After a slightly noisy night at Reid's Farm Campground, we head off for Tongoriro National Park in the Central Plateau of the North Island.
Skirting the eastern shores of Lake Taupo we make our way towards the three volcanic mountains of Tongariro (1967m), Ngauruhoe (2291m), and Ruapehu (2797m). Each mountain has its own distinctive shape and level of thermal activity. Mt Ruapehu is the most well known for its three ski fields and the historic Grand Chateau Tongariro and is also where we take aim towards.
Two chairlifts at the Whakapapa Skifield operate on Mt Ruapehu during the summer months and so we drove up the Bruce Road and paid our $20.00 per person to use the two lifts (off season prices), to get to the highest possible point (by lift). Standing at the ready, we are scooped up by the swinging chairs and whisked up higher on an active volcano.
Once at the terminus of the second lift we find our way to the upper level of the building as we look for a trail which will take us to an even higher elevation by foot. We found a trail, however, it meant climbing around the edge of a small remaining field of snow so we have to be mindful not to fall and slide off down that small field onto the exposed rocks below. Once across the snow field we aimed towards a ridge which seemed to promise a view of the surrounding mountains and landscape but the going got pretty tough. It was pretty much straight up on loose volcanic gravel and ash and we were certainly puffing by the time we arrived at the ridge after climbing for 40 minutes, but the view was worth it. Although we didn't have 360° views we did have a stunning view of Mt Ngauruhoe with Tama Lakes on its southern side, as well as the a large chunk of the western Central Plateau and even Mt Egmont (aka Mt Taranaki) peeking through the top of the clouds in Taranaki.
As usual we were pushed for time, since we only had until 4pm to catch the last lift back down the mountain and we started climbing at around 2:45pm. Fortunately we were able to literally slide down the top half since the ash and gravel were more like the consistency of sand so it took half the time to go down as it did to go up. We made it in time for the lift and enjoyed the views as we cruised back down.
Unfortunately our time in the Tongariro National Park was brief and it was now time to head for the wine country of the North Island - Hawkes Bay. It was to be a few hours of driving to make it to Napier at a decent hour so we headed off straight away because we had to return to the town of Taupo first. We arrived in the Hawkes Bay and found a nice spot right by the beach just north of Napier at Bay View.
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