Gold, Hobbits and Volcanos

Trip Start Nov 28, 2011
Trip End Apr 09, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, November 10, 2012

A great night and after some dark conspiracies till late, we woke up and had a last breakfast with the Way family in Auckland. This time, we would not come back as we are now heading south to Wellington. A big thank you to the the big and small Ways, and hopefully see you soon in the Netherlands!

There we go, this time we are heading to the Coromondel area. We actually not visiting the peninsula, but we will touch the southern skirts of the area. We are heading for Karangahake, a small settlement near Paeroa which was a big gold mining industry in between 1820 / 1920 with a last spurt during the World War II. Now it has changed into a tramping area where a lot of people making tramp day tracks. We are also making a walk, by combining the Karangahake Tunnel Track and the Windows Walk. In total 5 kilometers of walking in the ruins of the former gold mine factory and area. It is absolutely a beautiful walk, first into a one kilometer train tunnel to the other site of the mountain, then via the shoulders alongside the river back and through the mining tunnels onwards to the remains of the factory and different buildings. Great walk!
[Note: Here Jorgen forgot to mention that we did stop, take a picture and so visited the famous L&P bottle. but that's just a note for all Kiwi readers ;]

Back at the car park, we found a nearby campsite in the DOC guide called Dicky's flat. That would be our spot for the night. After arriving at this most scenic spot, we put on our tent and made dinner. It is a brilliant spot nearby the river and in the valley. Not really easy to find if you do not have a DOC camp site guide! Incredible! What a night and so calm! This times no rain, only a bright sky with an amazing beautiful sun! Difficult to beat we guess by any other spot… or….

Time to make a plan for today. What would be next? As we are in the land of "the making of Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and the Hobbit", there are many spots where they shot scenes for the movie. Some spots became legendary after the making the trilogy in 1999-2001 and are used again in the film “the Hobbit” (also a trilogy, first film premiere in Wellington on November 28, 2012, then the other films will be released during 2013 and 2014). Most of the sites became popular tourist attractions. Scenes which were shot at difficult accessible sites are marked in the most guides as well for tourists interests.

That is why we found out about the location “Hobbiton”. For many scenes in “the Shire”, the used the site near Marama, now called Hobbiton. In here, you will find the set used for the scenes which take place in the Shire. The home of Bilbo, the big Tree and the pub for the hobbits. It is on our way to Rotorua so a quick visit to the set could do us no harm! It is tucked away in the green hills and it is as you would see it in the movies! Really impressive what they have done to create “the Shire”. As been said, we are on our way to the Rotorua information site to find out what we shouldn’t miss in the middle of the northern island. The park in Rotorua with its thermal lakes, botanic gardens and thermal swimming pools were beautiful and soon we left the city behind and went on to the lake Rerewhakaaitu where our next DOC camp site would be.

An incredibly spot again, at the shores of the lake and with great facilities. A beautiful sunset a cold night later we were early riser because today, we would climb up the Rainbow Mountain. With probably the best day in many, the sky was crystal clear, only some clouds and a little bit of fog. But as we climbed the mountain, the fog disappeared and revealed the most incredible view of the whole area. On our way up, we walked on the ridges of the mountain crater, still smelling the smell of rotting eggs from the sulfur. Just unbeatable this view and experience! At the top, we ate our sandwiches and enjoyed the stunning view. We could also see our next destination for that day. At the horizon there are the highest mountains of the northern island. Still capped in snow, it was 100 km away from us. Back into the car, we first had to stop at the Kerosene Creek. A river with some warm, thermal water which smells like kerosene! We were tempted to go and have a swim, but the thoughts of smelling afterwards after Kerosene did not persuade us.

Back in the car and heading for the Huka Falls near Taupo. The Huka Falls are the beginning of the Huka river, one of the longest in New Zealand, and releasing the water from the nearby Lake Taupo. Taupo is an important city for the Maori’s but we are more or less on a schedule, so there is not much time here. We do visit a honey factory and the crater landscape but that is about it. We are moving on to the other side of the Lake Taupo and we are reaching a lookout with a beautiful view at Taupo and the lake. We are now entering the National Park of Tangiroa. In this park you will find the three highest peaks of the northern island. One of the peaks was used in LOTR as mount Doom. You have to use your imagination as the have edit a lot to it, but it certainly is a dramatic view. Back in February this year, another site/peak erupted from volcanic activities. Still you can see the steam/smoke coming out of the mountain (When writing this entry, two weeks ago, another – not foreseen – eruption took place at another site which has closed the park until further notice).

We reach the little village of Whakapapa – a ski resort – where we went to the I-site to collect some more information about the walks around. Before we went to Taranaki Falls Walk, we first visited the ski-resort up the mountain. It was here where they also shot some scenes for LOTR and we were sure that we walked into the footsteps of Frodo! Then back to the Taranaki Falls walk. A 6 km track through a scenic area up to the falls. Maria also requested some information about the Tangiroa Alpine Crossing walk (over the tops in 7 or 8 hours), but as the weather forecast is not that good and the office is closed, we decided to skip this walk (which still is not forgotten by Maria…) We stayed overnight at the DOC camp site Margahuia, just in front of this beautiful majestic mountain range, what a life we are living!

Our last day in this park, before we are heading to Whanganui where we will meet Tony. So, not the alpine crossing, what else could we walk? There is the Old Coach Road which starts in the village of Ohakune. It is a nice 6 km walk over the old Coach road. Not that spectacular, but a good exercise! It also starts to rain and is seems that the weather forecast wasn’t for nothing. Around the mountain peaks are thick clouds, so not a bad decision afterwards. As the weather changes, we headed back to our car and set directions to Whanganui. It is still a long drive over a scenic winding road with a lot of steep shoulders. As we finally get to Whanganui, Tony is waiting to give us a real New Zealand warm welcome!

To read more about Whanganui, Tony and an old elevator which is served for many years by the same family, wait for our next entry!
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