Around the volcanoes of Mordor:
The Mount Doom Double
Volcanic vents, craters into the abyss, fire in the sky at night, impenetrable fog and emerald lakes.
It’s easy to see why this area is steeped in legend – from tales of Mordor and Middle Earth, to Maori legends about fiery mountain warriors battling over beautiful maidens.
North Island, New Zealand: 15 – 19th February 2017
We put on our hiking packs for a few days and explored Tongariro National Park. We combined the Round the Mountain Track and the Tongariro Northern Circuit/Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We circumnavigated the two volcanoes used to film Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings: Mount Ngauruhoe and Mount Ruapehu. This area is now synonymous with Mordor, but the Maori history is even more spellbinding.
This area is sacred to Māori people, so precious that they gifted custodianship to the people of New Zealand, in order to preserve the area rather than see it split up and destroyed. It was the first National Park in the world to be created by gift from an indigenous people.
According to Maori legend, Mount Ruapehu is a beautiful female mountain.
She was married to Mount Taranaki. But one day she was seduced by Mount Ngauruhoe. The two male mountains fought over the beautiful Ruapehu, throwing fire and erupting violently. Taranaki lost. He fled west, gouging a great trail into the earth as he moved. The trail was filled with tears and became the Whanganui River. There are other versions of this lovers quarrel, but they all involve warrior mountains fighting over beautiful maiden mountains.
To explore this stunning landscape, we combined two hikes:
- the Tongariro Alpine Crossing/Tongariro Northern Circuit, which is widely hailed as one of the best day hikes in the world; and
- the Round the Mountain Track, a 4 to 6 day remote backcountry circuit which I think has intentionally been kept secret!
The best thing about this hike was the look on the faces of locals when we told them what we’d done. Many of them reaffirmed that this is indeed the best hike on the North Island of NZ. It’s quite unfathomable that hardly anyone does it.
I finished this hike so appreciative of the gift the Maori people had given.