Motor home to Middle earth – Part 5
April 3, 2009
1st – 3rd April
The Grand Chateau, with Mount Ruapehu as a perfect backdrop, looks like the hotel in ‘The Shining’ and hosted the LOR filming. . We pretended we were residents as we drank and took photos. W e booked the van in at Whakapapa (bear in mind that ‘Wh’ is pronounced as ‘F’ here and you will see why people giggle as they say it.).
Past here, the road to Mordor was perilous indeed. It started deceptively like The Shire with greenery and foliage but all too soon the barren landscape of pumice stones, soldered to the purple grey, ashy soil made climbing difficult. Steep ridges and pinnacles with sheer drops added to the danger and Meads Wall was especially scary. We rested there briefly, preparing mentally and physically for the assault on Mount Doom.
It loomed above the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (described as ‘The Best Day Hike in New Zealand) , a volcano with cloudless blue sky…Mount Ngauruhoe (only nobody calls it that any more!) The walk was demanding, exhilarating and 13 miles of stunning scenery. We ignored the signs about noxious gases issuing from the volcano and climbed half way up Mount Doom (which, to be fair, was all that Frodo and Sam did). It was so hard – like walking up a steep sand dune of thick volcanic ash sprinkled with pumice stones of all shapes and sizes. We got half way up and 2 boulders (of lethal size) bounced merrily past us, unleashed by two young men who were ’skiing’ back down. We ‘skied’ back down too – it was fun but hell on the knees. Back to the walk – Red Crater, a gigantic work of abstract art in ochre, terracotta, umber and crimson – wow! Emerald Lakes – stunning. sky lines and views – wonderful. Smells of sulphur and heat eruptions – amazing!
Frodo and Sam had eagles whisking them away from Mount Doom, we weren’t so lucky. The path was long, studded with luminescent greenery in hot springs but was eventually interminable. Notices warned that we should be aware of ‘sensitive, sub alpine plants’ and stick to the path. We walked miles advising the plants that they were strong and beautiful and should not feel ‘below standard‘ we even gave assertiveness training. By the end of our weary helter-skelter they were feeling much better about themselves and prepared to take positive criticism. We, however, were knackered.
The Mangawhero Falls are below Mount Ruapehu and any passer by would have seen two almost senior citizens playing with a large sliver of carrot and pretending to be Sméagol catching his fish in the pool there. Fortunately we were alone. We were also alone in our Private Pool in the thermal spa where we soaked in the mineral spring. Some like it hot!