Our Nearly Doomed Trip to Mt. Doom
New Zealand is Lord of the Rings country (which you already know from our posts like this, this & this). All three LOTR movies were filmed here and they are currently filming the new Hobbit movies (one of which might be called There & Back Again!) One of the most iconic natural landscapes that can be recognized in the movies is Mt. Nguaruhoe–otherwise known as Mt. Doom.
We started the morning at a tire center in Taupo getting our Warrant of Fitness renewed for our car. The repairs that needed to be made could have cost us quite a lot of money, but thankfully the shop had a second hand tire in just the right size and they didn’t charge us for labor since we were visitors to the country. The big bummer came when we had to purchase a new seatbelt for the driver’s side. A new one would cost $200, but to cut that cost in half we would have to return the next day when a second hand seat belt could be delivered from Hamilton. That would mean backtracking even though I had mapped out a perfect route to our next stop after National Park. Sigh. Oh well. We resigned ourselves to the backtracking and headed on to see Mt. Doom.
Drew had been waiting patiently for seven months to see this volcano. “We have to see Mt. Doom!” he would say. And here we were, in the car on the way there. Finally! Mt. Doom sits in the middle of a string of 3 volcanoes in Tongariro National Park. At the north end as we approached, we saw Mt. Tongariro, which obscured any views of the movie star mountain from that vantage point. We were all ready to park at Whakapapa Ski Village and take a short walk that, as our travel guide told us, offered panoramic views of Mt. Doom and the surrounding area.
So imagine my bitter sadness when we realized that thick, low-lying cloud cover had moved in on the western side of the mountain/volcano range. We just came from gorgeous sunny skies at Lake Taupo (as you see below), but a half hour’s drive brought entirely new conditions.
It seemed I was more depressed than Drew was about the weather, but we made the short trek up the trail anyway. This is all we saw:
Epic fail! We couldn’t see anything! I was placated with the thought that we had to drive right past this area again tomorrow to go back to Taupo. Maybe the sun would be out then. Plus, I was looking forward to free unlimited Internet at our next hostel–something that is incredible rare in New Zealand and was one major reason I chose this particular hostel over some other options. So off we went to National Park Village. We found our lodge and were more than willing to take advantage of their hot tub, but I think I almost cried when I heard their Internet was down!
Not having Internet, we opted to watch a movie on their big screen television in the lounge, but just about every single movie in their collection was pirated and as such, had no subtitles! Fail. We finally found one movie that wasn’t burned, and even though we had both seen Gladiator, and I wasn’t really in the mood to watch people be killed for sport, we watched it anyway.
The next morning dawned still covered in clouds. We didn’t even bother stopping at the ski village for another attempt at the hike. We drove back around the north end of the park. On a whim, we decided to turn right down the east side of the park instead of turning left and heading back to Taupo right away. The mountain range had contained the clouds on the western side and we hoped we didn’t have to drive very far out of the way to see Mt. Doom from this angle.
Lo and behold! Mt. Doom in all it’s glory was finally in view!!
So even though we could have stayed an extra night in Taupo and not bothered with the extra time & petrol money to get to National Park, we were just glad to have finally seen Mt. Doom! We headed back to the tire center and had our new-to-us seatbelt installed, then hit the road to Raglan.
Check out more pictures from Tongariro National Park on Facebook!