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Central Plateau

North Island, New Zealand

Central Plateau Pictures
Desert Rd and Waiouru Army Museum
Stayover at the Chateau Tongariro
Great Adventure Ideas
Taupo Highlights
What's to do in Taupo
Hotels and Accommodation in Taupo

By Richard Moore

Taupo's Huka FallsThe Central Plateau of New Zealand's North Island is famous for its proximity to some terrific ski fields - such as Turoa and Whakapapa - and the wild terrain of the Desert Road.

The Desert Road is a highway that crosses the alpine desert and the inhospitable weather makes it an interesting route to drive along.

In winter it is often closed by snows, but a trip down it during the colder months is far from bleak.

Each side of the Desert Road is covered with wonderful low scrublands and on the western rise the majestic backdrop of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe.

It is a photographer's dream landscape although before you go hopping out of the car it is advisable to wrap up well.

The winds can be brutally cold and will whip off the mountains and through any unprotected places like a frozen knife. That said I did see some people having a picnic at a roadside stop on the day I went through when it could have been no more than 10 degrees Celcius (with a wind-chill factor of minus 4000!).

The rugged nature of the Central Plateau makes it the perfect place to have a major training area for the army and there are plenty of signs around telling you it is dangerous to get off the main road at certain places.

The Desert Road begins south of Turangi, the gateway for the Central Plateau.

Turangi is about 30 minutes south of Taupo and from there you can either continue south towards Waiouru - and do check out the really cool Tree Trunk Gorge - or cut across west to National Park and the mountains of Mt Tongariro (1978m), Mt Ngauruhoe (2291m) and Mt Ruapehu (2797m) and terrific winter skiing.

Tree Trunk Gorge is on, surprisingly, Tree Trunk Gorge Rd to the left as you drive south. Follow the road for a few kilometres until you come to a concrete bridge and then park and check out the view.

The bridge crosses a narrow rocky, shrub-covered, canyon that has been sliced through solid rock by the Tongariro River. It is an amazing sight.

You can also visit the nearby Pillars of Hercules down Kaimanawa Rd. These are not as interesting as Tree Trunk Gorge but you do get to test your nerve on a suspension bridge to get to the middle of the pillars. It swings a bit, I say understating it.

Across on State Highway 46 Tongariro offers the famous Tongariro Crossing - a day's hiking over picturesque countryside - and has recently been active witn two eruptions. Check out pictures of the most recent eruption on Mt Tongariro.

Cone-shaped Mt Ngaruhoe is my choice for its sheer photogenic nature, but for awesome size Mt Ruapehu grabs your attention.

On a clear day driving around National Park is a pleasure as the mountains are truly majestic.

Turangi is a mecca for trout fisherman and the symbol of the town is a flyfisher. The place is also a great base for kayaking and rafting on the Tongariro River.


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