email
The Silk Route - World Travel: New Zealand: Tongariro National Park
americas asia pacific africa & middle east europe

New Zealand: Tongariro NP
February 2017

Tawhai Falls - Gollum's Pool Tongariro National Park Taranaki Falls Mount Ruapehu Ridge Track
Ngauruhoe, Tongariro NP, New Zealand


Volcanoes, waterfalls, beech forest, hundreds of tracks, and a wealth of Lord of the Ring locations the Tongariro National Park is a walker's paradise.

Tawhai Falls - Gollum's Pool


Tawhei Falls
Tawhei Falls

Before we checked into our hotel, the Chateau Tongariro, we made a very short detour to visit Tawhei Falls - a beautiful spot made famous as the location of the Forbidden Pool in the Twin Towers, the second film in the trilogy of film adaptations of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.



Tawhei Falls

Here Gollum is catching fish watched by Frodo, Faramir and his rangers who are ready to kill him, but Frodo saves Gollum's life.

Tawhei Falls

There is a small area to park cars just off the road, then a short walk to the pool. It is a scramble down to the riverside and then another scramble for the sure-footed to the edge of the pool itself. The waterfall tumbles down into a shaded hollowed glade. The waterfall was looking good and the pool is the most beautiful colour in the dark glade.

A very nice introduction to the park!

 

 

Tongariro National Park

Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe
It was cloudy as we drove into Tongariro but look at Ngauruhoe - proper Mount Doom atmosphere!

 

Tongariro National Park was the first of New Zealand's National Parks to be formed when, on the 23rd September 1887, the Paramount Chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, Horonuku Te Heu Heu Tukino gave the land encompassing 2,640 hectares to the people of New Zealand. 1,2 It is now almost 80,000 hectares in size.

Three magnificent - and active - volcanoes dominate the landscape: Tongariro at 1967 m high, Ngauruhoe 2287 m and Ruapehu 2797 m. The classic conical shape of Ngauruhoe was made famous as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. In fact the park is the setting of much of the filming of Mordor, the dark and foreboding landscape where Frodo must cast the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

CHateau Tongariro Hotel
Chateau Tongariro Hotel

We chose to stay at the Chateau Tongariro Hotel for its style and location - right in the middle of the park! It was built in 1929, the height of elegance for skiers more used to huts! Apart from the stylish decor we had some extremely good food here and excellent Middle Earth pinot noir, which was just as well as there was almost nowhere else to eat!

Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe

There are many walks to do and we had hoped to do the iconic Tongariro Crossing which gets close to Ngauruhoe; sadly the winds were too high and the shuttles didn't run all the time we were there.

Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe

 

Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe
Rabbits were introduced to New Zealand in 1777 as a source of meat. As is the way with rabbits, however, they rapidly became a pest and ferrets were introduced a hundred years later to help control the rabbit plague!

The weather wasn't so bad that we couldn't do any of the other walks, though, none of them very strenuous, and we made good use of our time. And I never tired of the magnificence of "Mount Doom"!

Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe
Ruapehu is composed of several peaks, the highest is Tahurangi at 2797 m, also the highest point on the North Island.

 

Taranaki Falls

Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
Taranaki Falls

Well under two hours for this relatively easy 6 km loop walk, even with plenty of stops for photographs.

 

Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk

In the park there is a wide variety of plants: lots of grasses including beautiful golden and red tussocks, many alpines and mountain beech forest.

The track out to the falls follows the Wairere Stream then loops back via a higher trail. It can also be done in the opposite direction but this way was recommended as having the best approach to the falls.

 

Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
These trees seem to be covered not only in moss but also masses of leafy plants!
Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
On the way to Taranaki the track passes Cascade Falls.
Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls drops 20m over an ancient lava cliff in shades of red, grey and black. This was formed in an eruption of Ruapehu 15,000 years ago.

Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
Vivid colours of the volcanic rock.
Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk
Tongariro NP Taranaki Falls  walk

 

Mount Ruapehu

Tongariro NP Mount Ruapehu

 

 

The slopes of Mount Ruahepu were the location of key scenes in the Lord of the Rings in particular where Isildur chops off Suaron's finger to get the Ring, and the boulder fields of Emyn Muil where Sam and Frodo wander in circles before Gollum guides them out.


Tongariro NP Mount RuapehuLeft and above: the two faces of the immense Meads Wall.

On the day we were there the weather was exactly the same as in Frodo and Sam's wanderings! Mist swirled around the mountain tops and through the valleys.

 





Tongariro NP Mount Ruapehu
Tongariro NP Mount Ruapehu
Tongariro NP Mount Ruapehu

 

We drove to Top 'o the Bruce car park - mostly used in winter to access the ski slopes - then walked up the rubbly scree to the ridge.

On an overcast morning, mist drifting around the peaks, the landscape of Mordor was every bit as sinister as in the film, a vast rock wall towering over rocky slopes and a vertiginous drop on the other side to the river at the bottom of the Whakapa gorge. As threateningly atmospheric as any LOTR fan could wish for.

 

Ridge Track

Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track

Tongariro NP Ridge Track

A very easy walk, uphill all the way - though that, of course, means all downhill on the way back! Beginning through beech forest before emerging into the open and some fine views.

The trees in the forest are fabulous, dripping with mosses and other plant life.

Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Most of the time we were on the walk the summit of Ngauruhoe was wreathed in cloud.
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Chateau Tongariro can be seen on the left.
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ridge Track
Tongariro NP Ngauruhoe

 

References

  1. Chateau Tongariro Hotel
  2. Tongariro National Park