Wai-O-Tapu

Today (When I say today I mean the day I first started writing this post, not the day it is published. In this instance today was about a week ago.) we left Rotorua to head to Tauranga, our next destination. Before we left the area we had to stop and see some of the famous thermal activity that the region is known for (the smell of sulfur is everywhere in Rotorua and many hotels feature thermal spas).

About 20 minutes south of Rotorua is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. There were three different tracks through the park that took you through a variety of different landscapes that highlighted different features of the area. It took a little over an hour to walk the entire park. This was another attraction, like the Hamilton Gardens, that I wasn’t particularly interested in, but was so highly regarded that it seemed silly not to go. And just like the Gardens, I ended up really enjoying it!

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Smile and say sulfur!

As someone with pretty much no knowledge of geology or volcanoes or anything like that I would summarize the park as a big area filled with yellow colored rocks (sulfur), bubbling, steaming pools of water of various colors, and horrible smells (again the sulfur). Sometimes there wasn’t any water and steam would just rise out of the ground. Other times there were big holes in the ground where acid had eroded the earth underneath. There were plenty of signs warning you against straying from the trail, as if the sight of boiling green water wasn’t enough of a warning sign (also the smell, did I mention how bad it smelled?)

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This was one of the largest pools. As we were walking past we got hit with a gust of hot, smelly steam.

After we finished the walk we drove down to a separate section that was home to the mud pool. This was a big pond filled with boiling mud, or something like that. There was something inherently gross and unsettling about it. Bubbles of mud would rise and then pop with a loud noise sending mud splattering around and steam rising into the air. It was like the earth was vomiting and belching up big bubbles of horrible smelling gas. Some of them were pretty large.

A picture wouldn’t really do it justice, so check out this video!

Next we went to a secret (not really a secret at this point, but maybe was more of a secret in the past) spot known as Hot and Cold. There were plenty of geothermal spas in the area where you could pay to have a soak in the pools, but who wants to pay for things? This hot and cold place was located in a stream just down the road from the Wai-O-Tapu parking lot. We could tell when we got there because of all the cars parked on the side of the road.

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Alana wanted one last whiff of sulfur before we left.

The spot is a convergence of two streams, one very hot stream coming from the thermal area and one normal cold water stream. When they meet you get some hot water, some cold water, and some warm water all in the same place! You could sit closer to either the hot or cold stream according to your preference. The water was only about thigh deep, but you could sit down for a nice soak. Unlike spas, where they have separate pools for separate temperatures, here everything just mixed together. Sometimes you’d be sitting in a nice hot spot and suddenly get hit by a cold stream, or vice versa.

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Alana and her new stick friend, who helped her test my ability to relax in adverse circumstances.

It was a very pleasant end to several action packed days in Rotorua. After we finished in the stream we hopped back in the car and headed up to Tauranga.

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