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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From Middle Earth to Mount Doom

Growing up I had an impression that volcanoes were dangerous locations containing enormously deep craters at the top in which a person could disappear whole. They were unpredictable and could swallow a person on a whim. Volcanoes were NOT something that you purposefully sought out.
Ski lifts to the top of Mount Ruapehu (Mount Doom!)
Toss all of that out the window! The entire Georgia Tech students and faculty of the Pacific program headed to the Taupo Volcanic Zone, which (technically) lists 22 volcanoes in the region!!! 50+ persons later and we had all taken a few ski lifts to the top of an active volcano, Mount Ruapehu, which erupted as recently as last year. Who in their right mind does this?

An impromptu classroom!
  Well it turns out that volcanoes are not such menacing creatures that I had invented. The next day I even purposefully hiked a few including – the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – billed as the best one-day hike in all of New Zealand, and listed as one of the Top 10 one-day hikes in the world. Simply amazing, a 19km hike that with 2 million years of volcanism below foot, passing by some of the most spectacular sights and glowing cones all around. This hike, friends, explains why Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand. Some of the formations, colors and scenery looks like it came straight out of a movie. Or some other alien planet! I saw Emerald Lakes that possessed the color of brilliant (manmade bright!) emeralds! And craters so deep and colored by red that only a 64 box of crayons could have made the hue so rich.

Hiking down the scree with Mount Tongariro and the Blue Lake in the background