So, with such a glorious never-ending summer upon us, and a visit by my father from the UK, I had a few trips up my sleeve, organised to show off this awesome place we live in, Lake Taupo.
Volcanoes were the top of his hit list of things to do, especially given the fact that Mt Tongariro is currently erupting, so it was with a whiff of gusto, and armed with our cameras we set off in search of smoke and lava.
I have never been up Mt Ruapehu in summer and keen to escape the searing heat for a day (well I am British...!) we picked a blue bird day to ride the chair lifts up to the cafe for some spectacular views and adventure.
We weren't disappointed. The drive to Tongariro National Park is just over an hour from Taupo and is a picturesque trip, hugging the cliffs of the Lake's eastern bays, then through native bush lands, past the stunning Lake Rotoaira and on to the mountains beyond. We pulled over at Lake Rotoaira and clicked away at the still-smoking Tongariro, here the plume winds slowly up to the blue skies beyond against a clear backdrop of grey/red lava rocks and I think it has the best vantage point of the recent volcanic activity bordered by the beautiful lake below.
Back in the car and another stop, this time within in the confines of the Park, just off the main road to the Chateau and Mt Ruapehu- Tawhai Falls. A popular couple of minutes walk through the bush to a secluded spot where crystal clear waters gush over a scenic cliff face into countless pools beyond. This is classic New Zealand beauty and a not- to-be-missed photo opportunity.
Onward and upward to the ski fields we climbed to the top of the Bruce (the access road to the ski fields) and we made it, to a much cooler, foreign looking land, it kind of looks as though you drove through New Zealand and on to Mars. Lots of rocks, dry and sharp, rich earthy colours of blackened lava and crazy bright lichen- pretty much the only plant to survive at this altitude.
We bought our tickets at the friendly desk/ store and we were off on a rickety chair ride up to the cafe for a well deserved lunch stop. Dad and I loved the height, the crisp wind and the oh-so-amazing views from up there, the land just falls away beneath you and huge chasms of rock open up to deep gullies beyond, the mountain terrian is spectacular, even more so without the snow and it just made me realise what an amazing job the mountain crew do to get Ruapehu ready for winter, it must take A LOT of snow to cover these huge boulders.
You change lifts about half way up onto a more accomdating bigger seat, which was much more comfy than the first one, given that we were both over 6ft tall and I had my one year old in tow. He wasn't so sure about the height but got into the swing of things and poked his head of of my jacket occasionally to take in the view. If you do this trip with young children the staff are very helpful and stopped the lift twice to help me get on and off with the baby. Super cool.
The cafe building is an architectural triumph with huge window panels facing the Pinnacles, huge towering rocky cliffs tghat create an epic background for your cup of tea and slice of pie. There is also a long deck/ viewing platform where you can take in the total view back down the lift line to the fields below. Very impressive.
You can take several walks from this point, higher or lower but it's best to check with staff at the ticket office as some walks are closed due to heightened volcanic activity. With the little one in tow we decided to return to mountain base and take the Silica rapids hike which starts just above the information centre. This was a refreshing, easy amble through this worlds heritage area of the werid and wonderful, so many strange plants and odd formatiosn this land is well worth a visit by any intrepid adventurer and what could be better than seeking solace and sunshine a top an active volcano in the summer time.
This is a great trip to do for families, if like us, you want to do the Tongariro Crossing but can't due to the age/ ability of children or other family members, you get a real taste for the mountain environment, get the adventurous ride of the chair lift and amazing photo opportunities.
Simply awesome! (and Dad gave it the massive thumbs up too!)