New Zealand

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Tongariro National Park

Tongariro National Park from the air.
Looking south-west across the three great volcanoes Tongariro (foreground), Ngaruhoe (cone, middle) and Ruapehu (background).
Mt Egmont/Taranaki visible in the far right background

Covering a total of 78,651 ha, includes within its boundaries the three major active volcanoes in the centre of the North Island - Ruhapehu, Ngaruhoe and Tongariro - as well as much broken country, tussock land, desert areas and forests. It was the first of NZ's national parks.

Most of the land, including the three mountains, was donated to the government and people in 1887 by Te Heuheu Tukino IV and other chiefs of the Tuwharetoa tribe from the Tokaanu district. The original size was 2,600 ha. The park is used by large numbers of people for skiing, mainly on the slopes of Mt Ruhapehu, and for tramping and hunting.

Mt Tongariro itself has a number of craters, some of them still active, and there are fumaroles, mud pools and hot springs on the northern slopes, at Ketetahi Springs. Tongariro at 1,968 m is the lowest of the three mountains. The first recorded ascent by an European was in 1867 when geologist James Hector made the climb.

The park is a huge catchment area and this had led to the design of the Tongariro hydro-electric power scheme, a complex project which takes the water through tunnels, along canals, using its driving power on the way to Lake Taupo (
see Tokaanu).
Tongariro is also the name given to a settlement about 30 km north-east of National Park.

Gecko Guide comments:

This is my favourite stomping ground! This park offers so much variety and I recommend that if you are only able to visit New Zealand for a short period of time then this would be the place to visit. Activities include: the Tongariro Crossing a seven hour tramp across the mountain pass which gives you the opportunity to view active volcanoes, scree slopes, huge craters (like walking on the moon) hot thermal pools and geysers.

Mount Ruhepehu has excellent ski facilities the season being from July to October. Rockclimbing and native forest walks, excellent trout fishing in Lake Taupo, limestone caves to explore, white water rafting, mountain bike trails, scenic flights. Hmmm, I wish I was there now!

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