The Smoking Earth (NZ Days 2 & 3)
Andrew: After viewing everything from above the day before from our Cessna, we next embarked on our road trip to get up close to these geothermal wonders! Whenever we told our friends that we were going to New Zealand, the inevitable question and comment was, ‘You are driving right?’. Having never driven overseas before, I was slightly apprehensive about it, but I took the plunge after I realized how much cheaper and faster it was based on my Internet research. Also, the idea of driving around was rather fun, a bit like Dearie and my own private tour!
Andrew: After one day of driving, I realized that there is no better way to see New Zealand than by driving! It’s not only cheaper, more convenient and you get stunning views that you would otherwise not get to stop and admire if you were in a coach. Important thing to note though is to definitely bring sunglasses if you are driving as the sun can get very very blinding when the sky is clear.
Andrew: Our first stop on our road trip was Waimangu Volcanic Valley. The journey to the valley was just amazing- stretches of uninterrupted greenery, rolling vales and hills with grazing sheep and cow and as we were approaching the valley, we saw bales of steam rising up above the forests. It was amazing!
Of course, once we get to the valley, the best way to tour the place is by trekking. We definitely had a lot of exercise this trip! Yay – I can’t even get Jasmine to go to ECP for a walk on weekends in Singapore, but I dare say that Jasmine walked at least 5km in total over the past two days! And in her Aldo boots, not walking shoes!
Jasmine: Heehee, and Andrew was my trusty “walking stick”! I really enjoyed packing a hot chocolate and a warm sausage roll for lunch and eating it from the lookout atop the mystical Echo Crater, shrouded in mist.
Andrew: Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the world’s newest geothermal system and the result of the Tarawera eruption on 10th June 1886. It is also the only hydro thermal system in the world where all the surface features are contained within a single geological structure. The trek was nothing short of amazing – it was so magical and mystical that we felt as if we had been transported back a thousand years. There was something so unreal about it. I can see why Peter Jackson chose NZ for Lord of the Rings. Seen below is the Echo Crater:
Close to the Echo crater is the Frying Pan Lake:
Andrew: The lake water here is acidic and all the carbon dioxide and sulphide gas bubbling up makes it seem like the water is boiling, hence the name Frying Pan. Somehow in the picture above, I seem to be able to see a frying pan handle as well! I must say the names are rather genius! (Jasmine: wait till you get to our Wai-o-tapo pictures, where the attractions are very literally named too! It’s great- no guessing needed for the provenance of the names!)
More pics below:
Andrew: I was actually quite disappointed to see that the geyser was so small and it was just bubbling, instead of majestically spewing like usual geysers. However, this was apparently once the world’s largest known geyser!
Inferno Crater Lake
Andrew: This lake was located in a very peaceful nook along the trek. The water was so still that it was surreal. It was rather ironic that a lake named Inferno made me feel so peaceful.
Jasmine: Do check out that amazing shade of turquoise in the lake! We were very fortunate because it is usually a dull shade of grey but I guess the erm, minerals were on our side that day!
Andrew (above 3 shots): Jasmine was really fascinated by the many palm fronds that we saw along the way. The sun also cast many strong shadows which created interesting patterns for shot composition. Of course, Dear was the one who took all these ‘shadow’ shots.
Jasmine (below): We saw the bus rumbling along the dirt road and it seemed so incongruous with all the steam escaping from the fumaroles (air vents).
Andrew: A large part of the trek was along a stream nestled in the midst of lush greenery. It was such a refreshing stroll. Shots below:
Jasmine (pic below): Actually, this was just the bench en route to the public toilet, but it looked so peaceful and frozen in time that I had to have a picture.
Andrew: After a long trek at Waimangu, we made our way to enjoy the geothermal landscape in another way – through thermal baths at Waikite. It was really invigorating and refreshing during the winter, though I personally cannot stay in the pool for more than 20 minures. This was one of the pools there:
Jasmine: We have dipped in a different thermal pool every day for the last three days.. At Waikite, there were six pools ranging in temperature from 36 to 42degrees Celsius.. This one pictured above was 37-39degrees and had the best view of the lake. We like to refer to thermal spas as the process of being willingly and slowly cooked. Heh.
Andrew: This was the end of our geothermal tour on Day 2 and we went back to freshen up before our Tamaki Maori Village tour at night, which is another post for another time. The next day we headed out again!
Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland (Day 3)
Jasmine: While Waimangu is one of the youngest geothermal areas, formed only in 1886, Waiotapu is 68000 years old. It is also billed as the world’s most colorful geothermal system!
These next three pictures were taken at the Devil’s Home- Andrew was wondering if this was really an apt name?
Andrew: These are actually collapsed craters, resulting from underground acid action. A lot of the names here had to do the devil, which was rather disturbing to me. Well, of course it created the effect of making the features seem treacherous!
Jasmine: Thought we would also introduce you to a new bunny hairpin, which I’ve added onto my beret, that I just bought at the Polynesian Spa earlier that morning. Andrew was rather bemused that I managed to find anything worth buying at a spa, to which I rather smugly replied, “Surely you know that I can shop anywhere!” (Andrew: Sigh. The cashier was very amused by us and kept laughing.)
Jasmine: The next few shots are us on our walk! The walks are of low to moderate difficulty and not easily accessible to the handicapped or frail, so pls visit when you’re fit and able-bodied, even if it means wearing your only pair of Aldo ankle boots which were decidedly not made for hiking.
Andrew: This was the Sacred Track portion of the walk, an area which was thought to be once an early settlement, identified from the track by the Rhodendeon trees. We loved the colours here!
Jasmine: we saw a tree stump marked with a “N”and decided it would be a good symbol for Andrew N Jasmine… Cheesy, but fun. Haha. (Andrew: *groan*)
Jasmine: our walk brought us to the Alum Cliff and Frying Pan Flat (not to be confused with Frying Pan Lake in Waimangu), which was quite visually stunning with its mix of colors, formed by different types of minerals being deposited when gliding over the rocks. There was another, even larger, flat close by that was most aptly named Artist’s Palette for its swirl of psychedelic hues, that we could actually walk across thanks to a simple wooden bridge. I guess the phrase, colors not found in Nature, doesn’t quite apply in Waiotapu!
Andrew: What is interesting in the pic above is the alum cliff on the left of me with the interesting bands of colour.
Jasmine: Poor dear, guess the smell of sulphur was too much for him!
Andrew: Heh, yes at times the rotten egg smell was a bit too overwhelming! In fact, you can sometimes even smell the sulphur when you are in town or even in our hotel room! More pics of Waiotapu below:
Jasmine (pic below): A closeup of the Primrose Terraces. The silica forming the terraces spread over an area as large as two football fields.
Jasmine: this was the one thing that attracted me to Waiotapu when I first began researching. The Champagne Pool did not disappoint!
Jasmine: Our penguin, Tako, which is short for Tako-pudgy, since she’s got a little junk in the trunk, would like to say hi from NZ!
Jasmine: Andrew pensive at Devil’s Bath, which can vary between yellow and green as a result of overflow from the Champagne Pool. Ok fine, I told him to pose like that.
Jasmine: We also made a quick stop at the boiling mud pools. Unlike the other geothermal attractions, these are accessible to the public for free so don’t miss them! some of those mud bubbles were spewing mud up to one meter in height!
Jasmine: This thrilling journey would not have been possible without our trusty rental car (and erm, driver, of course!). Our car is very suitably named FAR.
Andrew: Yes, FAR indeed. I have never driven
long distances and for such lengthy periods ever, but it has indeed been an exciting adventure. We took some ‘documentary’ style videos fok which we will share at some point!