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New Zealand – Wai-O-Tapu / Taupo – 23rd November

To date in NZ this was turning out to be the most activity fuelled week we were experiencing. Paid for activities that is! We got up early so we wouldn’t be in with the tourist crowds too soon in the day. The Wai-O-Tapu park is south of Rotorua on the road to Taupo, we camped not too far away at one of the DOC campgrounds at Rerewhakaaitu Recreation Reserve which meant we were on the right side of town and only a 20 minute drive away from the park. Gates open at 8.30 and we were there not long after for some thermal action! We got a map on the way in and walked around the largest loop in the park (red) which took us just under an hour. The first loop is really enticing to start with; hot pools, sulphur smoking from the depths below, craters and mud pools and then we arrived at The Champagne Pool. This is amazing; a huge bubbling pool with a surface temperature of around 74 degrees Celsius. On top the water appeared to be pink and the edges orange with wind blowing the steam around the pool so much so it looked like a whirlwind. We were impressed!!

We would come back to the orange and yellow loops later on but we had a prior appointment with a Geyser located a few minutes drive from the main entrance to the park. We drove along with the now gathering tourists so we could experience the blowing Lady Knox Geyser at 10.15am. We sat in an auditorium style set up whilst more and more people starting taking their seats. We weren’t really sure how it would work but it did say that for the front rows we’d expect some spray…we were at the front! But we wanted to get some good photos! After a while and waiting to see if the Geyser would blow a ranger came along and started chatting to us about the history of the Geyser with some funny stories about prisoners working in the area finding it and building stones around the flute in order to make the Geyser blow higher.

Since then the stones are now a part of the Geyser as it is now moulded by the gases and liquids produced. He did artificially induce the Geyser with some crystal antiseptic blocks and poured it down the shoot and left the Geyser to do it’s thing. We waited for a few minutes and then it started to bubble before finally shooting water high in the air around 10m or so. It kept going and going and after about 10 minutes we left but it is reported that the Geyser can blow for up to an hour.

Following on from the excitement of the Geyser we went back to the main park and toured around the other two loops. Not as impressive as the first but there is a lot to take in and different formations along the way. There are also lot’s of eggy smells but that’s all part and parcel of being in a volcanic park. After a good few hours we left and were satisfied with our experience. It cost $32.50 each and we felt it was well worth it. A mini Yellowstone of sorts and a geeky learning experience too!

Moving on from Rotorua we continued our drive southwards to Taupo with the intention of heading to Tongoriro so that we could stay in preparation for the Tongoriro Alpine Crossing. It was quite a long drive and we didn’t stop in Taupo mainly because we were planning to come back after the hike. The drive in total was around 3 hours to Whakapapa Village where the DOC information centre is located. When we got there the very helpful staff informed us there was no way we would be hiking the Alpine Crossing the next day or the day after. In fact Sunday looked to be the best day and she suggested we head to Napier to find some sunshine as it wasn’t going to happen here! Oh no!! We re-thought our plans and decided to drive back to Taupo for the night and then head to Napier the next day before driving back to Tongoriro on Sunday along a different route. Sounds like we had a plan! So back to Taupo it was and we stayed at the YHA as they take in vans for $16 per night. It’s a nice hostel and it always suits us to have a kitchen and showers so we parked up, cooked and walked around a quiet Thursday night in Taupo.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0, Leica 90mm f/2.8, Zeiss 18mm f/4 ZM processed in Lightroom 3)

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