New Zealand: Day 13 - Tongariro National Park / Mordor

I am going to whakapaparant now, and when I'm done, I'll be done. It was too cold and windy for most of the group today. So we didn't get to hike up Mt. Ruapehu (also known as "Mt. Doom" to Peter Jackson film fans). Too cold and windy! These kids are from fucking WYOMING. I tried today not to be angry with the group--but they were too disappointing. They whined about conditions; they sprawled across walkways on the trails (only moving when asked, even if other tourists were unable to pass them); about seven of them sat by a doorway in Whakapapa Village for over a half an hour talking in terrible accents that appeared to offend people of a variety of nationalities coming into and out of the visitors center; they walked off trails and harassed whatever wildlife they hadn't already scared off. The best of them are passive aggressive ("I don't want to be a bother," is now my least favorite phrase on the planet) and the worst of them are selfish, spoiled jerks ("Thanks, Dad [for this badass camera/a new Lexus I don't even drive/this trip]!" is now my second least favorite phrase). I'm embarrassed to be a UWyo student much of the time I'm with them. And I am jealous of all that's been handed to them.

Alright, I'm not going to mention it again.

So, Tongariro's eruptions have closed several of the carparks. As a result, to hike the Alpine Crossing, you have to be bussed in, and the buses are all private and they are allowed to charge anywhere from $32 to $120 per person to take you to the trail heads. I guess they decide how desperate you look/how slow biz has been that day before picking a price. We do abhor regulation in MOST cases, don't we? In any case, we didn't attempt it. We headed first up to the Mt Ruapehu trails (see above) and then back down for a waterfall hike originating at the visitor center, which is at a slightly lower elevation (in terms of tens of metres) therefore much more agreeable to a critical mass of the group.

The hike along the Whakapapa River (Silica Falls trail) was about a 7k mostly downhill trek on a really well-maintained trail. Several of the vistas were reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings movies, as Ruapehu was featured as Mt. Doom, and the marsh bogs were used as the Dead Marshes. I love forests and mountains--but I am learning that I love the hard beauty of plains, too. Maybe their parallel lines remind me of the beach and the desert. Maybe I like being able to see so far, so close.

Day 13 photo set.

I could have walked that trail all day. I wanted a picture of every angle and vista that I saw. I wanted to be alone so I could take my time. Everything is about wanting, isn't it? The red tussocks against the yellow grasses. The oxides and silicates and basalts. The pines. The ferns. Lichens, mosses, liverworts. There were a host of creatures we never saw: crawfish, warblers, even the dreaded possums were about (as evidenced by a tin-lined, rare mistletoe tree and frequent traps). We want to reach up to the light and down into nourishment. The way a mushroom can crack apart a sidewalk. The way dandelions are everywhere in the world.