Friday, 23rd November – Rotorua

Certainly the highlight of our trip to New Zealand so far.

Awoke to glorious sunshine, although it was a rather chilly 12 degrees. Decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and get something to eat at the Waimangu Volcanic Valley visitor centre cafe, around 25 kilometres south of Rotorua.

We’d originally planned to take the bus down to the lake, do a boat trip around Lake Rotomahana, of which more later, and then walk back up the valley. The young lady at the ticket counter swiftly disabused us of that notion, saying that the walk back was very steep and uphill all the way. We hastily rearranged for the other way around, and the boat trip was booked for 1.10 p.m.

After a surlily served coffee and toastie, we started the walk down this valley. Absolutely spectacular in terms of the geothermal activity. This is a truly extraordinary place, and I’m very surprised that I’ve not heard about it before. Where to start? We both took hundreds of pictures, so I’ll do my best.

The Big Day around this area was 10th June 1886. What is now Mount Tarawera erupted cataclysmically and created this whole truly sensational geothermal environment. There’s a whole line of volcanic craters here, quite a number of which are under Lake Rotomahana now.

This is Emerald Pool, a cold water lakelet occupying the floor of the Southern Crater.

These are all pictures of the spectacular Echo Crater and Frying Pan Lake. Water temperature is around 55 degrees Celsius! Pictures simply do not do this justice at any level. Absolutely fantastic.

Hot Water Creek and various springs up next. Amazing colours and some quite ferocious bubbling pools.

This is Inferno Crater. Fabulous blue colour caused by algal growth. Temperature around 35 degrees Celsius. Beautiful.

Some other random pics from a huge selection taken on the way down the path through this incredibly geothermally active valley. I really have seen nothing on earth like this.

Got to Lake Rotomahana for our boat trip. This lake is a direct result of the huge eruption aforementioned. Apparently there was a much smaller lake here which was completely vaporised. When the mud, ash and other detritus descended, it formed a natural dam and this much, much bigger lake was formed from a combination of rainwater and stream inflow. It’s now a beautiful sight, with a lot of geothermal activity still around it. has a lot more information.

Very pleasant, calm cruise on a lovely day.

Mount Tarawera, which caused all this in the first place in 1886
A crater hole in the side of Mount Tarawera
Exit from Starhill Crater, another of the craters caused by this monumental eruption
An erupting geysir – fabulous sight
The aptly named Steaming Cliffs
And again

Following all this would be difficult. Wouldn’t it?

Actually, the start of the evening – an “experience” at a local Maori settlement – left a lot to be desired. Not well organised and obviously put on for the tourists. Not very professionally either.

One of the centrepieces of this farrago was the hangi – food supposedly cooked using volcanic heat. Hmmmmm…….

After what was almost a child’s pantomime of “Maori music and dance”, we sat down to some food, which was basically a bloody great buffet. The food, to be honest, was surprisingly good, but again it just seemed so contrived. None of it could surely be construed as genuine Polynesian food – since when did they eat fettuccine tossed in watercress??? Anyway, a couple of pictures for the record:

After this crap, however, came the real highlight – a trip down to the geysir area around which this whole charade has been built. A full moon plus various lighting effects contributed to a magical experience, which really topped off a mostly wonderful day.

Right at the end, we were invited to sit on some “hot rocks” to listen to a short, and very good, presentation about the region, its volcanos and traditions. However, I had to shift smartish as, to be quite frank, my bum was burning! Moved to a rock ledge lower down which was pleasantly warm instead.

Back to the hotel to pack and prepare to move on to our next destination – a “chateau” in the Tongariro National Park. Looks intriguing…..

2 responses to “Friday, 23rd November – Rotorua”

  1. Excellent photos of the light show. Did you take any video?

  2. Yep – loads. Still grappling with tech issues embedding them in Blogger.

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