We started off our journey in the Tongariro area by staying at a small DOC site called Kaimanawa. During the day this site is idyllic as it looks through to valley of native bush, quite stunning. Unfortunately, as this is a free site in a secluded area in this very popular area it attracted tourists, lots of them! A site with just us on became over full by 8pm and loud music and antics started. We tolerated a couple of nights before deciding this really wasn't the best of sites to store your home! 
So, as we wanted to walk some of the Tongariro we opted to move to the very expensive DOC site at Whakapapa just along from the famous Chateaux. We did manage to get the van in there, but, it was undoubtedly the most challenging bit of manoeuvring I have needed to do so far and didn't leave me in the best of moods. But, how can you be down in such a spectacular environment which we were in just a few minutes walk from the site....simply stunning scenery. 
First walk was to the Taranaki Waterfall, which is huge (see first picture). Walking up from there you then get to see the source of the water all the way from Mt Ruapehu in the distance.
The following day we made our way to the top of the falls and then on to the Tama Lakes. This was a 22km walk in the vast open landscape of the Tongariro National Park with Mt Ruapehu visible for most of the walk. Undoubtedly the best walk we have had on the North Island so far and well worth persevering to stay in the area for a few days. 
As is typical for the National Park though it wasn't long before the weather changed for constant cloud cover and drizzle to be the order of the day so time to head off to our next location.
Taranaki Falls
This river makes its way down from Mt Ruapehu and then over the edge to form the Taranaki Falls
The river at Kaimanawa from a very high bride looking straight down!
Outside the cafe on Mt Ruapehu after a trip on the chair lift
Finished a coffee a long way above sea level!
On the chair lift making our way back down. Amazing to think this lava rock base is covered in snow for winter.
Capturing some of the beauty of Tongariro National Park
View from a ridge between upper and lower Tama lakes. Mt Ruapehu providing the back drop.
Upper Tama Lake down the other side of the ridge
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