So New Zealand’s tourism focuses on beautiful scenery and ”Extreme” activities, often mixing the two. Taupo is second only to Queenstown for it’s adrenaline based activities. Walking around town you get the feeling you’re in a Mountain Dew commercial with all the bungy jumping, sky diving, black water rafting and jet boats ads around. Actually the black water rafting sounds pretty cool. It’s just like white water rafting, but you’re in a cave. I’m staying away from that one just because I’m cheap, but otherwise it sounds like fun. I wasn’t much interested in the rest, but there’s some beautiful scenery and I did want to check out some of the trails around here. So yesterday morning John, an Irish fellow I met at the hostel, and Morgan, a friend of a friend from Bellingham, and I caught the bus up to Tongariro National Park to hike the 11 mile Tongariro Crossing.
The Tongariro Crossing is supposed to be the best day hike in New Zealand and they’ve got quite an infrastructure set up around it. Our bus was one of at least 8 others that were at the trail head in the morning. They drop you off on one side of the trail and pick you up on the other allowing for a spectacular one way hike. There were over 100 people on the trail, so it was a bit of a zoo, but still completely worthwhile. The hike takes you up past Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings), across the South Crater, past Mt Tongariro, the Red Crater and Emerald Lakes and then down the other side of the mountain through a great beech forest. The scenery was breathtaking, especially when you were near a steaming sulfurous fissure. I opted out of climbing to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe, it was all I could do to just finish the hike after spending the last 3 years being mostly sedentary on the water. It was really the first tourist thing that I’ve done in New Zealand and well worth the effort.
I think that Morgan and I will be checking out a Renaissance Fair today. There’s a bunch of people in armor walking around town, it’s gotta be fun. Then it’s off to Wellington tomorrow.