Justin and I left after work on Friday and drove down to National Park for a ski weekend. Yes, the name of the town is National Park. Justin didn't actually figure this out until our drive home. He couldn't figure out why I kept calling it national park! It is a 5 hour drive from Auckland so we got in late. We stayed a little outside of National Park at the Discovery Lodge. We had our own little chalet that had recently been renovated with modern decor. There were supposed to be sweeping views of the 3 volcanoes from our front window but the cloud cover obstructed our views.
|View from our chalet. If you look closely, you can see the snow at the base of the volcano.|
|Our chalet for the weekend.|
We got up early Saturday morning and headed up to the Whakapapa ski area about 15 minutes away. The views on the way up were amazing as the landscape really makes you feel like you are on another planet! The Whakapapa ski area is on Mt. Ruapehu, one of three active volcanoes in the area including Tongariro, Mt. Ruapehu, and Mt. Ngauruhoe. Fun fact....Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings was based on Mt. Ruapehu and Mt. Ngauruhoe and many scenes were actually filmed on the slopes of Mt. Ruapehu. And not to be left out, fun fact about Tongariro...Tongariro recently showed signs of life with a small eruption on August 6th.
|Out the car window on the way down from the ski area. Hard to do it justice without much depth perception.|
The ski field was interesting as it has no trees so the runs are marked only by small signs and are very hard to follow. The visibility was very poor for most of our ski day. When I say very poor, I mean there were literally times when everyone pretty much stopped because you could not see where the run went or where the side (drop off) was. At one point, Justin and I were attempting to navigate back to the mid-camp for lunch and we were looking for a certain lift. We spent a few minutes standing probably 100 yards away from the lift trying to figure out if what we were looking at was indeed a lift at all. It was crazy! Basically, clouds settle over the top of the volcano and you just can't see.
|Walking up to the base of the Whakapapa ski area.|
|It looks like we are at the top of the mountain....but we are only about half way up.|
|The only picture I could get Justin to take of me. This is in the Happy Valley beginners area.|
We had a fun time and got in some good runs especially when we stayed closer to the bottom of the mountain. Unfortunately, the bottom of the mountain was very crowded! There were also quite a few tow rope lifts which I did not enjoy!
We had dinner that evening at the Discovery lodge restaurant and then watched the All Blacks game with the locals :)
The next day it looked pretty rainy down at our chalet so we doubted the visibility would be any good up on the slopes but we decided to drive up and check it out. Unfortunately, the visibility was even worse! We couldn't even see in the parking lot so I can't imagine how dense the cloud cover would have been at the top! We opted not to pay to ski in poor conditions and instead headed back to Auckland via the scenic route. We took a (very) short hike to a cave, enjoyed some beautiful views, and visited Kawhia.
|View from a lookout on our scenic drive|
|Mid-morning snack....cream filled donut and an egg pie|
|Looking out of the entrance to the cave|
|Hiking back to the car from the cave|
|This sheep is king of the hill....for my mom|
|Main Street Kawhia|
|Last lookout stop before we headed back to Auckland|
All in all it was a little disappointing not to get much skiing in but we had a fun weekend getaway! The scenery in Tongariro National Park is truly remarkable! All weekend I kept saying, I have never seen anything like this. We are already planning at least one trip back to the are to do the Tongariro Crossing with K&A.