we let the Scots lead the way – Poole, we quickly realized the error of our ways – as they began plugging up the slop with extremely lose, volcanic sand and rock. We all trudged behind them for 30 minutes, gaining 1 step while sliding back 2, it was like running on a treadmill. Finally I thought, this is bonkers and I scooted across the steep slops to the old lava flows and used the rocks as footing to climb. The rest soon followed. The climb up itself is beyond stunning, but the steepness if unbelievable, you are acutely aware that if you start falling, you are not going to stop for about 1000m. It is about a 2 hour climb up and an exhilarating 40 minute decant – if that doesn’t give you an idea of the steepness and terrain I don’t know what will. The decent feels like skiing at points as you rapidly slide down volcanic ash, sand and rocks, there really is no room for error. It was an exhausting climb but well worth it and I think the images in the video speaks for itself.
After our accent of Mount Doom, we still had the majority of the track left to do, and still had the most active volcanic area to work our way through. The area is so active that it last erupted in 2012 and forced the government to put in a light and sign system to warn hikers if there was a sudden increase in activity. I equate this to about the same level as airplanes giving out lifejackets – we all know we are not gracefully landing on water and sliding out onto awaiting rafts, just like we all know that if I am standing on a volcano and it blows, warning lights are simply going to be the last thing I see before I blow with the mountain – I am convinced these things excist to occupy our mind so we don’t think about our immanent death. The area is so active that the area you walk through is still venting and the recent lava flow is still stemming, it was terrifyingly beautiful. After 8 hours, we limped out of the trek to our awaiting shuttle and instated of going back to our tent and sleeping like normal human beings, we packed up and headed off to find our next adventure.
Over the next week we worked our way towards Auckland, doing small walks, hikes, visiting volcanic sites and ended up on the West Coast, more specifically the Coromandel Peninsula. This was our final stop before Auckland and we were able to snorkel – although water clarity was highly questionable at some points – but it was beautiful. The area was lovely though as we were able to do a small hike to some coves, including a well known cove called cathedral cove.
The video below gives you a little taste of the countryside and our adventures. Enjoy!