The Travel Diaries – Tama Lakes, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand

Have you been to Tongariro National Park?

Tongariro National Park on the North Island of New Zealand is simply amazing. If you are planning on visiting New Zealand at any point and want somewhere epic to hike, Tongariro should be on the top of your list. It is New Zealand’s oldest national park and has dual world Heritage status. It is both an important Maori cultural and spiritual site as well as an outstanding volcanic site. The park has lots of hiking and tramping options, from short hikes to multi day tramps. There is also camping, hunting and mountain biking options to give everyone something to do.

This trip is the second time I’ve been to this particular national park and I decided to try a different hike to the one I had done previously. Back in March 2019 I hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It was an amazing experience with amazing views. On this occasion I decided to do a half day hike which was up to Tama Lakes and back.

Mt Ngauruhoe from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
Mt Ngauruhoe from the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
So stoked about being back out exploring
So stoked about being back out exploring

This is my first adventure after lockdown and you can’t imagine how excited I am.

This was going to be my first adventure since the lockdown lifted and I couldn’t wait. My feet were itching and ready to get back in my hiking boots. I am so lucky to be in New Zealand and to be able to get out and travel the country, as it means I get to do awesome things like this. As winter is pretty much here I had anticipated cold weather for any upcoming hikes and adventures so I’d stocked up on warm outdoor clothing from the awesome kiwi clothing company Mons Royale.

For this hike I based myself at The YHA National Park. It was very interesting to be around people and fellow travelers again. I had a little work to do so managed to fit some in before dinner and after dinner I spent an evening hanging out with new friends and playing fun card games. After the card games I checked my phone and noticed (thanks to some handy apps) that the sky was perfect for a bit of stargazing and astro photography. I gathered my new friends and took them in to the cold to get some fun pictures. Mt Ruapeho at sunset The view of Mt Ngauruhoe from the hostel Stargazing in Tongariro National Park


The hike to Taranaki Falls and Tama Lakes

The next morning with my bag packed full of my camera gear, extra warm clothes, waterproofs, lunch and tea. I set off from the hostel and started my hike at 9am. On the DOC website it says the hike should take 5-6 hours return, so I knew I had plenty of time to hike, have lunch and drive to my next destination for the night. The hike starts in Whakapapa village, right next to the amazing Chateau Tongariro.

The hike itself was pretty easy, not too many hills or uneven sections. The track crosses tussock country and alpine herb fields and is well formed and marked. It consists of mostly gravel section but there are a few boardwalks, which I really enjoy after spending so much time on the gravel. The first stop on the walk is Taranaki Falls. The falls are 20 metres high and fall over the edge of a large adesite lava flow which erupted from Mt Ruapehu 15,000 years ago! 6 A boardwalk leading to Mt Ngauruhoe Me at Taranaki Falls Taranaki Falls

After Taranaki Falls the track continues passing through more of the same environment. You get stunning views of both Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu along the whole hike. So make sure you have your camera to hand for all those photo opportunities. I try to look for different view points of the mountains or different and interesting plants or rocks to go in the foreground.

The first lake you come to is the lower lake at 1,240 metres. You can get some awesome pictures of this lake and the Mt Ruapehu in the background. It’s an amazing opportunity to put your pack down for a while and explore the area a little with just your camera. You can see Mt Taranaki in the distance Lower tama lake and Mt Ruapeho Me admiring the views at lower Tama Lake Lower Tama Lake wooden sign

Lower Tama Lake Panorama
Lower Tama Lake Panorama

After a short climb the track takes you to the upper lake which is at 1440 metres. The track here is not formed and consists of loose and uneven rocks. It’s a little trickier as it is steeper than the rest of the hike but it’s not too challenging. From the upper lake you have amazing views with Mt Ngauruhoe in the background. This is where I stopped to have lunch as it was a calm and sunny day so I didn’t have to worry about the cold winds that could get quite strong that high up. I sat and chatted to a kiwi couple who have a cool medium format camera. It was amazing sitting in the middle of nowhere admiring the view and sipping on my tea. After the lockdown I appreciated this experience even more than before. being out in nature, pushing your body physically and recharging mentally. Sitting next to a mountain, drinking tea and enjoying the peace and quite was a humbling experience. Me at Upper Tama Lake Upper Tama Lake Upper Tama Lake Sign Medium format camera in action Getting the perfect shot Who’s that orange spec?


This was a fantastic first adventure after the Covid 19 Lockdown in New Zealand. What will your first adventure be? Be sure to comment below or let me know on social media!

Cheers

Paul

Self timers at Lower Tama Lake
Self timers at Lower Tama Lake

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