Monday, February 1, 2016

Day 5 (Christmas Eve) - Taupo and Tongariro

View of Lake Taupo from our apartment

Lake Taupo is particularly remarkable because it forms a caldera created 26,500 years ago by the world's largest volcanic eruption (the “Oranui eruption”) in the last 70,000 years, which likely contributed to the last Ice Age. 1,170 cubic kilometers of material were ejected into the atmosphere.  The Central North Island was covered by materials up to 200 meters deep, and almost 20 cm of ash was deposited as far as 1000 kilometers away. 
Last glimpse of the valley below before we disappear in the clouds surrounding Mt. Doom

Since that time Taupo has experienced about 25 additional eruptions.  The most recent, the Hatepe eruption, was in 180 CE, when 100 cubic kilometers of material were ejected, making it one of the most violent eruptions in the last 5,000 years.  (By comparison, the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980 ejected less than 3 cubic kilometers of material.)

Our plan for Christmas Eve was to walk the Tongariro Crossing, a 19km long Alpine track that crosses a mountain pass between the two prominent volcanoes, Mt. Ruapehu, and Mt. Ngauruhoe just south of Lake Taupo. Mt. Ngaurohoe features prominently in the Lord of the Rings movies as Mount Doom. 
The road into Mordor and towards Mount Doom

Unfortunately the weather would not cooperate that day and the mountains were shrouded in deep hanging clouds and mist.

We still drove up into these mountains where a quick Google Maps search revealed the nearby location of Mordor.  iPhone in hand we hiked through the mist until our physical location perfectly matched the location of Mordor on the map.  What a great place for a picture!  Who else has been to Mordor on Christmas Eve?
There is no closer to getting to Mordor.  We're right there.

Back in Taupo we spent the rest of Christmas Eve playing family games in our apartment before heading our for dinner at The Bistro, Taupo’s premier restaurant.

Gudrun felt right at home when found a ski hut with such a familiar name.

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