With our new 4 wheels, we zipped away from Auckland in our van towards Turangi with the bikes now resting in the back. This is where we would begin our next house sit. We stopped for the night by a lake in Mangakino for some trout fishing and Will caught his first brown trout in New Zealand. In the morning, we did a trail run along the Waikato River Trail along the river bank and over swing bridges.
On our way to Turangi the next day, we marvelled at the glistening Lake Taupo. It was strange thinking we were actually driving around the rim of a crater, formed from a volcanic eruption many many years ago. This freshwater lake is nearly 160m deep! We stayed in a house beside the Tongariro River and found ourselves very close to where we set off on our first cycle tour in New Zealand. We’d done a full circle, and would never have anticipated returning in a camper van!
We had a few amazing days house sitting with lots of lovely animals for company. Here, we were lucky enough to adopt the Tongariro River Trail as our local track to run and take the dogs for a walk. And Will donned the waders to spend as much time with the rainbow trout as possible. Plus, our diet got a whole lot better with freshly caught and smoked trout! We also visited the Trout Centre – where we could see the beauties up close via an underwater window.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
As Will’s niece was over in New Zealand, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to take her on the most popular one day walk in New Zealand. At a distance of 19.4km: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The lovely lady who we house-sat for, who is now a good friend, did us a huge favour and dropped us off early at Mangatepopo car park. This is where we started our tramp with sunshine, clear skies and frost still on the ground. The skies were so clear, in fact, that after the boardwalk and steps up, we could see the triangle of Mount Taranaki about 200km away.
Towering over us a little closer was the snow-capped volcano of Mount Ruapehu. As we started our tramp, we watched in awe when we spotted tiny specks scaling Mount Ngauruhoe. We crossed the plateau and reached our final climb, where we pulled ourselves up with metal railings to the peak at 6000 feet.
What was saw at the top was breathtaking. The Red Crater – a dusting of red iron set against the brown of the crater, which is still a steaming and active vent. The Emerald Lake – a brilliant green lake surrounded by steaming vents – and the Blue Lake set against the white snow. The skies were still fairly clear, and from the top of Tongariro we could see across to the adjacent mountain ranges of the Kaimanawa Mountains and over to the Great Lake Taupo.
Despite the bright sunshine, we felt rather chilly this high up. So we thought this was a pretty suitable place to have a tea break and warm ourselves up. The walk down the other side of the mountain range offered great views of Lake Taupo and Lake Rotoaira. The track was a nice easy descent through the barren volcanic landscape, switching itself around and down the mountain, passing the Te Maari Crater and steaming vents dotted along the mountain side. As we neared the Ketetahi shelter we could see a hole in the roof. This was from the 2012 eruption that spat more than a few rocks in the air, and one happened to land inside the hut.
Further down the track, the landscape turned into grassland, then into the forest for the final part towards the car park. Through the forest there were streams to cross, and a sign that read ‘Lahar Hazard Zone’ warning you not to stop. If you hear any rumblings, get out quickly. This section would be at risk of mud flows if there was an eruption, so best not to hang around then.
After setting off around 8am, we arrived at the end of our tramp around 2pm, meeting others waiting for the shuttle back. Everyone had their boots off and a smile on their face.