The Volcanic Plateau
One of the biggest volcanic eruptions which occurred in the last 5,000 years took place from the Taupo Volcanic Centre. This eruption, about 1,800 years ago, ejected pumice to heights of 30 miles up (50km), and sent volcanic material travelling outward at a speed of 370 mph (600km per hour). It levelled forests, incinerating and burying everything within a 50 mile (80 km) radius from Taupo. This area is known as the Volcanic Plateau and includes The Tongariro National Park. It is considered a plateau, not a plain, because of its high level above the sea
This plateau is New Zealand’s main area of volcanic activity. In this zone, the Pacific tectonic plate is sinking beneath the Australian Plate. At a certain depth its rocks heat and produce volcanic activity, which erupts at the surface in minor ways, with steam vents, mud pools and hot springs, and major ways with volcanic eruptions, collapsing mountains and lake formation. It is a very interesting area to explore on foot.
The volcanoes at the southern end of Lake Taupo, Tongariro (1,967 metres), Ngāuruhoe (2,291 metres) and Ruapehu (2,797 metres), are the three highest summits in the North Island. To the west of the volcanoes, the land is rough forested hill country, and the north, close to Lake Taupo, is fertile and undulating. To the east, the barren, ash-laden soils and harsh alpine climate is capable of only growing scrubby plants. This area is known as the Rangipo Desert. Beyond the eastern boundary of the plateau lies the rough hill country in the Kaimanawa Ranges. An interesting day trip in the car is around the volcanic loop.