We headed to the snow this weekend, specifically the snow at Tongariro National Park, which is situated more or less halfway between Auckland and Wellington, in the middle of the North Island of New Zealand.
Established in 1887, Tongariro was the first national park in New Zealand and the fourth in the world. It is also a dual World Heritage area, a status which recognises the park’s important Maori cultural and spiritual associations as well as its outstanding volcanic features.
The three andesitic volcanoes at the heart of the park – the mountains Tongariro, Ngauruhoe 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 erupted sending clouds of ash and steam skyward and covering the surrounding snow fields and forest with a thick film of ash.
It is a land of strong contrasts. Chaotic, barren lava flows, winter snowfields, hot springs and active craters can be seen side by side. Its plants too vary considerably, from alpine herbs to thick swathes of tussocks and flax, from the hardy, low-growing shrubs of the Rangipo gravel-field to dense beech forests. It is a harsh environment for plants; poor pumice soils and volcanic activity slows the development of diverse forests yet some pockets of magnificent podocarp forest can be found. They survived the eruption of Lake Taupo (1800 years ago) because they were sheltered on southwest slopes of Ruapehu. These resilient little plants were some of the few peeking through the snow and ice near where we were:
And when we were all worn out from walking up and down the slope dragging first the empty toboggan, then towing it with one child, and not much later two children on board… we resorted to a bit of snow man building!Before heading for the car and a change of dry clothes!
PS Im trying on a new header (or two) for size. What do you think?