Driving The Desert Road

Tongariro Travel Blog

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Ngaranghoe - desert road

It took far too long to get find the excuse to do this trip, but eventually after an invitation from my cousin in Palmerston North we finally made it.  After that first drive, we always took any opportunity we could to do this drive.......

So, we set off towards Taupo, hooking onto SH1 and onto the North Island Volcanic Plateau. North of the Tongariro National Park, near to Turangi, the terrain is flat, covered with dense forrest land, but as you continue this all changes.  Gradually, as you travel further south you hit mountainous windy roads, adorned either side by incredibly thick fern growth.  

At Rangipo, the stretch of drive commonly known as the Desert Road begins, continuing until you reach Waiouru.

Tongariro & Ngaranghoe
Known as the Desert Road for a good reason, the landscape here has transformed again; within half an hour you can suddenly see the horizon again - beyond the never-ending desert like scope before you.  Here, you are actually 3,324ft above see level and have the incredibly impressive views of the my 3 favourite NZ peaks, the active volcanos, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, the latter the North Islands highest peak. Ngauruhoe in particular is something very magestic - its a perfect natural cone - the very essence of what a volcanoo should be.  In summer time, the sky is blue against the menacing baron brown of the mountains, and in winter, contrasted by the heavy snow fall. All this then set against the eerie, heathery hue of the flat desert land.... well, you could be in a fantasy land - made up of 3 or 4 different countries.   But no, just the beautiful bundel that is NZ.

The diversity of this landscape is just astonishing; and in my opinion, the only North Island drive to compete with that of the mighty South Island.  

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Ngaranghoe - desert road
Ngaranghoe - desert road
Tongariro & Ngaranghoe
Tongariro & Ngaranghoe
On the Road - towards Rangipo
On the Road - towards Rangipo
Tongariro
photo by: annthansten