Travel through New Zealand’s volcano belt

15 August 2004 | 16:36 Code : 4142 Geoscience events
visits:20
Rotorua's geysers, bubbling mud pools, drifting volcanic and geothermal mists were fascinating and the Maori and their culture were captivating.
Rotorua's geysers, bubbling mud pools, drifting volcanic and geothermal mists were fascinating and the Maori and their culture were captivating.  But there is more to see and the best way is to get back on the road again, to head down the centre of North Island to Wellington and see everything on the way.  One soon discovers in New Zealand there is almost as much to see and do on the way to most places, as there is at your destination. The road to Wellington is no exception, and the best way to make this eight-hour trip to the southern tip of North Island is in the comfort of a luxury motor coach, with stops along the way.
Rotorua is a three-and-a-half hour drive south of Auckland on the North Island's Central, or Volcanic Plateau. The highway south from Rotorua runs though forested, active geothermal country down to Lake Taupo. It then climbs up on to the Desert Road, and in due course, down along the Kapeti Coast into Wellington. The region is a mixture of semi-tropical forests, crater lakes, thermal reserves, waterfalls and volcanic mountains.

The motor coach departs from Rotorua hotels at 8.30am and heads out, past the thermal pools, on to the highway to the Huka Falls, just north of Taupo. Here, the mighty Waikato River narrows and shoots through a granite cleft into the swirling cauldron below. The falls dump enough water to fill two Olympic pools every second - mesmerising! Kayakers are challenged to paddle over the falls - a few have made it - but this is illegal! Moving on over the high plateau, the snow clad shape of Mount Tongariro and its volcanic neighbours provide a backdrop to Lake Taupo. The freshwater lake is an inland sea, 30km wide and 40km long; a recreational paradise. The locals claim it as the trout fishing capital of the world, with cool clear, water feeding into New Zealand's longest river, the Waikato. Taupo Township, right on the edge of the lake is a scheduled stop, and cafe "Replete" is the place for coffee, pastries and a look at the view.

Leaving Lake Taupo and the Central Plateau, Highway 1 climbs up through Tongariro National Park to the Rangipo Desert, past the trio of active volcanoes, Mount Tongariro (1 967m), Mount Ngauruhoe or "Mount Doom" (2 291m), and Mount Ruapehu (2 797m). In 1995 and 1996, Mount Ruapehu erupted, spoiling the local ski season.  The mountain is quiet for now - but it is still smoking.
Although not a "desert" in a sandy sense, high and low temperature extremes on the eastern side of the volcanoes have created a dry, arid, desolate volcanic landscape with hardy alpine vegetation covering the scoria, or gravel. This was the site of "Mordor" in the Lord of the Rings movies. It is the domain of "brumbies" or wild horses, grazing sheep, rabbits, the harrier and the New Zealand army.
The scenery turns green again as the coach descends from the high country, through river gorges to verdant farmlands, small beachside communities and sweeping stretches of sand along the Kapeti Coast of the Tasman Sea. An hour or so later you are dropped off at your hotel in Wellington, the nation's capital, where there is even more to see and do.



tags: QAZVIN


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