How about snowy Mordor?

posted in: New Zealand | 50

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand is famous for very various reasons. It is considered to be one of the finest one day walks in the world with its really spectacular volcanic scenery, and for many people walking there is equal to wandering in the mystical land of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings. We were there in late July 2012, and we were close to experience the fires of Mordor, I will get back to what I mean.

In our round the world trip, we got to New Zealand in the middle of winter, so we expected to face extra challenges in this trekking. We could not afford hiring a guide or renting the expensive equipment, so after asking some information from locals (the owner of the campsite in Turangi was extremely helpful), we decided to start the track from the end where people normally finish it. Although it is somewhat steeper from there, we were told that it would be easier to turn around if bad weather came or if we had just seen it too risky to follow without special equipment. We knew that it had not been snowing for a couple of weeks, so there was not too much snow in most of track and the weather forecast promised a sunny day, but in the mountains you never know. At the same time we heard many times on the radio that they were talking about a possible eruption soon. We were assured that in that case, they would not let us even close to the track, but we were still a little bit worried about that.

We woke up really early in the morning feeling really nervous and excited about this day that we had been looking forward to so much. There were some white clouds over the mountain, but it was a sunny day just as we hoped. We followed the trail in the forest for a while and then we crossed a colorful bushy area, were yellow, brown and red colors dominated the landscape.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Soon we arrived at an altitude from where we had an amazing look at the majestic Lake Taupo. In the first stop we made in the Ketetahi Hut, we met an English hiker who confirmed that probably we were not going to need crampons and any other special equipment to do the crossing, as there was not much snow on the track.

View of Lake Taupo

After this point the vegetation started to disappear, and we found ourselves in an arid desert with a dark brownish color, just as one imagines Mordor. The only difference was that in some parts it was covered with snow, strange scenery for our eyes.

Dry Land in Tongariro Crossing

We passed along the Blue Lake and then we arrived in the Central Crater, where beautiful snowy alpine landscape waited for us. By then all the clouds had disappeared and the view of the enormous crater and the surrounding snowy peaks as a background was simply astonishing. Only the zone of the Red Crater was not covered with snow, and behind that, a part of the summit of Mount Ngauruhoe (for Lord of the Rings fans simply Mount Doom) was already visible.

Tongariro Central Crater

The most difficult part was still waiting for us, as first we crossed the crater covered with thick hard snow to arrive in the zone of the Emerald Likes, which were mostly frozen, and then we started the ascent to the Red Crater.

Emerald Lake Tongariro Crossing

It took one hour to get up to the Red Crater, and only in some shorter stretches we had to leave the trail to walk around the snow.

Red Crater Tongariro Crossing

When we arrived at the top, the view gave compensation for all the effort made: we had the snowy Central Crater at our back, the Red Crater from which smoke was coming out on our left and Mount Doom was standing in front of us.

Panorama Mount Doom

Although it was really cold and windy up there, we were really thrilled by the scenery. We walked down on the other side for a while to get closer to Mount Doom, and then we started to walk back.

Mount Doom Tongariro Crossing

We met a group of hikers and the guide told us that for years it had been the first time that they could do the crossing without crampons and equipment, we could consider ourselves really lucky. On our way back, our pace was much slower and we stopped so many times taking pictures of this beautiful landscape in a wonderful day.

Well, in the end Mordor was really friendly with us for some reason. The fires what I was talking about at the beginning of the post fortunately came only a few days later. We did the Tongariro Crossing on July 28, and only a week later the Te Māri Craters erupted on August 6 and they closed the trail several days before. We seemingly arrived just in time.

50 Responses

  1. Nice to see my country showcased here. Dropping by from UBC.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Suzy for the comment! Your country is beautiful!

  2. Wow this is amazing to see! I loved Lord of The Rings!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Sophie! I am really glad that you appreciate it, I am also a LOTR fan!

  3. Amazing photos. Would love to visit your part of the world!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      For me, New Zealand is the most amazing country, landscape-wise. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Wow, that sounds like an incredible trip! New Zealand is one of the places I would like to visit…thanks for re sparking that desire!

    Beautiful photos, by the way!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks very much for the really kind comment! Yes, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

  5. As a LOTR fan and someone who desperately wants to go to New Zealand, this is great! Crazy that you were there just the week before. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      We were really lucky with the timing in many senses! And yes, anywhere you go in New Zealand, you feel yourself in one of the LOTR movies. Thanks Ashley for the comment!

  6. Your photographs are absolutely stunning. I would love to make it over to New Zealand one day- It appeals to me more than Australia for some reason.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      I am really delighted that you liked our photos, in New Zealand actually it is not hard to shoot amazing landscape photos!

  7. Wow, what a nice surprise to run across this blog today!

    LOVED Lord of the rings and have wanted to go to NZ for ages. Even the barren landscape like this has a beauty to it.

    The photos are great i felt like i was doing the hike myself, from the comfort of my sofa in Ireland lol..

    my only question is… did you see any giant eagles? :)

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Christianna! We don’t often receive such a kind comment, we really appreciate it. The answer to your question, I think when we closed our eyes, the eagles felt to be there:)

  8. WOW!!! Those are some beautiful photos, first of all! It looks like a gorgeous place to explore; glad it ended up going so well for you guys!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Cool that you liked our photos!! Thanks Kristen for your comment!

  9. Just on my way to NZ for the first time so it’s great to see these pictures. Thanks!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Great to hear that our photos mmight give you some extra inspiration for your travel in NZ! Thanks for the comment!

  10. What a glorious adventure!! One that you will never forget! Good for you for attempting it–and succeeding at it, and good for you for taking such gorgeous pictures and sharing them with us.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Amy! It was really an unforgettable adventure.

  11. What beautiful pictures! This sounds like a great hike! I’m so glad the weather was perfect so you could share this experience with the rest of us!!!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      I am so happy that you liked our photos! Yes, we were lucky with the weather, we can’t complain at all!

  12. Wow, lucky you, to be able to do this trip. New Zealand has always been intriguing to me and I do hope to get there one day. I’d love to do a hike that like, and the images you took are fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Jeanne, New Zealand is an absolutely wonderful country, the landscape there is simply fascinating. We hope you can get there one day and we also hope to get back there once!

  13. Ohhh wow, what a trip. With a toddler now this kind of thing is impossible for me, but I am so glad to have seen it through you. Mt. Doom looks amazing! Thanks for linking up to SundayTraveler, hope you see you again tomorrow.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      With a toddler it would not be very easy to do this hike. I am happy if we could make you see it through our stories and pictures. SundayTraveler seems a really good idea for me, will join you in other occasions as well.

  14. What a gorgeous photos! It seems like an amazing hike. Beautiful scenery, too. Thanks for linking up to the #SundayTraveler.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      We did many treks in our round the world trip, but this was probably the most beautiful one. Thanks for the comment!

  15. Wow, stunning pics! The effort you put into the trek was well worth it for views like that!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Yes Michael, the view from up there made the effort worthwile!

  16. That looks amazing, and the pictures are wonderfull! Have to put this on top of our bucketlist now.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Thanks Nina for your comment! I agree with you to put this track in your bucketlist:)

  17. What a beautiful hike and an amazing contrast in colors and scenery. You are very lucky to have done it in winter. The view of the snow capped peak is spectacular!

    Love the reference to the Lord of the Rings! :)

    • Rachele & Gábor

      In New Zealand, you feel yourself in the Lord of the Rings movie in many places. This trek was simply fascinating in winter!

  18. Amazing photos, looks like an awesome place to hike. We’ve not really considered New Zealand before, but having read lots of blogs over the last few months with such spectacular scenery as this, we’re rapidly changing our minds!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      I can also just recommend you to visit New Zealand. Amazing scenery, beautiful colors everywhere!

  19. Wow, talk about great timing… The landscape looks stunning – it reminded me of Iceland, actually. Lovely post, kudos! Good luck and safe travels!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Yeah, our timing couldn’t have been more perfect! I have never been to Iceland, it is one of my dream destinations! Thanks for your comment!

  20. Beautiful! I’d love to go there someday. Just breathtaking.

  21. This is a dream! Just gorgeous :) Absolutely MUST go some day. Love your pictures.

    • Rachele & Gábor

      We really appreciate your comment! This was one of the most beautiful places we saw in New Zealand, a definite “must go” just as you say.

  22. Holy cow it is gorgeous there!! It definitely looks kind of a tough hike due to the coldness but it is obviously worth it. Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to explore NZ it looks simply beautiful! Amazing pictures guys!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Yes, Samantha, this track is absolutely amazing. You will enjoy New Zealand, in my opinion it’s the most beautiful country landscape-wise. When doing the Tongariro Crossing, be prepared for any kind of change in the weather!

  23. Breath-taking! I’ll be going to New Zealand later this year and I sure hope to survive the trip to Mt. Doom! :D

    • Rachele & Gábor

      Mt. Doom:) will be one of the highlights of your trip in New Zealand, I can guarantee you that! Just be prepared for the changes in the weather, up there it is pretty unpredictable!

  24. It is such a great hike! I did it in the summer and loved it. To this day, it is still one of my favorite hikes I have done around the world. I love your snowy pictures though. It was chilly with the summer wind, so I can’t imagine what it would be like in the winter!

    • Rachele & Gábor

      I agree Angela, for me also is one of the favorite hikes I have ever done! Such a wonderful scenery with so many things to see!

  25. […] the Places I can Hardly Believe are Real category, the team at Surfing the Planet visit the landscape of ‘Snowy Mordor’  – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New […]

  26. Ne Zealand is so far away, sometimes you think I’ll never get to see it, maybe only on TV!

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