June 8 - Since my hike was canceled, today was a “free” day. I decided that even though I couldn’t go on New Zealand’s best one day hike, maybe I could still go be near it. The woman at the information center said that I could go hike in Tongariro National Park, but that the weather was awful and I wouldn’t see anything. Apparently not one to take no for an answer, I got in the car and headed for the park. I should note that at the information center (which is just north of the park), it was a lovely sunny day, around 8 C (~48 F).
Well, turns out the locals may actually know more than I do! The temperature consistently dropped as I got into the park. The first picture I have up there is of Mt. Tongariro, which was the ONLY one of the three volcanoes that I could see AT ALL (and you’ll notice it is mostly covered by clouds!). The is the northernmost of the three. I ended up driving up Mt. Raupehu to the Whakapapa Skifield (pictured above, sort of…), which was (according to my handy NZ atlas, thanks Patty’s dad!) the set for Mordor and Emyn Muil in the LoTR films. Obviously I couldn’t see anything (and it was 2 C/35 F and raining), and sadly Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom in LoTR) was completely obscured. Oh well, a good reason to come back I guess (not to mention the entire South Island!).
Despite the failure of that journey, I felt a little better that I at least went to have a look - why come all the way here if I’m not going to at least try right!? But ultimately I decided I did not want to go hiking in freezing rain with no hope of seeing anything pretty…So I headed back to Turangi, just north of the National Park, to walk along the Tongariro River.
This turned out to be a really neat walk! A long stretch of it went literally RIGHT next to a farm, so I got right up close to some sheep (and cows). There was another rainbow over the whole farm too, although this seems to be a daily occurrence at this point (probably because it rains every day…). Actually I’ve been trying to figure out why rainbows always appear as arcs…maybe someone can help me out here? I mean, in principle, it’s just light passing through water droplets right? So shouldn’t we just see a massive sky full of rainbow if it’s cloudy? My guess is that it has to be a particular angle of incidence or something, and that the earth’s curvature is responsible for the arc shape…but that’s just a guess. I want to know (and hopefully this isn’t something they told us in 2nd grade that I’ve just forgotten…).
Anyway, great walk! That was pretty much it for the day. The walk took close to 4 hours, and since I had spent the whole morning driving around Tongariro Nat’l Park, it was almost 4:30 when I finished (remember that it gets dark around 5…). So I got on the road back to Taupo, stopping a couple of times to take pictures of the sun setting over the lake. I was pretty worn out by this point, but I still decided to walk into town to get online for a little bit and then get a kebab for dinner. And that was the end of the day (once I walked back to the hotel!)