Sunday, 12 August 2012

Day 60 - Saturday 4th August - Tongariro National Park to Bulls

The Tongariro National Park has three major volcanoes, Mt Tongariro, Mt Ruapehu (which last erupted in 1995 and hosts two ski fields) and last but not least Mt Ngauruhoe which is the most volcanic looking mountain and was used as the backdrop of "Mt Doom" in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The wider area was used for a number of scenes, so we visited a few today.

Mt Ruapehu

Mt Ngauruhoe AKA "Mount Doom"

We started out by going to Whakapapa village part way up Mt Ruapehu towards one of the ski fields. We were hoping to visit Meads Wall which was where Frodo and Sam capture Gollum in The Two Towers but it was under snow along with huge amounts of "Mordor", so instead we did an hour and half walk to the Taranaki Falls.

The walk took us through bushland with fantastic views of the three mountains, whose peaks started appearing through the cloud as the morning progressed. We walked past an area which was the end of an ancient lava flow and to the waterfall which was beautiful.

End of an ancient lava flow from a volcanic eruption

A volcanic rock waterfall with the mountains in the background

A rather colourful volcanic rock

Mt Ngauruhoe peak just cleared of cloud

Interesting steps we walked down

Taranaki Falls

Another waterfall on the Taranaki Falls walk
Beautiful landscape over "Mordor" area
After this walk we drove back towards the main highway stopping at another waterfall, the Tawhia Falls which resembles "Henneth Annun" from the Lord of the Rings films.

Tawhia Falls

We then drove on to the south of the Tongariro National Park to a town called Ohakune and towards the Turoa Ski Field. Part way up the road is the Mangawhero Falls which is where Smeagol chased and caught a fish in the films. The scene was filmed in the pools directly at the top of the waterfall, which is stunning.

Top of Mangawhero Falls where Smeagol caught his fish

Riverbed where Smeagol chased fish

Mangawhero Falls

Returning to Ohakune we drove to the Highway 1 to continue south and out of the National Park. En route there was one other Lord of the Rings landmark we had to visit the Rangitikei River Gorge, otherwise known as the "River Anduin". The gorge is 80m deep and it's very scary to stand near! It was incredible though.

The 80m deep Rangitikei River Gorge

Sunsetting over the beautiful countryside

The River Gorge

Another view of the river gorge further downstream

That was our last stop before reaching the town of Bulls for the night.

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