Mount Taranaki looms majestically over New Plymouth, on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. The mythical mountain that is obscured from view most days of the year, shrouded by its own low-hanging clouds. But now it stood there, clearly visible, and beckoning in all its glory. I literally skidded to a halt when I saw it, and changed my course and planning there & then. It was calling me and I had to go.
Nhauruhoe featured as the terrifying Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. It’s one of the many cones of the vast Tongariro complex. You can see Nhauruhoe on the Tongariro Crossing, a beautiful walking track along 20 kilometres of steaming and colourful volcanic terrain from Mangatepopo to Ketetahi in New Zealand.
The Cook Islands are the stuff of Pacific dreams. White, sandy, coconut-strewn palm beaches, translucent lagoons in all shades of shimmering blue, and a laid-back atmosphere where everything just circulates on island time. But there are also craggy peaks beckoning in the interior of Rarotonga, the main island.