Visiting the thermal active area of Rotorua
05.11.2009 - 05.11.2009 56 °F
We’re now in Rotorua, an area just north of Taupo. It has the most energetic thermal activity in the country. Our sinuses are clearing up just in time for us to enjoy the rotten egg smell of the sulphide gas coming from the ground here. I don't care how silly I look, but I'm wearing my carbon filtered mask and it's capturing most of the nasty smell before it gets to my sinuses. Jeannine is toughing it out without a mask.
We started by walking through the town toward Lake Rotoura which formed when a volcano erupted many moons ago. We walked along the shore until we came to St. Faith’s Anglican Church, built in 1910 to evangelize the Maori population. The church is a lovely mix of Tudor and Maori architecture. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside but the altar was framed by the traditional gables we’ve seen on the Maori meeting houses and the walls were decorated with Maori weavings. Topping it off was a large window etching of Jesus dressed in a Chief’s cloak that looked like he was walking on the lake behind. Near the church was a traditional Maori meeting house and steaming thermal holes.
We then walked up the hill to Kuirau Park which was full of mud pools, steam vents and small geysers (the New Zealanders call them “geezers”). As we approached the park, steam rose through the trees like writhing spirits.
We marveled at the boiling earth and then walked back to the city to have dinner. Tonight we’re staying at Jack & Di’s Travel Lodge. It’s a cute old-fashioned horseshoe-shaped motel that looks out on the lake.
The next morning we were up and heading outside of town to catch the Lady Knox Geyser which erupts daily at 10:15 am. The geyser is inside the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland which had an amazing diversity of thermal activity going on. The crowd sat mumbling when 10:15 passed and the geyser didn’t erupt. Then a man from the park stepped in to say that they usually prompt the geyser with some soap powder to get it going. According to the park attendant, the story (or legend) of this geyser goes that some prisoners were washing their clothes after working on the road crew all day and when they added soap to the bubbling water the geyser erupted and their cloths ended up in the trees. Realizing what happened they had some fun with it by making a cone shape that would make the eruption more dramatic. The wife of the governor christened it open to the public and it became known as “Lady Knox Geyser.” Shortly after the soap was tossed in the geyser went to work. It’s been erupting with soap for over 80 years. Not exactly what we planned on, but still impressive looking.
Walking through this park was like walking on another planet. When other people weren’t around and you listened to the sounds of the gurgling pools, running water, steam from the ground it was a little eerie, the stuff of sci-fi movies. In other words the rest of the park was spectacular! The names seemed appropriate to the various pools we found. We first passed some black boiling mud pools they called the Devil’s Ink Pots and then the Artist’s Palette which looked like a shallow lake with colored spots inside.
Other highlights included the Champagne Pool which was large and full of bright colors due to the minerals inside and the Devil’s Bath, a large crater with bright lime green colored water.
We ended the day with a trip to “Rainbow Springs”, a wildlife park that features a special Kiwi bird breeding program. Kiwis are endangered because they can’t fly and are easy prey for invasive species like the possum and dogs. They were much bigger than we thought they were, about the size of a small cat, and they were quite friendly. We went to see them at night when they are active and one put his long beak up on the knee-high fence to look at us. The park featured some other native birds and it was nice to finally get the name of the bird with the white tufts on its chin that we saw a few days ago. It’s a Tui and is found abundantly in the area.
A Cultural Aside...
One thing we’ve noticed in New Zealand was lots of people walking around without shoes. I don’t mean at the beach. I’m talking about the grocery store, shopping, walking about town, doing everyday things barefoot. I looked this up on Google (not wanting to ask an individual) and apparently there is a “barefoot movement”. One guy wrote about how he hates wearing shoes, especially the ones that are chemically treated. Shoes just aren't natural to him and others who have tossed their shoes aside. I wonder what they do when it snows.