We’re on a Hot Spot
The Pacific Rim circles the giant ocean and the boundaries are clear. Every once in a while, a volcano erupts and reminds the world that Mother Nature doesn’t mess around. Her power is clearly evident here in New Zealand.
In the central region of the North Island, there are volcanoes. While inactive at the moment, they are not extinct. When you drive around Rototura both to the northeast and the southwest, there are steam vents coming out of pastures, streams, and valleys. Mud pools bubble away and sound like giant coffee pots percolating. Steam turns rocks chartreuse. We visited the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland to get up close.
Different chemicals, including arsenic, change the colors of the rim underwater and above the water an edge builds up like a pie crust. The water cascades from higher ground and falls slowly to pools below like the oyster pool and frying pan pool. All the while, steam rises and blows across your face. The Maori use the vents to cook food but the water truly is boiling so care is needed.
Thermal Wonderland is compact, not spread out like Yellowstone Park in the States. You can walk through all the trails in under two hours, and actually that makes the experience something special.
Thermal activity stretches out under towns like Rototura and through farms and pastures. In other words, people are living and carrying on their lives right on top of boiling water. And right now, we’re sleeping on top of it! That makes us brave, right?
After hiking through the cauldrons of boiling water and mud, across barren rock made desolate by thermal activity, and through clouds of sulfurous vapors, we went across the road to the thermal pools and soaked for about an hour. There was a regular sized back yard pool for swimming. Several “passive” tubs were scattered about. They felt about like a hot tub feels. While the standards of pristine cleanliness is different here than in the States, it still felt mighty relaxing.
A botanical side note here. I’ve noticed a tall tree that I thought was a palm. It turns out it is a fern called Ponga. It truly looks like something out of Jurassic Park. Many other flowers I recognize from living in California.