After the first small taste of volcanic activity in Rotorua, the next day Aura and I headed 30 minutes south of the town to the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal reserve, which has numerous volcanic lakes and pools, and on top of that, an active geyser. This was obviously a tourist area once we got here. I felt like I was at Sea World waiting for the whale show.
The geyser is set off, by human interaction, once a day. They pour some detergent into the geyser in order to weaken the forces holding the water underground, allowing it to go off at a specific time each day.
Sure enough, a couple minutes after the bag of powder was poured in, froth and bubbles started emanating from the geyser.
And then the geyser erupted! And Aura and I went ‘meh’.
It was a decidedly mediocre experience. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that little of it was natural. The eruption itself was a creation of human interaction. The rocks built up around the geyser hole also was man made, though put there before the park became an attraction. The geyser itself wasn’t overly impressive or powerful either. So all in all, that was nothing special.
We headed over to the main complex with numerous volcanic pools and lakes to explore.
I stopped to take a picture of a Pohutukawa tree – New Zealand’s ‘Christmas Tree’, in that it flowers red around mid-December. All around the north half of the north island they are flowering now for the holiday season. They aren’t used as indoor Christmas trees though, your typical pine/spruce/etc are.
The first bit of the walk through the area was of craters and cave-like pools, bubbling away.
Eventually you come to one of the highlight areas – the Champagne Pool.
They even have a small boardwalk that takes you down to the pool and across it. I was impressed here.
Shortly afterwards they have an interesting silica like terraced area – it’s all covered in a very thin, moving layer of water.
The walk ends up at a point right on a large, brilliant green lake that much of the area empties into, bringing sulphur and other fun chemicals into the water, giving it the funky colour.
Continuing the loop back, we got to see small pools, this one call the Oyster Pool if I recall.
You climb a bit of an incline and get to look back on some milky colour pools and streams.
After that, we were back at the other end of the Champagne pool. The wind picked up for a bit, blowing the mist/steam right into us. It was so thick you couldn’t see 10 feet in front of you. A pretty neat little experience actually. We walked around the lake a bit until the clouds cleared. Besides the goofy geyser, the Champagne pool is one of the bigger draws to the park, and here I can certainly understand the pull for people to see it – I thought it was a great spot.
Finally, on the way towards the exit you walk near the sickliest looking green lake. It really doesn’t look real or natural when it’s THIS bright neon coloured.
So by the end I think both Aura and I were very happy with the experience. The geyser was very much a bland time, but the rest of the scenery made up for it.