Feb 17, 2008

Welcome to Mordor: New Zealand, part five

Posted by Tom |

The only one of New Zealand's famous "great walks" we undertook on the trip was the Tongariro Northern Circuit, a 4-day trek through barren high desert surrounding a couple of enormous volcanoes, one of which was Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings films. The entire area doubled for Mordor, which was understandable: much of it was a strikingly barren wastescape of scattered rubble and surreal, ominous lava formations. I've never been anywhere like it.

Unfortunately for me, I left my spork in the car, so I pulled out my trusty leatherman on the trail and carved up some camping chopsticks and a couple of forks. The fork in my left hand in the above photo would only really have functioned had we been eating cocktail shrimp,so I ended up carving a larger one. It worked quite well, except that if I wasn't careful it kind of felt like biting into a popsicle stick.

Mary outside our first hut. Directly behind her is Mt. Ngurahoe, aka Mount Doom.

This wonderfully refreshing waterfall ran through bleak desert scrub a little ways from the second night's hut. Mary and I both enjoyed a much-needed soak here but, more importantly, this romantic little spot is where Mary and I, um, broke up. This has given us bragging rights among the many nerds we know, as we can proudly proclaim we broke up in the shadow of Mt. Doom. As Mary likes to note, "Only there could it be unmade." Dork.

The Emerald Lakes, three lakes turned iridescent green thanks to dissolved minerals. New Zealand is rife with these sorts of geological oddities, lying as it does in an active volcanic area. You can't tell from the photo, but these lakes are on the Tongariro Crossing, which makes up a portion of the Northern Circuit and is the most popular day hike in New Zealand. So for half a day we joined a crowd of literally thousands of people - many of them astonishingly ill-prepared for the fairly rigorous hike - while the other three and a half days we had the trail mostly to ourselves.

One more "Mt. Doom" shot: this is the summit. It was actually steaming. The rocks were too hot to touch or even approach. Somewhat disconcerting and very, very cool.


Archeobot said...

thanks for posting these, I'm getting my vacation viacariously through you guys!!!