Did the normal post ride readjustments – no need to queue for a leak, pack up a wet tent, eat half warm porridge and get on an uncomfortable bike seat – and instead walked across the road to the beach for sunrise, had a leisurely breakfast with TOAST and then wandered downtown to pick up the hire car for the final leg of the trip. Scored a little mazda with working air conditioning and an input jack to plug in the walkman – all good. Just about a perfect day so headed back to the mountains to make the most of it. Would have loved to do the Tongariro Crossing – rated one of the top day walks in the world – but knew the legs weren’t up to it so opted for the more relaxed option of taking the chairlift rides at Whakapapa and having a wander from there. Unlike on the earlier visit all the peaks were completely cloud free today, there was virtually no wind and just about a perfect temperature.
Had read that they advise boots rather than runners for any walks here, and wasn’t off to a great start when I slipped over walking between the 2 lifts. Restaurant at the top of waterfall chair had wonderful views out of enormous windows (unfortunately the deck was closed for repairs) and fuelled up with a toastie and Sauv Blanc before heading off. Had only intended to do a quick wander, but was such good conditions that ended up doing the full climb up Skyline Ridge to about 2270m. Bizarre landscape and stunning views – I’ve GOT to get back here for a ski one day. VERY slippery walking – scree slopes that were often little more than fine silt meant having to watch every step. Great views of Mt Ngauruhoe – or Mt Doom as it was in Lord of the Rings – a classic volcanic peak that was such a contrast to the huge range of outcrops on Ruapehu. Coming back down was often barely controlled sliding and my knees had well and truly had enough when I got back to chair, but a truly sensational day. Finished up with a drive back down along the shores of Great Lake Taupo and finished off with some noodles on the beach across from the motel.