Thursday, 10 September 2015


I enjoyed the Waimangu volcanic valley so much yesterday that I wanted to continue the theme.  So instead of driving directly to Waitomo, as had been my original “plan”, I first went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.  This was a good decision.

Here’s Google Earth’s view of the area:

Google Earth’s view of Wai-O-Tapu.  North is to the left
And here is the brochure’s similar view, showing the various paths, and numbered features along the way:

brochure image, showing red, orange and yellow walks
I arrived about 9am.  One feature is the nearby Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts at 10:15 each day.  So I had about an hour to kill, and killed it by doing the “red” walk.

the Weather Pool

a panoramic view of Rainbow Crater; feature (2) on the map

the ground is steaming everywhere!
Thunder Crater (3)
the Devil’s Ink Pots (4)
the vegetation seems affected by the heat
a panorama of the Artist’s Palette (5)
While crossing the Boardwalk (7) and looking over the Champagne Pool (21), the mist in the wind fluctuated in density.  At some times, the view was clear.  At others, only a second later, the mist was so dense I could see nothing at all.  And the denser the mist, the stronger the smell, and the stronger the feeling of choking, so watch out if you are claustrophobic!

Since I was doing only the red walk, in order to see the Lady Knox geyser erruption, once across the boardwalk I started back along the return route.

minerals being deposited along the edge of the Champagne Pool (21)
Inferno Crater (22)
a Sulphur Cave (24)
Devil’s Bath (25): see the plan view map above to get a feel of the sheer scale of this large lake
Now back at the beginning of the walk, and closer to the time of the geyser eruption, I popped in the car and drove a kilometer up the road to next car park.  There a small terraced theatre had been constructed to view the geyser, and about 100 people gathered to watch.  (Where they then all went I’m not sure, as I saw very few people on the main walk.)  I had been wondering how the geyser could be timed.  I had decided it couldn’t be natural – I could think of no mechanism that would give the exact 24 hour period – so I was wondering how it was triggered.

The answer, we all discovered, is: soap.  The interior of the geyser has hot water trapped below cold water: dropping soap down it changes the surface tension, allowing the hot water to escape.  The presenter dropped a bag of surfactant down the hole, and retreated.  It took a couple of minutes, and then there was a bubbling, an overflow, then a gush.

Yes, I know it’s in dreaded portrait mode, but frankly, there’s nothing to see on either side!

It was still going strong 25 minutes after it first blew, when I left to return to the main site, to do the full walk.

Having already done the red walk earlier didn’t matter to me (apart from to my feet): it was well worth seeing again.  But when I got to the Champagne Pool (21) again, this time I turned off to new sights along the orange and yellow tracks.

up at the Panoramic View point (11) looking down over Frying Pan Flat
now down on that bridge previously visible from above; a panorama of Flying Pan Flat (15)
the Oyster Pool (16), a natural sulphurous pool
another Sulphur Cave (17)
view over Lake Ngakoro (18)
Sulphur Mounds (20)
At this point, it started raining in earnest (sufficient to make me put on my waterproof), so I walked somewhat briskly back to the starting point, stopping a few times to admire the the Primrose Terrace (8) as I walked along its edge.  Fortunately, since I had already done the red walk, I didn’t miss too much by only stopping to stare a few times.

I had lunch in the Visitor Centre, and dried off.  Then I drove to the last sight of the Thermal Wonderland: the hot Mud Pools.

Since the rain looked like it would stay for a while, I decided this was now the right time to drive on to Waitomo, ready for the caves tomorrow.  However, since it was only 2pm, I decided to take an indirect route, so drove round Lake Taupo on the way.  Some of the bends there were marked 25, and they meant it!

from Rotorua, via Wai-O-Tapu, to Waitomo, the long way round, ~ 290km

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