This is part two of a two part post. Part one is here.
As I took the final few steps to the top, I was rewarded with grand views in every direction…
…but what really stunned me were the famous Emerald Lakes on the plateau below. I descended to the thin strip between their shores, slightly hypnotized. To my surprise, they weren’t mirages and did not disappear as I approached.
I sat on a rock between them for some time. It was difficult to leave such a magical little spot, but I still had a good ten kilometres left. The trail took me across another immense crater, and up to the shores of Blue Lake.
From there, I began my long, long descent of the mountain. Here the vegetation suddenly came back into the picture, much of it a Christmasy blend of green and white mosses with red alpine scrub. The rocks, too, were colorful and interesting.
The views over Lake Taupo were unreal.
After a long, zig-zaggy descent, I arrived at a tiny Department of Conservtion hut, rested for a minute, and then continued the long, long, descent down the trail. Walking on a downslope for miles is really taxing on the knees, as well as the toes, which become wedged further into your shoe with each step.
The lovely vistas continued, though. I crossed streams and waterfalls, steam vents and rock steps, snapping pictures the whole way. By the end of the day I would have 228 photographs.
Without warning, the alpine fields gave way to a lush, ferned forest.
I followed the trail, down, down, down, until I was sure I must be below sea level. Then I went down, down down some more. By this time I was a sunburned zombie, and I eventually stumbled out into a parking lot and dropped myself onto a bench to wait for the bus.
It was an unforgettable experience, and I’d do it again. Don’t pass it up if you’re ever in New Zealand. Make sure it’s a nice day though. The following day, I told an excited dorm-mate of mine all about it and showed him my pictures. Just a few hours ago he returned and said it was terrible. Clouds enveloped the whole mountain all day, and they ran into 100kph+ winds. He said he couldn’t see to the next trail marker the whole way, and only 15 out of 100 people made it to the end.