The next leg of our summer holiday took us back south, destination Ohakune. We took the scenic route through Te Kuiti rather than joining the increased traffic on SH1 and made good time, arriving at the Venture Lodge in the afternoon. Travis and Sophie were already there having retreated from the heavy rain they had encountered while camping in the Taranaki. Earlier in the day Travis and Sophie had attempted to scale Mount Ruapehu only to be thwarted by the weather coming in. On their journey back down the mountain Travis slipped on ice and skinned his right forearm, we arrived to find him bandaged up.

We talked about the walks and trips we wanted to do into the evening and after reviewing weather forecasts we decided to leave our main walk, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, for a few days and tomorrow instead tackle the slightly shorter return to the Tama Lakes (at only 17kms).

The next day dawned cool and clear and we were out the door bright and early, reasoning it was better to be walking in the cooler morning temperatures. The track started from the Whakapapa village and we found a park easily enough. With all our gear ready we were soon heading into the wilderness. Being an alpine area we were soon leaving trees behind and walking over a landscape of dirt, rock and smaller plants. There were an increasing number of mountain daisies as we walked higher on the foothills between Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

MG 3808Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A mountain daisy.

The first hour of the track also doubled as half of the Taranaki Falls track and we came to a strong flowing stream that disappeared over a worn lava precipice. Travis and I walked down some steps to get a few quick photos of the Falls before rushing to catch Keryn and Sophie who were disappearing up the rising track.

MG 3820Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Wairere Stream.

MG 3826Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Taranaki Falls.

Heading uphill the track was in a bad way, quite badly eroded and muddy from passing boots and what must be heavy rain. At the end of the muddy section we passed a lunar landscape of white vegetation before cresting a rise to see Ngauruhoe before us, we sat on a convenient boardwalk to have a snack and recover from the climbing.

MG 3838Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sparse vegetation.

MG 3857Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Rest stop.

Winding through valleys the path continued until we came to a sign at a crossroads, a formed path continuing to the Tama Lakes and a path marked only by poles heading away towards a distant hut. It was only ten minutes to the crater edge view of the Lower Tama Lake and we had another rest before continuing along the much steeper ridge line to reach the Upper Tama Lake viewpoint. Both lakes nestle inside old blast craters from past eruptions, we watched another couple descend into the lower crater to investigate the lake and saw them as ants walking across the crater floor from our much higher vantage point.

MG 3881Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking down on the Lower Tama Lake.

MG 3890Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The Upper Tama Lake.

MG 3899Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Hat hair photography.

It was cool and a little windy at the Upper Lake viewpoint so after eating we descended to a warmer spot for a further rest, then we were on our way back to Whakapapa. As we got closer to Taranaki Falls we could see lots of people walking the shorter track option and it got quite busy at the falls themselves. Travis and I walked behind the falls for a different view, the wind taking the water away so it was mostly dry behind the screen of water.

MG 3900Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Behind Taranaki Falls.

MG 3908Photo by Brendon & Keryn

People above the waterfall.

The track now followed the stream and we stopped at a bridge to get a photo or two of another waterfall in the gully below. From here we headed through forest, a welcome change in temperature from the heat under the mostly clear skies, it now being early afternoon.

MG 3923Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The waterfall below the bridge.

The forest walk seemed to take an age and we would get tantalising glimpses of the Whakapapa Chalet only for our path to descend into another valley or angle away. It was a relief to finally get back to the car. I felt we had earned refreshment so we got ice creams and paddle pops from a cafe before driving back to Ohakune. The next days trip was booked after showers. Keryn and I cooked up Nachos for dinner and the evening turned into night as TV was watched, cards were played and books read.

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