A photo just doesn’t do the Te Puia bubbling mud pools justice. I was mesmerized, watching them pop up and flatten down. If there were such things as witches’ cauldrons, I imagine they would look exactly like this.
But the real show was the Pohutu Geyser.
Hmmm, that wasn’t all that special…but wait…
It’s getting better…
Our guide, Albert, took this photo of Mike.
Mike’s quite a distance from the geyser, so it gives you an idea of the size of the water column. But there is more to come.
NOW you’re talking!
Speaking of Albert, here he is with our Maori guide.
While I was busy photographing Albert, Mike was surrounded by a crowd of Asian women. Just like in Thailand, but this time only one wanted to be photographed with him, so I wasn’t fast enough to capture the scene. Mike was only to happy to explain to me that his new friend told him he was very handsome…
But back to the tour. After viewing the geological wonders, we visited the woodworking school.
This one is my favorite.
I didn’t think that anything could come close to being as glorious as yesterday’s experience in the Waitomo Caves. I was wrong. The Waimangu Valley Geothermal Site was equally magnificent, but in a very different way. This valley is the only geothermal system on the planet that was created by a volcano–the Tarawera eruption of 1886.
The result was Lake Rotomohana. Our group was divided in two, with half cruising the lake first while the other half hiked, and then we switched. Our boat was the only one on the lake that morning, and with only 18 passengers, it was easy to get an unobstructed view of all the geothermal phenomenon. Before the volcano erupted, what is now Patiti Island was part of a small hill. It became a lava plug, cooled, and is now home to cormorants.
The steam vents fascinated me, so I kept snapping away.
The hike gave us the opportunity to get close to craters and geysers.
The lake water is acidic. It looks like it is boiling because of the gases (carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide) bubbling up to the surface.
Here is our smiling guide Chas, holding a silver fern, one of New Zealand’s symbols. Do you think he usually carries a Winnie the Pooh back pack in front? Something to look for in future installments.
More bubbles, then time to head back for lunch.
Pretty amazing, right?
Once again, our guides came up with a great lunch venue. The Princess Gate Hotel has it all: an owner that welcomed us with a brief history of the hotel, fantastic food, wonderful ambiance, and a location close to the most beautiful section of Rotorua.
After lunch, we had time to stroll through the gardens, and ogle the beautiful buildings.
A long drive is a pleasure when you have Albert and Chas on board. Their commentaries are educational AND entertaining. Have I mentioned that the Kiwi sense of humor is quite delightful?
The bus is very comfortable and quite spacious. We were grateful to have our skillful driver Andrea behind the wheel, navigating the winding single lane highways and byways to Rotorua. But first we stopped at Roselands for terrific barbecue lunch. This is definitely NOT a weight loss trip!
The view from Roselands was typical New Zealand: green rolling hills, with sheep grazing on the hillside.
The rhododendron were in bloom and were spectacular.
Our next stop was the Waitomo Caves, the home of the awe inspiring glow worms. Here’s what happens. You walk with a guide through caves with interesting stalagmites and stalactites. All very nice, but I had seen similar versions in both the US and Halong Bay. Then we entered a boat, and floated into pitch darkness and complete silence to witness a breathtaking phenomenon. We weren’t allowed to take photos, but postcards are a good alternative. So, this will give you a very rough idea of what it was like.
My new friend Mel (and yes, we have bonded already, so whether he likes it or not, he has become a friend for life) wrote this beautiful poem that sums up the experience better than I ever could.
“In the darkened stillness, the glowing pinpoints embrace me, reminding me that, as ever, there is a spirit that guides me.”
It was definitely a peak experience, and one that I will never forget.