Back to Auckland and then on a train (with a chatty conductor who gave a running commentary the entire five hours on what we could see through the window – including Huntly coalfired power station…) to Tongariro National Park.
I think I was the only person who disembarked at National Park station. Not a soul was around on the streets. The place had an entirely abandoned feel to it, a little like in Westerns, when everyone knows the bad guy is about to rock up and hides. Whistling and feeling a bit Clint Eastwood, I wandered the three streets to find the place I was staying.
The next morning, bright and early I was picked up by a shuttle bus which took me to the start of an epic one-day tramp up past Mt Ngauruhoe – better known as Mount Doom.
I have new found empathy for poor old Frodo – it was a steep old climb at the start, but well worth it. Craters, sulphur lakes, hot rocks, rolling clouds, blue skies, phenomenal views. I took a detour and climbed to the top of Mount Tongariro to get a better look at its brother, and rewarded myself with a celebratory sardine sandwich at the summit. My only regret? Not putting sunscreen on the backs of my hands…