[Blast, that title’s given me the most dreadful John Bloody Denver earworm.]
Continuing our journey south towards Wellington and a ferry to South Island, today we were heading for the so-called Desert Road. The Desert Road is section of State Highway 1 (SH1) that crosses a high plateau beneath three volcanoes. The scenery sounded fascinating.
Before we got there, however, Francine organized a little side trip to the beginning of an Alpine crossing walk over Mount Tangariro, billed as one of the great walks of New Zealand. We weren’t here to attempt the walk – it’s a whole day affair – but fancied a squint.
We arrived at the walk’s start to see a “car park closed” sign. Overflow vehicles were abandoned by the roadside but there was a secure car park which was NZ$15 per day. With a smile from Francine telling him we wanted only 30 minutes to point cameras, the man providing security let us stay for free. Walking up the 1km gravel track to the start of the walk was quite dull until Francine found a suspected orchid on the shady side. She’d heard of Greenhood Orchids and this looked as if it would fit that description. In fact, Francine thinks she has two species – there are many – but don’t bank on it. The car park wasn’t so much closed as full. I suppose this would be classic burglar territory – at the foot of an all day walk, you could be fairly confident that the vehicle owners are away for a long time. We returned and thanked Mr. Security.
The Desert Road does not run through an actual desert, there being too much rainfall for that. However, vegetation is suppressed by the layer upon layer of volcanic ash that’s built up over the millennia. It’s more of a notional desert. We were hoping for some good views of the volcanoes. In bright conditions, there would be. Today was mostly overcast, however, and the highest of the volcanoes had its head in the clouds. The most impressively shaped was visible, though, and, with the darkling clouds above, looked decidedly like Mount Doom, a part which Francine thought it might actually have played in the rather-too-epic Bored of the Rings. [Subsequently, of course, there has been the even-more-rather-too-epic Hobbit trilogy which took boredom and extreme capitalization to new levels. But I digress …]
Here we were with oceans of space beside the road driving along beneath two of the three volcanoes. Were there any observation points to stop in? No. Well, eventually there was a single viewpoint, cunningly situated at the one point along the road where a huge mound actually obscures the view of the larger of the two giants. Brilliant! Well done, NZ Tourist Board. There was a clear view of Mount Doom, though. [It’s actually called Mount Ngauruhoe. Mount Doom is easier.]
We arrived at Ohakune on another Top 10 site. This one seems more switched on than last night’s. At least, the receptionist is.
An afternoon walk along the local river netted me another Common Redcoat damselfly even though conditions really weren’t sunny enough.