See this volcano (or as Marty calls it, a “tornado”). Here’s what it looks like up close and personal:
Today we rode the chair lift to reach the 6,000 feet mark of the 9,000 foot summit. Fabulous!
Sans snow, the landscape looked like a moonscape and we marveled that this place could actually be a ski resort. We learned that they open with 2 meters of snow and add from there as nature or snow machines deem fit.
Venturing out on to the remaining snow fields was simply magical. I felt as if I was holding a handful of diamonds!
Cold? yes. Sunny? Yes. Sunscreen? Yes. Just total fun. We sat and soaked it all up. And there were a few snowballs, too!
When we’d had our fill of sun and snow, not to mention watching families take a zillion photos, play in the snow, and tromp through the streams, we got back on the chair lifts for the ride down. Oh, almost forgot. . .at the top of the mountain where we were is the highest cafe in New Zealand. . .all quite modern and inviting.
Now if we had been Lord of the Rings fans we would have known all about this:
On the Whakapapa side of Mt Ruapehu are some more Mordor locations. Iwikau Village and the sharp volcanic rock, cliffs and ash behind Aorangi Lodge was the location of Emyn Muil.
The Whakapapa ski area is also where Isildur cuts off Sauron’s finger in the opening scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring, as well as the scene where the armies of Mordor leave Minas Morgul on the Orc Road.
But never mind, we still walked to Meads Wall, an easy 10-minute climb.
But the real thrill was on the other side of the wall, where there was a HUGE, DEEP valley and an amazing view of the dark side!
Mike wedged himself into a cavern, much like a Hobbit, to take this photo. I can honestly tell you the ledge where I was standing was no more than 18 inches wide and there was NO guard rail!
We felt as if we’d had a great adventure, and indeed we had. It’s amazing to experience an active volcano up close with its alpine fauna (photographed by Don), whipping winds (as evidence by random hair dos), snow, waterfalls, and lava rock.
New Zealand, you are one AMAZING place!