|We smelt Rotorua before we saw it...it stinks so bad here. This whole area for almost 300km long is incredibly volcanically active. There are steam vents, boiling mud pools and natural hot springs everywhere, even in the middle of the town. We were both wrecked arriving into town after several nights interrupted sleep in the car, the smell didn't do us any good.
There are so many different parks and areas around here that you could visit but as we are on a really tight budget here we restricted ourselves to just a few things. This also meant we would not be jumping out of a plane, bouncing on a string, shooting around rivers on speed boats or rolling around farms in plastic balls. Pity!
We wandered around the town park which is full of hot springs, boiling mud and coincidentally is also free. There was an eruption in the last 5 years or so and the whole town was covered in ash.
We then headed out past the blue and green lakes (which in the clouds all just look like regular coloured lakes) and to the buried village of Te Wairoa. The story of this town is so sad. In the 1880s there was a huge eruption by Mount Tarawera which completely devastated the whole region. The village of Te Wairoa, along with 6 other Maori villages were completely destroyed. The village was immersed in ash and mud and the houses were totally swamped. About 180 people died and their bodies are still lying covered by the shores of the lake. Parts of this village have been excavated and we were able to take a tour around it. It is such a beautiful peaceful place at eh side of a gorgeous river, waterfall and lake...it is hard to comprehend what happened here. But in such a volatile landscape its not really surprising. Prior to the eruption there existed pink and white silica terraces formed by previous volcanic activity. They were thought to be the 8th wonder of the world but were completely destroyed by the eruption.
We left Rotorua then and drove to the Waikiti thermal springs for a well needed soak and shower. We actually stayed in a campsite this night for a change, however we did still sleep in the car.
The next morning ew had to be at Wai O Tapu thermal wonderland for the eruption of the Lady Knox geyser at 10.15. Mother nature gets a bit of a hand from the park staff with the addition of soap to the geyser. The geyser would erupt anyway this just ensures a convenient eruption time for the tourists. We couldn't help comparing everything to the geysers we saw in Bolivia....where we were given free range to stand as close as we wanted to them, no thought given to safety. We had such a different experience here, thankfully a much safer one. Wai O Tapu was beautiful, the whole area is high in geothermal activity with springs, pools of brilliantly coloured water, caves full of sulphur and various other minerals. The Champagne pool was probably the most magnificent, with a brilliant ochre coloured edging surrounding a 3000 sqm pool of hissing water in a 700 year old explosion crater. Gorgeous.
From here we drove down to Lake Taupo past many more fields of beautiful green hills with hissing hot springs everywhere. We visited the bright blue Huka falls and then continued on again down the lake side as far as Turangi where we camped for the night.