Sunday: December 18th…Gorges and Volcanoes.

Our journey today took us south to Rangitikei River and Gravity Canyon. We took a detour along Gorge Road through some beautiful farm and green hills scenery. We found a different part of the Rangitikei Gorge and took some great pictures.










When the road ran out we retraced our journey and made our way to Gravity Canyon. Here was one of the locations where the Fellowship was filmed travelling down the Anduin River.

Frodo finds the Anduin River.


Backtracking northwards we followed the road along the eastern side of the Tongariro National Park through the desert regions of the park.  The clouds were breaking up, the showers had gone and the sun began to break through. The scenery here is so different to other parts of the North Island. Some great desert pictures were taken.

Making our way first along the north of the park we turned east and then made our way south along the Western side of the National Park and turned off the highway to the start of the Tongariro Crossing.



Leaving our car we walked along the track to the Mangatepopo hut which is not far from the base of Mount Ngauruhoe. The mountain top was covered in cloud, but the walk took us through some wonderful mountain terrain of rocks, shrubs and tufty grass.









After we returned to our car, we set off for Whakapapa on the slope of Ruapehu where we had afternoon tea at Tongariro Chateau. Next it was up to the Ski Field Village, where we set out on foot to find locations where scenes of Mordor and Emyn Muil were filmed. We had success in finding two definite locations and Astrid went further afield to take more photos of other potential locations in the immediate area.











As the sun was nearing the western horizon we drove to National Park Village where we had dinner. After our meal we were to be treated to some spectacular views of Ngauruhoe as the sun set. This was a truly spectacular ending to an amazing day.












Monday: December 19th…Volcanoes and the Forgotten World…and A Hobbit Hole?

Leaving Powderhorn early, we travelled northwards and stopped by the roadside to view the magnificent sight of Mount Ruapehu in the morning light without any clouds on it. Breathtaking.

We continued on to National Park Village where we had a lovely breakfast sitting on the deck at Spirals,  which gave us early morning views of Mount Ngauruhoe. We had found our volcanoes which we had come to see.

Mount Ruapehu










After breakfast, a  drive to the north brought us to Taumarunui where we left the highway and turned westwards onto River Road which brought us to the Forgotten World Highway  (Highway 43).



The road soon became a twisting dirt road through a deep gorge called Tangarakau Gorge. The high, steep slopes of the gorge were covered in pristine dense rainforest. At any moment one could imagine a dinosaur appearing on the road ahead. Truly, beautiful nature at its finest.


Along this road we came to Moki Tunnel, which was a single lane tunnel cut through the cliff ahead of us. Above the Tunnel was a sign which read, “HOBBITS HOLE”…an amazing find for travellers such as us.












Leaving the forest and gorge behind us we arrived in the Republic of Whanga and the capital of Whangamomona, where we had a very nice hotel lunch.


After lunch our road wound its way through green hills country and in the distance over the hill tops we could see our next major goal, the peak of Mount Taranaki.

The top of Taranaki appears above the green hills.




The highway ended in the town of Stratford, a place mentioned in one of Ian McKellen’s recent blogs while he was travelling around. Were we on the trail to a potential movie location for the upcoming “Hobbit” movies?

Stratford, according to Sir Ian, has streets named after Shakespeare’s characters. In the main street are the Tudor-like clock tower and the old King’s Theatre, where the first talking movie was shown in New Zealand.


After Stratford we drove to the coastal town of Opunake, where we were to stay overnight. Thanks to Astrid’s initiative we were able to have an early meal of Fish and Chips which was delicious. Then we drove up to the lighthouse at Cape Egmont to watch the sunset, which turned out a bit of a disappointment because of cloud out on the Tasman Sea, but inland the cloud had disappeared and we had fabulous views of Mount Taranaki in the gradually fading light. A most memorable sight.

The Volcano Hunters had achieved their goal…Pictures of all the major Volcanoes, cloud free…Amazing!













Forests, beaches and the road to Wellington… To be continued.

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