We are staying in Château Tongariro which is a hotel at the base of Mt. Ruapehu. It's really nice with great views but there are no shops or ATMs around! Thankfully the hotel prices are not too bad. We were feeling quite tired after the first few days of the trip and the change from about 2 and a half months of near 40 degree minimum! We decided that walking the Tongariro Crossing was not for us as it would be at least 7 hours of walking and we didn't really have the right gear in case of a weather change.
Instead we decided to take a scenic flight with Mountain Air. This was a 35 minute flight over the three mountains: Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu are two of the most active volcanoes in New Zealand. Ruapehu erupted last September (!) and the last major eruption was in 1995. Check out this photo
of the eruption in 1995. The yellow building at the bottom of the photo is where we are staying! Mt. Ngauruhoe was used for Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings.
The scenic flight was amazing. The views of the mountains was second to none. We also learned a lot of interesting things, two of which are :
- The original eruption of Mt. Tongariro, over a thousand years ago, could be seen from Europe
- The crater lake on Mt. Ruapehu used to be about 16 degrees. After the eruption the temperature went up to 39 degrees. It is still 39 degrees now. As we flew over we could see a steaming lake surrounded by snow.