New Zealand's Department of Conservation (Doc) asked for volunteers to travel to Mount Tarawera in order to pull up wilding pine trees. Normally the mountain is only accessible with Kaitiaki Adventures for a fee. I didn't pay for this experience but I did put in some hard yakka!
Just like the regular tour, you are taken to (almost) the top of the mountain by 4x4 bus. The drivers are experts at navigating the steep, narrow and somewhat slippery tracks to the top. It makes for a bumpy but adventurous start to the trip.
Upon arriving, if you're lucky, you'll get views out to White Island, Whale Island, Mount Edgecomb and maybe even Ruapehu as well as the striking colours of Mount Tarawera itself.
Although the volunteering was a tough gig, it was absolutely incredible to be involved with the project. I've been on numerous Doc tracks and thoroughly appreciated the work that goes into maintaining the areas to provide hiking opportunities. This time, it was my turn to give something back. And yes, just like the 'paid tour', we got to run more than 100m down the scoria into the crater itself. And climb back out again. I have the cuts and bruises to prove it!
See the full gallery here.