We woke up early and jumped in the car to get over to the Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland (www.waiotapu.co.nz). One of its main attractions is a huge geyser they call Lady Knox which erupts water high into the air everyday at about 10:15AM. They put in some type of soap which causes a chemical reaction and forces the water to spout out, but if they didn’t interfere with it, it would still shoot water out every few days. We got there just as they started to add the soap. We thought we had to get there exactly at 10AM but after rushing around, arrived and were told it would shoot water for about an hour. We listened to the employee discuss the geyser and took some pictures before going over to the main park entrance.
Because this area is such an active geothermal region…the park was set up around natural areas of activity. As we walked through…we could see steam seeping out from various cracks in the ground. Small craters had mud literally boiling from the temperatures underground being approx 100 degrees celsius. The earth seemed hot and angry in this portion of the world. And the egg smell from the sulfur was inescapable. We had fun taking pictures and looking at this type of activity so closely. As we continued to walk through the path marked by the park, we came across the “champagne pool”. This large body of water was various colors of fiery orange and green mixed with a darker green mud. We could see little bubbles as it boiled from such high temperatures and there was a constant cloud of hot sulfur steam blowing over the top. The path had us walk right through the middle of the pond on a bridge, which was pretty cool.
We have climbed active volcanoes but this was the first time we actually stayed in a city sitting directly on the volcano, and the terrain was something we have never seen before. After walking through the champagne pool, we made our way through the trails in woods or what they call “the bush”. The paths lead us around other natural bodies of water, as well as mud and minerals of all sorts created from volcanic activity. We could also see an additional volcano in the distance. We took our time walking through the various areas and being sure to capture as much of it as we could on film. It’s not everyday that we find ourselves walking inside an active crater!
Once we finished, we were driving out of the park area and saw a sign for mud pool. We turned onto the road and parked on the side of the street. There was a fence around a huge boiling lake of mud. Not just small bubbles but big massive boiling bubbles…it looked like it was straight out of a movie. We had fun just staring at it and taking pictures as the mud burst in the air.
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a place called Te Puia. It was a local heritage site consisting of history on the indigenous people as well as tribal dances etc. After seeing the price was about $100 per person we decided to skip the dancing show. We browsed in their shop of local crafts and saw the various wood carvings, mineral lotions and other crafts.
Once back at our place, we relaxed for a bit and then walked down the street to the night market. The market was very small, about 15 local vendors set up selling mostly food. One guy even had a whole espresso machine sitting in the back of his car making hot cups of coffee. We decided to munch on some of the street food. We picked up homemade pumpkin soup and of course we couldn’t resist local chocolates. We also grabbed some stir-fry noodles and a couple of pieces of fruit. Our favorite was an all natural dip made from mint, ginger and garlic, it was so refreshing and extremely healthy. Once we saw all the vendors and had some food in our hands we stopped at one more Asian restaurant on the way home. We ordered one take-out dish made with black-bean curd and noodles.
Back in our hotel room, we watched a movie and munched on our smorgasbord of food.