Tongariro // July '19

Travel Stories #1

I thought I’d make a story series documenting my stories/travels and the images I capture, to give some context and tell a story about what the picture represents.


3am. Wake up. Hardest wake up I’ve ever experienced. Running on two hours sleep and a freezing house isn’t an ideal combo, especially with a 4 hour trip drive ahead of us. We survived and before we knew it, the Subaru was fully packed and ready to go.

The drive down was quiet and foggy - there’s something about the isolation of the early morning that is so peaceful. With ODEZSA on the beats and a warm coffee we eventually arrived in Taupo where the winding rounds eventually revealed the beautiful Mt Ngauruhoe in the distance - we couldn’t help but pull over and take in the beautiful view with Lake Taupo in the foreground, boasting a stunning fog above the water.

To get this photo I had to wade my way over to the rock which proved to be one of the coldest things I’ve ever experienced. The water literally chilled my entire body to the point I felt physically sick. Good times. Got a banger, worth it!

Lake Taupo

On we went towards the beautiful mountains. We eventually stopped on the outskirts of the mountains and had a play in the heavy frost and soak in the scenery. What a place this is.

We continued our way around the mountains and eventually found a secluded look out onto hectares of flat, empty grass with the amazing backdrop of the mountains - this is Esme and mine’s idea of paradise. After snapping some bangers, it was a well overdue time to have a break, grab lunch and doze off in the back of the Subaru.

Our secret spot 🏔

After we were (somewhat) recharged, we decided we’d make the trek to the Taranaki Falls. The Taranaki Falls walk was beautiful and included numerous bodies of water that were partially frozen over, making an excellent opportunity for me to whip out the tripod and snap some long expos of the silky water. Esme wasn’t impressed we were investing our golden hour time on these rivers. I was stoked.

Long Exposure of the Taranaki Falls river

On we went, and eventually reached the falls. The falls were stunning. With enough water being dropped to make it practically impossible to talk, we ventured our way behind the falls to snap some pics. After 0.3847837 seconds my lens was saturated from the backsplash meaning I had to fall back and shoot from afar.

With the sun setting, we climbed to the top of the falls and sat on top, watching the sunset in the distance over the National Park. Probably the best sunset I’ve ever seen.

We trekked our way back to the car and drove to the other side of the mountains (casual 40 minute drive…) to desert road and found a ‘rest area’ to pull over and sleep. Esme and I, being us, found up the road a secluded massive empty piece of land which further on eventually had a sign telling us we couldn’t go pass this point as it was for military testing. Fun times. We parked up near the road and got our gear out to do some astro. The stars were amazing. I’ve never seen such a clear sky in my life, the Milky Way was completely visible and breathtaking. However, doing astro in -8 degree Celsius temperatures proved to be fairly testing and cut our session short. Into the car we hopped and cuddled up for the night.

Astrophotography in Tongariro National Park

We woke up the next morning to the blanket being frozen stuck to the inside of the car. That’s how you know it’s cold af. We then decided to make a fire and make breakfast with a stunning background - not a bad way to start your morning.

Shortly after lighting our fire, a policeman came and pulled over next to where we were parked (presumably looking at what we were doing), I rampantly kicked sand on the fire to put it out whilst pretending to take photos of the mountains (the Policeman couldn’t see the ground only from my torso up) whilst Esme came up with the 2000 IQ play of throwing the left over Milo onto the fire - causing a massive cloud of steam to go up. We were screwed (You aren't meant to have fires on National Parks). 30 long seconds later the Policeman eventually took off without a word, leaving us wondering how we got so lucky.

Our method of defrosting

Later that day, we went to the Tangiwai Disaster Memorial where we ninja’d our way onto the rebuilt bridge. It was pretty spooky to be on the location that had killed so many people but it was a cool adventure nevertheless.

The Tangiwai Bridge (rebuild)

Ohakune and Ruapehu was next up where we headed up the mountain. Slightly delayed by me having some fun in the ice with my Subaru - we eventually reached the top where we explored the mountain and found an awesome gully of snow to take some pictures on. Astonishingly, despite being only 100m from the ski field, the gully was completely dead silent, a really really cool experience.

Frozen from head to toe, we headed back down and booked a hotel for the night in Ohakune to avoid getting frostbite on our toes again.

What an awesome trip, which I got to experience with my other half in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Highly recommend a weekend trip there.

Cold rating 5/5

Photo rating 5/5

Almost getting a massive fine for lighting a fire on a National Park rating 5/5

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