April 2020 was spent in a yellow motel room in the small tourist town Te Anau in New Zealand. That first Covid lockdown put paid to my #WalkNZ adventure – just seven days from the finish line in Bluff.
Once things opened up in New Zealand, and the rest of the world was still on pause, my partner Mark and I did a tiki tour of the North Island.
And I climbed volcano number 23 in my #40by40 challenge.
This is a 1,111m high volcano near lake Rotorua. It’s also one of New Zealand’s most famous volcanoes having erupted in 1886, destroying the legendary Pink and White Terraces and killing about 150 people.
In 2000, the volcano was returned to the Ngati Rangitihi subtribe of Te Arawa and public access to the land and summits ended in 2002.
Now in order to walk the volcano’s red flanks, you have to book a guided tour with the tribe.
Which is exactly what we did.
This involved a very bumpy drive through native New Zealand bush over rough and at times dangerous terrain in an old, clapped-out four-wheel drive van.
This was followed by some steep walking over dusty red volcanic rocks to the summit, where the view stretched for miles in a blue haze.
There were lakes and forests and steaming vents, while the dome of Mt Putauaki was clearly visible in front of the strip of Bay of Plenty coastline. The lumpy profile of Whale Island rose above the waters in the distance but White Island couldn’t be seen.
Then it was a steep volcanic scree run down into the crater, with five minutes to empty our shoes at the bottom, followed by a trudge back up out of the crater to where the van was parked.
Here’s a selection of photos highlighting the magic of the volcano.
Guided tour with Kaitiaki Adventures https://www.kaitiaki.co.nz/guided-tours/