Ride the volcano - Do you dare?

In my previous post, we climbed Mt Taranaki – a 120,000 years old volcano. Today I would like to take you to another one, but don’t worry we won’t hike up there. We will ride it. Ready?

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Mt Ngauruhoe, view from Whakapapa, Mt Ruapehu

I am kidding, not that mountain. The one you are looking at above is Mt Ngauruhoe. If you are a fan of Lord of the Ring, you may know this one as it is used as the fictional Mount Doom. I am still not that good enough to ride that volcano. But I will introduce you to Mt Ruapehu, the one just right next to it, and show you the place I had worked for two winter seasons and where I learned to ski.

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Mt Ruapehu next to Mt Ngauruhoe

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Mt Ruapehu is the largest active volcano in New Zealand and is the highest point in the North Island (Src). I was quite lucky to work in this mountain as a rental attendant for the Whakapapa ski resort which is on the northern slope of Mount Ruapehu. Thanks to that, I learned about Mt Ruapehu’s cultural and natural heritage. I learned to respect the mountain and try as much as I can to protect it.

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The best part of my job as a rental attendant was getting to ski or snowboard for free. I don’t think I would be able to afford all of that and learn to ski if wouldn’t had worked there. At first, I tried to learn both skiing and snow-boarding but then I decided to stick with skiing. For some reasons, I can’t handle the board.

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Photo taken from Mt Ruapehu map

Inside the red polygon are all the tracks that I managed to explore in Whakapapa. The green slopes are the easy ones, the light blue ones are intermediate and the black ones are the most advanced (I didn't do any of these and they are crossed out). The red lines with a white text box represent gondolas, aerial chairs or “T-bars” to access slopes higher up the mountain.

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Based on my experience, if you are above intermediate level, I suggest to go straight to the West side of the mountain (if it opens of course). This part is amazing but it can be dangerous on a bad weather day. Most likely it won’t open until the very last months of the season which is from the end of Aug to early October.

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However, for me, this place is not just about skiing. This is the first working place in New Zealand that brings me a really strong connection with the place and the people. Before starting my job, I got invited to a Marae (a sacred place) to learn about the mountain, the region and its people.

I learned some Maori expressions to introduce myself, which includes where I am from. I started to refer the mountain as the maunga because that is how the local iwi (tribe) called this mountain. And I learned how to protect the mountain as much as we can. Both my partner and I volunteered to pick up rubbish around the areas so we can keep the mountain as it is for a long time. We couldn’t believe we found and collected so much rubbish on the sides of the road.

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We also had a chance to celebrate the Matariki - a kind of Maori ritual to celebrate the new year in which children and families gathered to sing songs around a large bonfire.

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And of course, last but not least, I made some good friends during the season.

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Thank you for learning about my maunga today. I hope you guys have a wonderful ride. Cheers, Dora.

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