|Paddling in the beautiful scenery of New Zealand's North Island, in the shadow of Mount Doom (quite famous these days thanks to the Lord of the Rings).|
Not too often do we get the opportunity to paddle in a World Heritage Area. In New Zealand however, the opportunity is there for anyone to enjoy. Stopping on the State Highway 1 section known as the Desert Road, world class paddling is only a short walk away, in the Tongariro National Park, also known as the Tongariro World Heritage Area.
Tongariro is New Zealand's oldest national park and a dual World Heritage area. This status recognises the park's important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features. It is a place of extremes and surprises, a place to explore and remember.
This was the first national park to be established in New Zealand and the fourth in the world. In 1887 Te Heuheu Tukino IV (Horonuku), then the paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa, gifted the sacred peaks to the nation. To tangata whenua (people of the land) the mountains are a vital part of their history, their 'whakapapa' (genealogy) and legends are venerated accordingly.
The three andesitic volcanoes at the heart of the park - the mountains Tongariro, Ngaruahoe and Ruapehu - form the southern limits of the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Volcanic activity in the zone started about 2 million years ago and is on-going today. Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe are two of the most active composite volcanoes in the world. In 1995 and again in 1996 Ruapehu has erupted in spectacular fashion sending clouds of ash and steam skyward and mantling the surrounding snow fields and forest with a thick film of ash.
Paddling in the park is an experience never to forget. Views of Mt Ngaruahoe make it easy to understand why Peter Jackson chose this mountain to represent Mt Doom in the filming of Lord of the Rings.
The river featured is the Waiohonu, South of Tongariro on State highway one. Just further south of the road bridge is the walkway into the upper section of the river. It's a hard walk in and a hard paddle out. You need to be keen to paddle in a World Heritage Area, but on retrospect, it will have been worth it!
[PS Thanks to the team at Bliss-stick for the images]