On March 19th and 20th, we were in Wai-o-tapu, close to Rotorua, the famous region that smells like rotten eggs due to geothermal and volcanic activities.
We first went for a bathe at ‘The bridge’ in a natural pond where a hot spring and a cold river meet. We could smell sulphur, but it was nothing compared to the hot springs that we tried during our Far North trip. The bathing was very pleasant, especially as there were not a lot of people around. This place is pretty well known and apparently there is often a lot of people but probably later in the afternoon or in the early evening. Anyway, if you are around Wai-o-tapu, you have to go there!
Then we went to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland (32,50$ per person). This is a thermal area, declared scenic reserve. You can see craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles.
The area is associated with voclanic activity dating back about 150 000 years. The Wai-o-tapu stream forms an integral part of the drainage system which ultimately flows into the Waikato River and out into the Tasman Sea. Boiling springs and volcanic gases introduce numerous minerals into the water which account for no fish life in the stream.
The wide range of colours in the area are all natural and are due to different mineral elements, the predominant colours being:
- yellow-primrose: sulphur
- orange: antimony
- white: silica
- green: colloidal sulphur/ferrous salts
- red-brown: iron oxide
- black: sulphur and carbon
- purple: manganese oxide
Every day at 10:15am, you can go watch the Lady Knox geyser not too far (you have to take your car after purchasing your tickets at the reception). It is a natural geyser, the erupt is prompted daily for tourists. In 1901 the first open prison in New Zealand was established at Waiotapu, its object to accommodate some of the better behaved prisoners from around the jails of the Rotorua Lakes District. It was a gang of those prisoners who first discovered the clearing in which the geyser is situated and that the spring could be made to erupt by adding soap, discovered when they first added soap to the hot water to wash their clothes.
Then you can discover more crazy landscapes by having a walk. There are three possibilities: 30 minutes (1.5 km), 40 minutes (2 km) or 75 minutes (3 km). We chose the longest one to see as much as it was possible, especially as time and distance were reasonnable.
It is a New Zealand must do, although very touristic this place is really unique.