World Trip Home Post Fourteen

Post Fourteen - Mountains and Art Deco

Tongariro CrossingTongariro Crossing

With the morning sun streaming down, it's hard to believe Mt. Tongariro is the fiery cauldron of Mordor in the movie, "The Fellowship of the Ring." But while the volcano may not shoot flames into heavens dark with swirling storm clouds, it is a spectacular, even foreboding place. Tongariro rises like a monolith out of the center of the North Island, one of a series of volcanic cones with treeless, scree-covered slopes of grey, black, red and brown - the burnt, dull colors of chemical processes at work. Precipitation hitting the magma-heated slopes converts to steam that swirls fantastically in the winds sweeping up the mountainsides.

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the most famous day hikes in New Zealand, and with good reason. After switchbacking up the steep slopes of the mountain and climbing a ridge, you cross its volcanic crater, and come down the other side to the Emerald Lakes (see below). Fortunately for us, the weather was perfect for a long, scenic hike: a clear, cool morning, with low clouds that dissipated by midday. -- Karen

Mt. NgauruhoeMt. Ngauruhoe

As a side trip of the Tongariro Crossing, Karl and I scrambled to the top of Mt. Ngauruhoe, a small cinder cone. It was steep and full of loose scree and boulders, but at the top we had a great view of the surrounding volcanoes. The summit had a small, smoking crater and there were plenty of steam vents. If we had known, we could have brought up hot dogs and steamed them on sticks over the vents. The climb down was more of a slide through the cinders down the tracks you see in the background. By the time we got to the bottom, my shoes were so full of sand and ash that I felt I was walking on high heels. -- Scott

Emerald LakesEmerald Lakes

These lakes stared up at Debra and I like unblinking eyes as we hiked down from Mt. Tongariro's crater. In the afternoon sunlight, the intense, milky green of the pools glowed as if backlit, like paint water in art class just after I had rinsed green, then white, then a dab of blue from my brush. -- Karen

Naturally AdventurousNaturally Adventurous

While Karl and I were climbing Mt. Ngauruhoe, Debra and Karen hiked on ahead to wait for us by Blue Lake. Although it was summer in New Zealand, we were at altitude and it was fairly cold. Before the hike, Karen and Debra bought gloves and hats at an outdoor shop. Appropriately, the hats were labeled "Naturally Adventurous." -- Scott

Napier, phoenix of New ZealandNapier, phoenix of New Zealand

Earthquakes in New Zealand can be deep, dramatic, and devastating, and the 1930 temblor in Napier, a town on the east coast of the North Island, was especially terrible. Most of the city was destroyed and 250 residents lost their lives. The city actually grew by square miles when the ocean floor was permanently heaved up above sea level, in some places as much as six feet.

Thanks to an ambitious rebuilding initiative, most of the town was resurrected between 1931 and 1933 in the New Zealand Art Deco style. Today the town is full of beautiful buildings like this one; in fact, it is said to be one of the world's finest examples of an intact Art Deco city. -- Karen

Deco Stained GlassDeco Stained Glass, Napier

This panel of stained glass graced the top of a box office that has been converted to a store display window. a multitude of architectural details like this one overwhelmed my eye as we walked through town. -- Karen

Golfing HazardsGolfing Hazards

There are lots of sheep in New Zealand, and although there is plenty of grassland for them to graze, a few enterprising companies have figured out how to capitalize on the abundance of free lawn maintenance. I'm not sure how you clear them when you want to play. I guess that's where the sheep dogs come in. -- Scott

Next Up: Waterworld

Copyright 2002
Scott & Karen Semyan