Founding of the Tongariro National Park
The Tongariro National Park is an area that once belonged to the Ngāti Tūwharetoa tribe. But it became clear to their chief, Horonuku Te Heuheu, that the white man would not let the Māori tribe rule this area. New Zealanders also had been aware for some time that nature they once enjoyed had in great parts been destroyed already, and animals once local to this country, like the hula-bird, had already become extinct. So, in 1887, Horonuku Te Heuheu gave this land as a gift to the Crown under the condition that it should not be developed but rather be a national park.
The weather started getting better in the morning, the rain had finally passed, and only a few clouds were left over the National Park.
Visiting the Tongariro National Park
Yesterday’s rain had ruined our plans of riding our bikes to the volcanic mountains of the Tongariro National Park; it would only have been a short detour from the road but with the cold and the pouring rain, none of us had gone. So this morning, when the sun started peeking through the clouds, we persuaded our guide to add another sightseeing trip to our day. Instead of going directly to the day’s starting point of the bike ride near Raetihi on the Whanganui River, we went first back into the National Park.
Here I had a chance taking a photo of Mount Ruapehu — Exploding Hole — a pretty decent name for a volcano.
Mount Ruapehu is an active stratovolcano and, at 2757m, the highest point on the North Island of New Zealand.
Close-by Mount Ngāuruhoe, the main active vent of Tongariro with a remarkable symmetrical cone, the mountain top at 2287m above sea-level still covered in clouds.
All three volcanos, Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ngāuruhoe and Mt. Ruapehu form a straight line at the southern end of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.
Latest on August 6th, 2012 Mount Tongariro had a gas and steam-driven eruption that lasted only a couple of minutes.
Riding through the beautiful Whanganui River Valley
After this brief visit, we drove in the bus to the starting point of today’s bike ride in the Whanganui River Valley. We had to find a good spot to start our ride as some of the paths were still covered in gravel and we did not want to stay on that type of surface for too long.
But since the weather now really had improved we were all eager to start riding our bikes instead of being driven in the car, and if that meant a couple of kilometers on a gravel path then we would sure do it.
About a third into our bike trip of the day I found this nice post-box on a Māori-carved totem.
Today’s route was mostly flat and almost describable as even, if not for the climb that was to come after kilometer 59, where we had to master a climb of 150m within 3km (that does not sound very much but bear in mind this means a 20% climb). But as so often, once you master a hill or a mountain you are rewarded with a beautiful view – in this case I was rewarded with this beautiful view over the Whanganui River Valley.
The River Whanganui is actually the longest navigable river in New Zealand, and has its mouth near the oldest city of New Zealand, Whanganui, which was founded in 1840.
I reached the city of Whanganui after 75 kilometers in the saddle, and just in time to have a quick shower before re-joining the other participants for dinner. This time we took the bus to get to the restaurant in town, where I had a lovely steak and an even better conversation with the American participant, who goes by the travel-name Solo. After dinner, I decided not to go on the bus back to the hotel but rather asked Solo to join me for a walk back to the hotel instead. Surprisingly for a Friday evening, the city seemed very empty — maybe that is because most people are still on summer vacation?
This was our last official bike ride on the North Island of New Zealand. Tomorrow we will take the bus to Wellington where we will spend a day before our journey continues on the South Island on Monday.