Monday, 6 February 2012

New Zealand Day Eleven – Wai-O-Tapu, Waikite and Rotorua

We left Taupo early, pausing only to take photos of the snow-capped mountains that had finally emerged after three days hidden in cloud.  Our next stop was the thermal wonderland at Wai-O-Tapu and we arrived just as it opened at 8.30am.  As at the Craters, the slightly burnt smell of sulphur wafted through the air but this place was very different to the Craters of the Moon; much larger and with more varied thermal activity – bubbling mud and steaming lakes, some with very dramatic colours. You could also get closer to the areas. The rocks also varied in their colour; some were quite dramatic, depending on the levels of calcite, sulphur, iron and manganese oxide.  

It took about 75 minutes to walk around the park, which just gave us time to make our way to the Lady Knox Geyser.  At 10.15 each morning, soap is poured into its steam hole, which breaks the surface tension between the cooler upper layer of water and the hotter lower layer.  This creates pressure, which explodes in a fountain of water and steam that shoots several feet in the air, then tumbles over the rocks as well as spraying the audience who are sitting at the front..

By this time we felt the need for a bit of relaxation and headed the short distance to Waikite for a couple of hours rest and relaxation in the warm waters that bubble out of a hot spring nd are cooled with cold water before being piped into different temperature pools.  I naturally went for the hottest pool at just over 39 degrees, while my sister opted for a cooler one at 37 degrees.  I wished I’d brought my book, then really would have felt like having a bath, albeit a very public one..

When we’d had enough and eaten our picnic lunch, we checked into our motel in Rotorua then walked along the shore of the lake.  Again the smell of sulphur clung to the air, up my nostrils and into my mind.  It’s probably there permanently now as I can’t get it out of my head. 

The walk took as up to more thermal areas and turned the lake water a cloudy colour because of all the calcite in the water.  Despite this, it was still a popular place for the various species of birds who seemed drawn to it even though there was little for them to feed on.

As tonight was my turn to make dinner, we took a quick detour to the supermarket for vegetables, fruit and of course we had to buy chocolate for dessert.  After all I am on holiday.

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