Sunday, 23 December 2007

"Dance on a Volcano"

As I type this, Father Christmas has already visited New Zealand, as seen on the Norad Santa website above.
Merry Christmas to Mark and his family and team of supporters, to Mrs. V and her family and all those who have been following the journey via the blog.
At the time of writing, I'm not certain where Mark got to today - I presume Te Kuiti. This is where he was earlier 'today' according to the tracker:
First up some new AUSTRALIA pictures are now available in the gallery section of the Artemis website.

Mark woke in Raetihi this morning.Image by Flickr user nemone

Highway 4 north from Raetihi skirts a number of impressive volcanic peaks. It passes through Tongariro National Park, which is a World Heritage site, and features Mount Tongariro, Mount Ngauruhoe (which stood in for Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies) and Mount Ruapehu, which is the highest active volcano in New Zealand, and where filming took place. Interestingly, its place on the UNESCO World Heritage list is because of its significance as a Cultural landscape.

An earlier eruption of Mt. Ruapehu was responsible for one of the most notorious volcanic related tragedies. It happened, coincidentally enough on Christmas Eve morning 54 years ago. A lahar: a river of pyroclastic material and water which is like liquid stone and can also be at very high temperatures destroyed the Tangiwai Bridge and an express train en route from Wellington to Auckland plummeted into the Whangaehu River on Christmas Eve, 1953. 151 people died. Tangiwai is 18 miles to the east of where Mark woke this morning, beyond the ski resort of Ohakune. Coincidentally enough, the name Tangiwai means "weeping waters" in Maori.

Check out the amazing video below via YouTube and Relapse Media, which features one of the people who was affected by the railway incident.

The hazard here was a lahar: a volcanic hazard which is also common in Indonesia. A detailed account of the incident is available at the NZ HISTORY page.

A gallery of images of the 2007 lahar by Geoff Mackley is worth checking out.

Beyond the volcanoes lies Lake Taupo. According to Wikipedia:

The lake lies in a caldera created following a huge volcanic eruption (see supervolcano) approximately 26,500 years ago. According to geological records, the volcano has erupted 28 times in the last 27,000 years. The largest eruption, known as the Oruanui eruption, ejected an estimated 1,170 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of surrounding land to collapse and form the caldera. The caldera later filled with water, eventually overflowing to cause a huge outwash flood.

It is also a geothermal area with plenty of hot springs.
Below is an image of the terraces which have been created from the deposition of the minerals dissolved in the hot water which rises to the surface here.Images taken near Lake Taupo by Simon Hathaway

Mark's journey carried him along Highway 4 to the west of Lake Taupo, and Rotorua. It passes through a series of small towns.
Mark can rightly claim to have cycled through "the middle of nowhere" several times during his journey, but when he got to the town of Taumarunui he would have passed, according to the town's website, through "the middle of everywhere". The town is the largest for some distance around, with a population of just over 5000.
It is also the location for a famous New Zealand folk song related to the railway: the main trunk line, which provided the town with its major site factor and continued importance.
The first verse goes of the song goes:

You got cinders in your whiskers and a cinder in your eye So you hop off to Refreshments for a cupper tea and pie Taumarunui, Taumarunui Taumarunui on the main trunk line.

Not sure whether Mark stopped off for a cupper tea and pie...
The road carries on northwards, through seemingly endless serrated ridges, with patches of ancient forests and occasional flat areas. Running alongside, taking the easiest possible route is the railway line.
Mark will also have seen lots of these as he cycled along Highway 4.
Te Kuiti bills itself as the 'sheep shearing capital of the world', and the National Championships are held there - an event which also has the 'running of the sheep': a safer version of the famous Pamplona tradition.

I'd better also mention the karst scenery to the NW: particularly the Waitomo caves, which are a popular tourist attraction.

Merry Christmas !! / Meri Kirihimete !!

Alan Parkinson
AKA "Mrs V"

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