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Published: March 7th 2019
The Maoris donated the land of Tongariro National Park to the government as long it is not settled, and preserved in its natural state.
It is a large natural park round three currently dormant volcanoes.
The last eruption was in 2007, 12 years after the previous one, so another one is probably due about now. The large central plateau was covered in lava flow, now fertile and covered in trees and alpine plants.
The whole of New Zealand is on an earthquake zone, and earthquakes often trigger a volcano eruption. Every hotel has instructions on what to do in the event (‘Get under a piece of furniture and hold on to it,’ though not many of our rooms have had furniture big enough to get under.) The Airbnb places have emergency rations that they list in the information packs.
In the park we went for a 40 minute walk called a ridge walk. We assumed it would take us along a ridge, but it didn't. It went through a Southern Beech forest (quite different from our beeches) and then through Alpine terrain.
The volcanoes dotted with snow provide a backdrop to every photo, either wreathed in clouds or sparkling in sun. In the afternoon we take a two hour walk to Taranaki Falls, cascading down over volcanic boulders. The day is not as sunny as we've been used to, which is perfect for walking, and gives texture to the sky. The trees are cool and densely packed, festooned with lichens,ferns growing out of gnarled tree roots and looking like Mordor, which was whyi Lord of the Rings was filmed in these parts.
A hot tub in the hotel is a welcome treat after a long walk.
Thursday 7th March, we leave the park and head north to the thermal springs area. We pass a sign saying ‘Steaming cliffs’ and there are indeed puffs of steam appearing above the trees. Out of the park there are managed plantations and a lot of logging is going on.
We stop at Orakei Korako, ‘arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand’. A boat takes us over Lake Ohakuri to a trail of boardwalks that takes us round the geysers and geothermal fields of orange, white and yellow with warm water rising out and gushing our trickling over the terrain.
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