6 January 2014
Our first stop of the day, took us to the tourist must see stop of Wai-o-Tapu thermal park. The site is famous for its day 10:15am Geyser show. With no interest in seeing a 3rd grade science experiment (they pour a concoction into the geyser to make it go off every day right at the same time), we made our way thru the rest of the park. Apparently it was us and about 6 other people, that we saw from a good distance coming or going from one of the points of interest, that got the memo that this was the best time to visit the rest of the park as you would have it all to yourself. Our guidebook which gave us this great advice, with that notation alone, pretty much paid for itself. The park was filled with geo-thermal oddities that you probably could not even fathom. One of the highlights was the Champagne Pool.
Looking down at the Champagne Pool
With the lovely aroma of rotten eggs, which caused me to stay back for most of the time while Adam took pictures, was lined with the darkest/brightest shade of orange with the contrasting blue steaming water. To the side of the pool the water spilled over taking some of the orange colors from the rocks with it and moved about with wisps of orange spread from one point to another in the wind.
Just the two of us at the pool
Just to the left of the Champagne Pool, ‘The Princess Terrace’
This entire hill is composed of the rock formation above. It is about 3 acres in size and has been forming for the last 700 years.
On the walk to Lake Ngakoro
Just in case you were thinking of touching the water or maybe doing the robot, neither is advised
So many unique thermal pools
Lake Ngakoro and its waterfall were probably my second favorite sites, the mint green waters it was just so odd to see, I would have never guessed Mother Nature could create such a color. And as we made our way to the end of the trail we were greeted with another surprising pool of lime green at Devil’s Bath.
As we were leaving the Lake Ngakoro area, it appeared that the show was over and we started to see a trickle of tourist make their way around the park, must stopping for a second or two to snap a quick picture and not take the time to see the sight or ask us ‘is it much furtherer’ when the whole park is a very easy walk which probably takes an hour if moving from point to point at a quick pace. When we came to the end of the second trail loop and arrived back at the Champange Pool, the Geyser show was clearly over, and the tourist were everywhere. Since people watching is a favorite past time we took a few minutes to sit back and take in the sights along with the people.
And the crowds began to arrive
While lurking in the background, I overheard one women state to her husband about the second trail loop, ‘oh we don’t want to go that way, it’s too far.’ What?!?! It is 35 minutes max to the end point of the trail to the visitors center (a random time, I know, but it was posted on the sign!) and we were already about 15 minutes from the visitors center. So really tourists, you come all this way, pay $60+ for your family to enter the park and you don’t want to take a fairly flat well maintained trail an extra 20 minutes to see a mint green pool with views to the volcano out in the distance. These are just things I will never understand, I mean I love being lazy as much as the next person, but when you can see some many amazing sights you MUST get out there and see it, even if means pushing yourself.
From the thermal park it was just a km or so to the mud pool. A cool geo-thermal feature, the mud bubbles up creating a nice ‘plop, plop’ with and occasionally burst of mud shooting up to the sky. It appeared that some of the pools were working in unison, creating a nice mud show.
Plop, plop, plop
Looking down at the mud pool
After the short stop at the mud pool, we made our way back up the road to for a hike up to the top of Rainbow Mountain. As we were hiking up to the top of Rainbow Mountain, I couldn’t imagine being a tourist like the few we observed at the thermal park would didn’t want to take the time to explore more, in a country like NZ you miss out on sooo much if you just stick to the nicely paved trails and only take advantage of a small portions of those trails.
We have found these on almost every hike and every time we just stop and admire
Being here has truly inspired me to stay fit, if not for my own health, but to continue to explore the world when it is time for retirement number 2 (I always joked that I would retire at 30 and here I am, but I have now realized that it will just be temporary so I still have retirement number 2 to look forward too). In true NZ fashion there were plenty of steep hill climbs, but very unique to this area there were spots where you would come out of a very tropical forest to a desert like area of shrub with no tree cover and very red dirt.
Feeling the burn
Also at the beginning of the trail we were treated to a lovely view of a bright blue crater lake with the exposed rock behind showing off a few steam spouts and various shades of red. Near the top the steam spots that seem oh, so far away were now on the same level, and we still had more of our trek.
And now so close
But as I wanted to curse walking about another hill, I was reminded that thus far all of the hill climbs are quickly forgotten once we reach the top and the views are just breathtaking. And here once we reaching the top, we were treating with great views including the mountain ranges that surround Lake Taupo about 60km away. From this vantage point you could see just how smashed together the hillside was. As you drive thru it looks like endless foothills but from up top you could really tell it was land masses crashing into one another to create the very unique and unusual landscape.
What I like to call, smashed together foothills
We found a shade spot and bench and then enjoyed our PB&J lunch.
Not a bad place for lunch
After lunching and taking in the views along with plenty of pictures we made our descent. It was a quick 30 minute walk down and a little over and hour walk up and of course, we didn’t take a picture earlier of the two of us at the crater lake, so with a stunning glow we took one post hike (and no it did not make the cut!).
So after all the activity of the day, we made sure to drive back down the road to Waikite Valley thermal pools. Described to us by the owner of the campsite, as the place he would go to, to enjoy the thermal pools in the area to avoid the giant tour buses we were sold. Plus with a happy coincidence it was also on our list of to-do’s while in town. There is no better way to recover from a good hike then soaking in some warm mineral water. With our admission we had access to about six pools which had three different temperature ranges. After a few hours of testing out all the pools, we then made a short walk up to the thermal pools’ spring source.
Calcium deposits created small ‘lily pads’
It was nice walk with handful of informative plaques highlighting some of the unique mosses that are only found here, in Australia and South America along with the history of this spring has the largest discharge of boiling water in New Zealand. At the top we were treated to periods of steam swirling over head with moments where the wind would change direction and you could see the royal blue water and places where the water was bubbling up creating and lighter shade blue.
As we drove back to the campsite, we heard the news that the Packers lost and the Chargers had won. I was just glad that we didn’t have to pay another $5 for an hour of wifi to find out the score!
Today’s Drive: Around the Waikato region
Accommodations: Waiteti Trout Stream Holiday Park