DANNY : DE HEKWelcome to moonscape country in the molten volcanic heart of the North Island.

Here you can experience the delights of Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand’s largest active volcano, which last erupted in 1996.

You can tramp, climb and ski on the mystical lunar landscapes of Tongariro National Park. You can also discover life in deep lava caves, and explore ancient forests, red craters, emerald lakes and brooding volcanoes.

Rising out of the sparkling snowfields, rock-strewn slopes and windswept tussock plains is one of New Zealand’s most famous recreational river systems. The Tongariro is the main river flowing into Lake Taupo. It is both a renowned rainbow trout fishery and a mecca for rafting and kayaking enthusiasts. The most popular run is a 3 hour, Grade 3, full-on rafting experience through 60 rapids on the Lower Tongariro. The put in is at the Poutu water intake on the Waikato Falls Road and the take out is on the true left bank of the Red Hut Pool.

The Whakapapa River rises on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu and tumbles along a rocky bed to join the Whanganui. The 8 km section down from Owhango on S.H.4 is a particularly enjoyable Grade 2 boulder bed run in above average flows.

The Manganui-a-te-ao River has beautiful scenery, clear water, great standing waves and stoppers and is unaffected by the extensive hydro schemes of the Volcanic Plateau. It is a tributary of the Whanganui, which it joins 12 km above Pipiriki. Access is gained off S.H.4 from Raetihi through Orautoha. A popular run is from Myers Bridge above the confluence with the Orautoha Stream. At above average flows there are lively Grade 2 rapids interspersed with pools. The take out is the Ruatiti Domain by a concrete bridge. From here there is an option to paddle to Makahi through good Grade 2 rapids and then through the slower moving papa clay gorge to the Whanganui River and on to Pipiriki.

A commercial river rafting company is based in Turangi township and several Auckland companies raft the Tongariro.

If you are seeking challenging whitewater adventure this region can deliver, with the added bonus of weird and wonderful moonscape features and isolated sheer-sided, moss-covered gorges. It’s 100% pure adventure in Middle Earth.