Thursday, February 23, 2006 - Rotorua to
Taupo, Including Wai-O-Tapu and Huka
Located between Rotorua and Taupo,
Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland (admission
NZ$23) has the largest area of geothermal
activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. There's
lots of geothermal parks in the TVZ. A few
are free, but most have a substantial
entrance fee, so we did our homework
beforehand and tried to be selective. Lonely
Planet calls Wai-O-Tapu "perhaps the best of
the thermal areas to visit."
Lady Knox Geyser, Wai-O-Tapu
The Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-O-Tapu erupts
daily at 10:30 a.m. (with the help of the
addition of soap) for approximately an hour.
We didn't arrive early enough for the soapy
beginning, but we made it mid-eruption. Lady
Knox is the only predictable geyser I'm aware
of in New Zealand, and is probably the
biggest draw of Wai-O-Tapu, though Tom and I
found the other geothermal features a lot
Lake Ngakoro thermal waterfall
6.5 kilometers (4 miles) of trails wind
through the bush around the park's
interesting features, and we hiked every
meter of them. Very scenic, and well worth
Frying Pan Flat
The Champagne Pool is 65 meters across and
62 meters deep. It gets its name from the
bubbles formed by the release of carbon
dioxide. All the steam gives it an
Devil's Bath is a crater pool filled with
vivid green water. Excess water from the
Champagne Pool mixes with sulphur and ferrous
salts to cause the toxic-looking color.
We ate lunch in the gift shop at the
conclusion of our walk, then drove from the
main part of the park over to the mud pools.
These are very active pools, and the gurgling
mud was hilarious. I don't know why. Timing
our photos to catch the sputtering mud wasn't
easy, but it was fun trying.
Geothermal stations supply 6-7 percent of
New Zealand's electricity. We passed by
Wairakei Station Power Plant, which alone
produces over 4 percent of the nation's
Wairakei Station Power Plant
Just outside Taupo, the Waikato River
narrows from 100 meters across to only 15
meters across, forcing its way through a
narrow gorge and over the edge of a cliff in
a spectacular torrent of water called Huka
Falls. More than 250,000 liters (66,000
gallons) of beautiful turquoise water plunges
over the cliff face per second.
Waikato River Gorge
Craters of the Moon is a free thermal area
across the road from Huka Falls. It's
interesting, but kind of underwhelming after
Wai-O-Tapu. We walked the looping trail
around the park in about 45 minutes. There is
a second loop you can add on to the hike, but
it's steep and we were tired of walking.
There were a few cool craters, and it's
always fun to see steam venting from the
Craters of the Moon
In Taupo we stayed at Go Global Backpacker
Hostel, a definite step down from last
night's no-frills accommodation in Rotorua.
There was no towel, no soap, and this time we
had to hire sheets. (Sheet rental goes for
NZ$3, in case you wondered.) Surprisingly, we
did have a TV in our room, though it received
only two stations. The piece de resistance
was the shower curtain. It was composed
entirely of bubble wrap. Yes, bubble wrap.
Too funny. Go Global isn't terrible, but it's
a little run down.
Bubble-wrap shower curtain
Lake Taupo lies in a huge caldera and is
the largest lake in New Zealand, 606 square
kilometers (234 square miles). Our hostel was
only half a block from Lake Taupo, so we went
for a walk along the scenic shore. The wind
was howling, though, to the point that the
lake had whitecaps, and the weather had
turned cold, so we cut the walk short.
We had an excellent dinner with a nice
lake view at Tasty Thai Restaurant. Tom had
Nuer Pad Prik, which he called "magically
delicious." I had Pad Kee Moaw. It was
unreasonably hot, but I liked it. The Tui
beer was very nice, the Mac's Gold decent.
Our waitress was from North Carolina.
After dinner we went to an Internet place
across from Go Global to check email and so I
could pay my American Express bill. I don't
want my payment to be late. Credit card
companies will jab you!
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