Gold trail

On the trail of eternity

Tongariro Crossing - a hike to Mount Doom

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By on 4 June 2021

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Tongariro Crossing - a hike to Mount Doom 

Our journey to the heart of New Zealand's North Island takes us over the Tongariro Crossing to "Mount Doom". Here, where the elemental forces of nature can be felt very closely, we glimpse something of the "great Mother Goddess".

January 2020, the North Island of New Zealand

For a few weeks, we have the opportunity to leave our wet and grey winter routine at home to immerse ourselves in a foreign world at the other end of the earth.
Endless sandy beaches are the first thing to quench our thirst for space and sea. They contrast with the subtropical vegetation of the huge fern forests that surround them. Here we take a deepbreath and let ourselves be transported back to a time when primeval forests enriched the earth's atmosphere with vast amounts of oxygen.

The Heart of the Island: Tongariro Crossing - Truly a "Hotspot"

Then we are ready to turn our attention to the centrepiece of the island that we have heard about again and again on our journey: the Tongariro Crossing. It is an eight-hour hike that leads through the wasteland of a volcanic mountain landscape.

From Hobbiton to Mordor

In the interior of the country lie two places where scenes of the film of Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings trilogy around Mordor were filmed. The day before the walk, we visit the lush green valley called "the Shire", long before the film's director, Peter Jackson, discovered it from a helicopter. It was the ideal backdrop for his Shire. The Tongariro Crossing will then take us to the "Mordor" location, where the final film scenes were shot at the volcano and "Mount Doom".

While we are here ... We hope for good weather

The Tongariro Crossing is one of the island's touted sights, which can attract several hundred visitors a day. However, we have always been advised to do the walk only in stable and fine weather, because in the mountains everything can sink into dense fog within a short time.

However, when we arrive at the campsite at the foot of the mountain in the evening, it starts to rain. The weather forecast does not bode well for the next day either.
Nevertheless, we already have to book the bus ride that will take us to the starting point of the hike. We are supposed to start at 5.30 am. We are told that we might not see anything at all, but that we can decide at short notice on the spot to go back by bus.
"Now that we are here ...", we say to ourselves and book.

Tongariro Crossing: Start at 6 am in the rain

The next morning, the driver of the minibus gives us final instructions and says there is about a 20 percent chance that we will see something. He knows the area like the back of his hand.
Of the four couples on the bus, three decide to make the journey anyway, including us. Our youngest, 25, is with us.
At the beginning everything is grey in grey. But the markings are easily visible and the path is well maintained. Soon it climbs steeply.

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A vast barren plateau

After about two hours we reach a wide plateau, well warmed up. The colours here seem out of this world. Yellow-black rock interspersed with isolated dry, also yellowish plant bushes stand in a slightly yellow light that makes everything appear ghostly. Then suddenly the cloud cover breaks a little and the rising sun intensifies the dramatic atmosphere.

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We think the journey was worth it just for that. We are also hopeful that we will see more.

Ascent to the heights

At the end of the wide plain, the main ascent awaits us. The path leads steeply uphill again.
The further up we get, the more the fog clears. An ice-cold wind now brings movement to the whole cloud cover.

Mount Doom and the Mother Goddess

Almost at the top, we can suddenly make out the outline of a huge volcano behind us: Mount Ngauruhoe, the mountain of destiny. It is one of the large, still active volcanoes in New Zealand. Its last eruption occurred in 2012 and formed the red crater, Te Mari.

A sacred place

This place is sacred to the Maoris. As a nature people, they worshipped Mother Earth as a life-giving and nurturing deity. This means that violent natural manifestations such as volcanic eruptions were understood as divine wrath or fateful messages.
(Thus the Great Mother as living matter in her third aspect represents the forces of nature and the deity of fate. See
also Feminine Wholeness - The Goddess, 3-in-1, The Great Feminine in the Underworld , and Volcanoes, hellfire and the mother-deity).

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At the peak of the Tongariro Crossing

After the last effort, the mist reveals the view of the surrounding mountain peaks and the sea of clouds below. Blue sky shows itself!

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The clouds are disappearing more and more. Our brisk pace has paid off. We are alone! Our bodies are still steaming from the exertion, just as the stony ground seems to be steaming too. But the rising sulphur vapours can hardly be distinguished from the fog enveloping everyone.

Breathtaking volcanic landscape

As if we had conquered the land, we are now initiated into its treasures. We are on the rim of the red crater and in front of us a blue and three smaller emerald green crater lakes shine in the yellow-red landscape.

Below us lies the plain of the middle crater, over which the path leads to the blue lake at the foot of Mount Tongariro.

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Slide on the back of the dragon

Ahead lies a rugged mountain landscape that looks like the back of a dragon.
The steep descent to the emerald lakes leads along the edge of the red crater and proves to be slippery and challenging. Richly unstable, we slither downwards in loose, coarse scree while our shoes fill with stones.

Grandiose peacefulness or just a snooze?

Having reached the foot of the crater, we now see a completely different picture when we look back.
The lakes lie still in the hollows of the hills, and their colours glow even more intensely.
We take in this expression of peacefulness and power before we continue.

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An ant trail

More walkers have now appeared in the background. They appear like small dots, seeds or ants in the gigantic landscape. The place will fill up with many more hikers in the course of the day.

The red crater

After crossing the imposing plain of the middle crater, we look back again from the blue lake to the enormous maw of the red crater. Behind it, the "Mount Doom" is still mysteriously shrouded in clouds.

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The descent into the fertile valley

Past the blue lake, we pass the last hilltop, Mount Tongariro.
Behind it, the view opens down into the green valley to Lake Rotoaira and Taupo in the background.

This is the start of the second half of the hike, a tough descent of about 3 hours.
It leads past a sulphur-steamed area from which a stream springs. Sulphur and iron have coloured the stones yellow and red.

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The Guardian of the Gates of Hell

The air is getting warmer, the sun is heating up again and the way down seems to go on forever.
From down here we allow ourselves another look back to the hill ...
Apart from the misty vapours in the upper part of the hill, nothing gives a hint of the incredible world that lies hidden behind it.
Or does it? Up there ... In the middle of the green slope a huge stone ...

A large boulder juts out from a hill in the green spaces. Like a sentinel, it stands over the rise to this meaningful place, sacred to the Maoris, where the power and might of Mother Nature manifests itself so powerfully.
Fearsome, like a giant head, it looks as if it has sprung from the bowels of the earth and now guards the fiery gates to the underworld...
As if to say:

Attention! This path leads to the gate of the underworld, to the realm of the great Mother-Deity! Proceed at your own risk!

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Gratitude and respect

For us, however, this warning comes too late, as we had gained access from another side. Now we are already on the descent and have happily completed the adventure.
With gratitude and respect we say goodbye to this place, whose powerful atmosphere has made us feel something of divine elemental force and also of grace.

We did it!

Soon we are immersed in the cooling and protective security of the forest, grateful for the shade in the lush greenery that envelops us.

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