Wai-O-Tapu & Waimangu, New Zealand

After a chilled out evening the night before we woke up pretty early, grabbed breakfast and made our way out for coffee. Corrine, Jade, Sheila, Valentine and I headed to PeterPans and hopped onto our charter bus to Wai-O-Tapu (sacred waters) thermal park. 
The Wai-O-Tapu thermal park has the largest area of thermal activity of any hydrothermal system in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. Covering some 18km with the volcanic dome of Maungakakamea (Rainbow Mountain) at its northern boundary, the area is literally covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles.

Our first stop off in the park was Crater lake – I still struggle to get my head round the fact that these lakes are boiling from the magma underneath – the lakes ferociously bubble and steam which is really crazy to see. Apparently temperatures of 300 degrees have been recorded in these waters so it’s definitely not worth dipping your toe in to test the temperature. That’s not to say I wasn’t tempted. The entire day.

  
After visiting the lake we made our way over to the Lady Knox Geyser which erupts daily at 10.15am up to heights of over 20 meters. It was pretty impressive although me, the keeno, decided to sit right in the front row and ended up getting pretty soaked. Great. It’s like the Kiwi version of the Shamu show.

     

After spending some time at the geyser we made our way into the walking track around the park. It’s about a 4km walk and takes roughly 2 and a half hours start to finish. With the smell in the park, I wouldn’t have wanted to have stayed any longer. It was, however, so impressive to see the craters, bubbling mud pool, sulphur pools, waterfalls and steaming lakes. 

   
    
    
 

The Champagne pool lake was probably the most impressive; the waters in the relatively small lake get to depths of 65meters – I found it all pretty mind boggling.

   
 

After finishing the walk we hopped back on board the bus and enjoyed the sanctuary of the ‘fresh’ air-conditioned air. At this point we said goodbye to Valentine and Sheila who were heading back into town. Jade, Corrine and I however were being ultra geothermal geeks and were spending the afternoon at Waimangu volcanic valley. 

This by far was my highlight of the day – I don’t think I have ever seen anything to beautiful. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park. The afternoon was made even nicer by the fact that the three of us practically had the valley to ourselves and didn’t really see another person the whole walk.

  
 

The walk is 5km through the valley and again takes about two hours start to finish.

  
The volcano in this valley is still very much active and last erupted in 1886 killing all natural life in the area including a number of people who were inhabiting the area. Nowadays you can watch the volcano bubble and steam as well as bubbling mud pools and lakes – it is literally so so beautiful. 

   
  
   

We were in awe the whole day and just kept stopping at every turn to take photos. I must admit though I kept thinking what would we do if the ground suddenly started to shake around the volcano… Probably not a lot!

          

After spending the mostly hiking we were exhausted! We got back into Rotorua and had a really chilled out evening with Valentine and Sheila. We all made dinner together before cracking open the wine, playing pool and heading off to bed. Tame tame backpackers.
The next morning we were up early and hopped back on board the Kiwi bus heading to Taupo. Because we stayed a couple of extra days in Rotorua we are now on a new bus with loads of new faces which was a bit weird but will be fun to meet new people I’m sure.
Before we left Rotorua we stopped of for a 40minute walk around the redwood forest which was lovely!

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