It was not long into our journey today that we realized we had made a mistake. That mistake was that we had not allowed enough time in the park. We had originally toyed with the idea of walking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which at 19km is regarded as one of the world’s great walks. However, we somehow thought we weren’t in good enough shape for the walk so decided against it. As it happens on the day the conditions were almost perfect and looking at some of the people finishing the walk we clearly would have been fine. Never mind we need to save some activities for when we come back.
In any event we headed into the park (Whakapapa village) as we thought we would try (at least one) of the shorter walks. We were a little surprised to find that the chair lift up to Mount Ruapehu was open so we decided to take a trip to the top to look at the scenery. The view from the top is stunning, quite different from European ski resorts as the scenery is volcanic but there were some great views of Mount Ngauruhoe.
After a couple of hours we headed back down and had a quick look around the Tongariro visitor centre which is very interesting particularly in the documentation of the last eruptions (in 1996 and 2007). Must be due another one soon one feels!
We then took the 6km looped walking track route to Taranaki falls. It’s a really nice walk especially given that the weather was improving all the time and takes you across open countryside (with views of the alpine scenery in all directions) followed by a nice walk along the river before emerging at the fall which itself is very impressive (and especially good as you can walk behind it!). The rated time for the track is two hours but we were a bit quicker than that (probably 1:30).
We then decided to jump in the car for a quick drive south (about 35km to the village of Ohakune, the southern entry point to the Tongariro National Park) where we wanted to walk the Old Coach Road up to the Hapuawhenua Viaduct. This is a combination of two viaducts, an old one which has been decommissioned and a new one, both of which are used for rail traffic. The Viaducts are (apparently) the only curved Viaducts in the Southern Hemisphere and its really quite a spectacle and a very nice walk (mainly through open farmland – a big contrast to the morning walk).
So we did not do the 19km Togariro crossing but we covered around 15km in a day of walking. There are so many interesting walks here that we really want to come back again and looking back on our last couple of days we could easily have reduced the time in Rotorua and spent more time here.