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Townsville, Queensland, Australia
October 22, 2003
The Rotorua area has numerous areas of volcanic activity, so it is difficult to know which ones to visit. I had never previously been to Wai-O-Tapu (sacred waters) but I now put it at the top of the areas I have seen. It is certainly the most colourful and diverse. You have the chance to experience the raw beauty and sheer power of Mother Nature in all forms of geothermal activity.
Perhaps the top attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts daily at 10:15am with a little help from its friends. This is a spectacular event. The geyser reaches heights of up to 20 meters and the show lasts for about an hour. A seating area has been constructed so that several hundred people can watch in comfort. It depends on wind direction for the best views. It is generally better to sit upwind or a right angles to the wind direction. I should also add a note of caution. The geyser is in another area of the park away from the visitor center. You have to purchase your ticket from the main building then drive for about a kilometre to reach the viewing area. This means that you should be at the ticket office by 10am to make it a leisurely trip.
The violent and spectacular boiling mud pools are in another area again. You can actually see these without a ticket because they are outside the main complex but they should be a ‘must-see’ for all visitors to the park. The pools are supposed to be the largest in New Zealand.
After entering the main reserve you follow one of several trails. The walks take you through the geothermal activity and provide wonderful vistas. There are innumerable colours displayed in pools, lakes, craters, stream vents, mineral terraces, and even the tracks you walk on. The champagne pool with its bubbling, hissing water and beautiful ochre-coloured petrified edge was outstanding. So too was the walk across the Artist’s Palette where you actually pass between and on a panorama of hot and cold pools and steaming, hissing fumeroles. You feel you are part of the show.
Walks through the area vary between 30 and 75 minutes and there are free multi-lingual guide maps to help you maximise your enjoyment. The excellent facilities of the visitor’s centre include the Geyser Café and a large souvenir shop. Building for extensions to the complex is currently underway. This facility was awarded the 2002/2003 Best Visitor Attraction in New Zealand Award. I’m not surprised. Wai-O-Tapu is 30 kilometres from Rotorua along state Highway 5 towards Taupo. Details of shuttles and daily tours are available from the Rotorua Visitors Centre.
From journal Around Rotarua
June 4, 2003
No where else was this more vivid to us than at Wai-O-Tapu, a thermal wonderland south of town where we saw the Devil's Home, Bath, Ink Pots and his Inferno Crater. This scenic reserve, containing the largest and most colorful geothermal activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone, was the highlight of our Rotorua experience.
My husband and I jumped on a shuttle ($20NZ) that left the Visitor Centre at 11am, and listened to the driver tell us how we'd missed the eruption of Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15, a daily soap-induced occurrence. But at 8am, we'd been too busy arranging our travel details for Tongariro (which tied with Waitomo as our favorite North Island destination).
Our van dropped us off 30 minutes later, giving us 2 hours to wander independently. We glanced at our color-coded map of the park which describes the 25 sights along three walkways. Most people visit with tour groups, and are limited to the 30 minute walk around the first loop.
Lucky for you if you're with such a group: the most famous attraction in the park is in this loop, the Champagne Pool. This strange bubbly teal-blue water has a thick orange border under the surface, and an unstable white-gray pumice ledge encrusting the water. Despite the Danger signs, you can still get remarkably close to the edge of this pool and stare at the bubbles and bright orange brain-like mass underneath. Sulphur steams up continuously, producing clouds of fog so thick in places it feels like you're inching through a South Dakota blizzard. Created 900 years ago from an eruption, the hot springs contain an assortment of minerals including gold, arsenic, mercury and silver.
Champagne Pool is adjoined to equally fascinating Artist's Palette where every imaginable color, tint or hue is visible depending on that day's weather, wind, chemical composition and water levels. The day we visited, the pools were primarily a gradually shifting range of yellows with subtle tints of red, pink and blue-green. The coolest part was walking across an open boardwalk, mere inches above the pastel minerals and hissing fumeroles, although the thought of tripping was somewhat unnerving...
Highlights on Loops two and three included forested walks past giant kanuka trees, neon green waterfalls, mud pools with wrinkled, intricate patterns hardened into sinter terraces, iron-tinged craters with boiling mud, and stinky yellow sulphur caves.
Outside the park our van stopped to view boiling mud. Crackling words from the Weird Sisters jumped into my head from years of teaching MacBeth, "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble..." Phlop. Plop. Paphlop. Our driver told us to get our cameras ready. As if on cue, the gurgling mud erupted violently two feet over our head...a wicked sight indeed!
From journal Rotorua's Maori & Geothermal lands
Williams Lake, British Columbia
August 27, 2002
If you have a car it is easy to find on Highway 5 south of Rotorua. If you do not have a car there are bus tours that package this area and the Waimangu Volcanic Valley just a little further down the road. This combination of scenic walks and geothermal activity make for a great day. I hope to add some pictures soon.
From journal 5 days in Rotorua
January 3, 2001
From journal Rotorua - the rotten egg city