This entry is supposed to be sequenced before the posted earlier today (Grottos & glow worms) but we’ve been REALLY struggling with the battery of our Nexus7 netbook and could not get it going until now. We currently in Brisbane about to board our flight to Bali, Indonesia.
Rotorua is located about 200km SE of Aukland on the north island. NZ is a very young land mass that owes its existence to the “recent” collision of two tectonic plates. While all of the land masses are geologically active, the area surrounding Rotorua is particularly active. I mean really active! In fact, New Zealand’s huge tourism industry was born in the late 1800s just west of the town. Tourists came from as far away as England and traveled by foot and horse to bathe in the pink and white hot water terraces on Lake Tarawera west of the town, and later for the believed healing powers of the hot water and mud in Rotorua itself. Tragically, Mt Tarawera erupted on June 6, 1886, killing 120 and changing the surrounding landscape. Sadly, the eruption also destroyed the iconic terraces. But many people kept coming to experience the volcanic action of the area … including us.
Our first outing in the area had nothing to do with geology though. In an experiment in the earlier 1900s the NZ government tried growing many foreign species of trees to see what would produce lumber the fastest in NZ’s climate. As you might recall from Jake’s last blog, the Kauri trees had been more or less exhausted, and other natives grew slowly too. California Redwoods were planted adjacent to the town. And did they grow!
A spectacular near-city park is now filled with walking and biking trails. Giants soar and provide cool shade for walking. Kaia, Jake and I even were inspired to go for a run, which is a first on our journey.
After this lovely walk/run we went to check out the free campsite listed on the campermate App, worrying that there would be no room for us on a beautiful hot sunny day in their Christmas holidays in a camp on a beautiful lake with a beach. But as Yvonne mentioned there is no such thing as “full” …. we found a lakeside spot of grass tucked between other tents … about 30 … while the government advertised 12 spots.
On the lake in Rotorua we found their highly touted museum that was in its first life a hot water/steam healing center. The part of the museum dedicated to this was a bust. But the other half, dedicated to Maori culture, was absolutely fantastic. It explained how they made their way to NZ, how they interacted with each other throughout NZ before contact, how that all changed after contact, and a really great sense of Maori world view.
We set out SW from Rotorua to explore the multitude of geo-attractions. First stop was some pretty loud and steamy mud pools just off the highway.
We were then off to kerosene creek hot pool. Kaia, Jake and I ran there along a trail from a near by car park, past a few steaming vents. Lovely cross country running, until we got on to the part that had not been maintained … for quite some time. Cross country bush-whacking.
The main destination for the afternoon was the thermal sights of Waiotapu. This park is sitting right on a hot spot and has a fantastic variety of hot pools and other formations.
I sure wish I could bring my geography classes here for a peek. Rotorua is “ground zero” for geothermal activity all throughout NZ. There’s lots of other hot springs and volcanic cones in sight as you move around the islands. It kinda hits home the idea that we live on a thin crust above a whole bunch of hot stuff!