Thursday, February 23, 2006 - Rotorua to Taupo, Including Wai-O-Tapu and Huka Falls

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 more interesting.

#########

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 the walk.

#########

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 otherworldly appearance.

#########

Champagne Pool

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.

#########

Devil's Bath

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.

#########

Bloop!

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 electric power.

#########

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

#########

Huka Falls

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 earth.

#########

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.

#########

Lake Taupo

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!

 

Continue to Day 12

Australia & New Zealand Journal Main Page

Tom Goetz's Homepage

Sign our guestbook

View our guestbook