Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New Zealand Day 5 Part 1 : Around Wai-O-Tapu

Saturday, 10th September 2011

I planned the day in such a way that we don't have to break for lunch, so I decided to provide heavy breakfast for the day. It was bread, with beef kurma [using the fresh beef we bought the day before] and some golden kiwi. It's a 15 minutes kind of preparation, thanks to the microwave of course. But I was worry at how much processed food we consumed along the way, not to mention the use of microwave.. definitely not healthy.

The day before we've sort of decided to revisit Whakarewarewa Thermal Village in the afternoon, so in the morning we went to visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland first. Wai-O-Tapu is located about 27km south of Rotorua [on the way to Lake Taupo], it simply means sacred water, and it has the largest area of surface thermal activity in the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The area is part of Scenic Reserve, thus all the flora, fauna and geological formation are protected.

One of the attractions in Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland is none other than the Lady Knox Geyser. Lady Knox Geyser erupts at around 10:15am every day, so it is better to be there in the morning in order to catch the eruption. We reached there at about 9:30am, bought the ticket for NZD65 for 2 pax, then wander around, trying to decide whether we should start the WALK 1, which is the first of the 3 routes to explore geothermal activities around the park, or should we just start our walk after the geyser eruption. Lady Knox Geyser is not located within the route, it takes few minutes drive to reach the location. To avoid from rushing to catch the geyser eruption, we decided to wait after the eruption before we start our walk. So we catch our morning coffee first till 10am, then drive a few minutes to the Lady Knox Geyser.

We reached there quite early so we can see the smoke coming out from the base for a few minutes. Lady Knox Geyser was discovered by prisoners of the open prison who used to wash their clothes around that area in the early 20th century. They were the one who discovered that soap can induce the geyser to erupt. Nowadays it erupts daily at around 10:15am, as a guide will throw soap into the vent as surfactant to break the lower surface tension to induce the eruption process. This will cause the cooler water on top to mix with the hot one, thus causing the eruption.

Wait.. before you think this is not natural, don't! It is actually natural. The geyser naturally erupts anytime between 24 to 72 hours, the act of throwing soap into the vent is just to induce the process, so people can see it every day at about the same time.

Done with the geyser, we drove back to the Visitor Centre to start our walk around the geothermal area. There are 3 legs we can go through, all in all the track is about 3km long. We can choose either to go through all the legs, or just some. Some places are quite hilly, but there are always seats provided every few hundred meters for us to rest if we are tired.

The walk can be boring to some people, but I found it very very interesting and it is indeed a point of learning and appreciating our nature. There are many craters we can see around, where most of it have been formed hundreds of years ago. Some of it contain hot water spring and extensive sulphur deposits.

The sulphur and mineral content have put some natural colours to the craters, it's amazing to think of what's happening underground. There are all in all 25 main stops where we can see these natural wonders, all are named and facts about it are given to all visitors for us to learn from it. We can also see other small places with sulphur trace, mud pool and some smoking areas around, I wonder whether it will develop into a greater geothermal surface like the main 25 in the future.

These are not only hot spring where you can dip your feet in it to enjoy the warmth, these are BOILING HOT!

Among all, I was especially attracted by the Champagne Pool, the biggest in the district at 65m in diameter and 62m deep. It's surface temperature is 74 degree celcius, and at the time we were there, the wind was blowing to our direction so we can't really see things because of the smoke. I have to wait till the wind stop blowing to our direction before I can get to take the picture above.

My camera battery decided to mogok at some point towards the end of our walk, so I didn't get to take some of the pictures... so sad. But the happy part was we got to meet this Maori sister who was also there, she's a Muslim. That was the first time we meet a Muslim Maori, alhamdulillah.

Basically it was a rewarding walk, when I was there I constantly making mental notes to remember to google this and that when I go back. It was not only the view, it was the process of searching for knowledge which added to the excitement.

Back to the car, I made sure I recharge the battery using the car charger, and we stayed for a while in the car. Our next destination was the boiling mud pool, which is located just a few kilometers from the Wai-O-Tapu area. By the time we reached the mud pool, my camera was ready to at least take a few more pictures. I also made sure I recorded a video of the boiling mud pool, tried to upload it here but it took so long, I give up!

Had satisfying geothermal experience that day, it was already noon by the time we finished with Wai-O-Tapu walk and all. Where's next? Should we go back to Rotorua and continue with Whakarewarewa Thermal Village? Mr D was already coughing and had slight fever, we've just finished a 3km some hilly some flat walk, I think he needs some rest so he can fully recover before we continue our journey. I wasn't very well either due to the effect from bronchitis I had earlier.

So we did some evaluation - What's in Whakarewarewa?
a) The Pohutu geyser - maybe we can miss this as we already seen Lady Knox
b) Geothermal activities - we covered quite a huge area in Wai O Tapu
c) Maori history and cultural performance - we covered some the night before at Tamaki village
Should we just forget Whakarewarewa? OK.. we forget that for now. Have to forget the Redwood Forest as well.

There's another place I really wanted to visit and I wouldn't want to miss, that's the Buried Village. We missed that at the end.. but I promise myself I will come again and visit this. This village, Te Wairoa, was gone after more than 4 hrs of violent and unexpected volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. The eruption also said to destroy the Pink and White terraces, which was once the eighth wonder of the world. The place now has an award winning museum, telling stories of the eruption, and some excavated remains. Sad of course to miss this, but we did what we need to do.

So the next destination - off to Taupo to have some rest.

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