After a few relaxed days in Taupo, it was an early start to jump back on the bus, with new driver 'Metro' and head off to one of the activities I've most been looking forward to - the Tongariro National Park walk - meant to be one of the best one day walks you can do in the whole of New Zealand. Not everyone decided to do it, either because too hungover or lazy, but there was no way I was missing out. We could only go for a guided walk but that meant we got to go a little off the beaten track, which translates as rather than stick to the path we veered off and headed right up the side of Tongariro to the summit. Views were amazing, and the walk was quite tough going at times. There was still snow on the top of the mountain, and the rain/clouds made a welcome appearance, as it was so hot to begin with. After a speedy ascent which took us about 3 hours, the views were incredible, looking out over to a couple of other nearby mountains, including Ngaruhoe - otherwise known as Mount Doom! There were of course therefore lots of geeky Lord of the Rings references and jokes flying around. Would have loved to walk up the slopes of it, but that would have been a whole new days excursion.
Walked round the rest of the summit and up to Red Crater which looks like nothing else on earth. Slightly uncomfortably high to be honest and stayed a little away from the edge, and the steaming rocks (more geothermal). SPectacular views down to other mountains, emerald lakes and allround mountains. Then it really did start raining so we headed back down the Devil's Steps, and across the side of Mt Doom, across the remainded or the last eruptions 30 odd years ago, lots of lava and pyroclastic debris. Apparently its due another eruption anytime soon, so best not to linger around too long.
Great day's walk, and the hostel was sweet as - hot tub and everything to relax those tired old limbs. Treated myself to a feast of a burger before collapsing into bed - 8hours walking at least, but massively worth it.