We spent the night in Tauranga at a Backpackers right down town and could hear the sounds of the night life rocking in the streets below our room. The following morning we drove to Whakatane then headed inland toward Rotorua.

Between Whakatane and Rotorua is a string of beautiful lakes making for a very pleasant drive. We passed through Te Puke (birthplace of the Kiwi industry) and had to make a joke about the name.

DRIVING ROUTE-click to enlarge (then HOLD mouse on pic until icon appears & click icon again to expand)

Our destination was Rotorua, one of the best known thermal areas in the world with its rumbling, boiling and erupting of the area's underworld.

Some Like it Hot!

Hell's Gate (Tikitere)

Our first geothermal experience was at Hell's Gate, set in 50 acres . There we saw impressive sulphurous vents, boiling waters, bubbling volcanic mud pools and other evidence of the steaming underground cauldron with temperatures in excess of 122 deg. C.  There is a spa at Hell's Gate that reputedly has been known as a special place of healing and revitalizing. We all opted out of the mud therapy! (Although you could buy it in the Gift Shop.)

Ali gets boiled Constant drifts of steam and the distinctive smell of sulphur let you know you are in Rotorua Gord is the Devil

Ali & Chris on walkway

Boiling Mud

The Infants

Danger Sign

Temps to 105*C

Devil's Cauldron

Boiling mud plops like cooking porridge. It was interesting to see the ever-changing patterns in the boiling mud of the Devil's Cauldron, mud that has been used for hundreds of years by the Maori for its healing powers.

Kakahi Falls (left)

is the largest hot water fall in the Southern Hemisphere with a normal temperature of 40 deg C. In pre-European times the waterfall was a sacred site to local Maori. Maori Warriors would return after battle to bathe in the sulphur water to heal their wounds and remove the "tapu" of war before rejoining their families.

Redwood Forests of Whakarewarewa Forest Park

We took an interesting walk through the Forest Park that was originally planted as an experiment to determine suitable exotic species for new Zealand plantations. We walked on a track that led through a large grove of California Redwoods.

Chris & Ali in Forest Massive Trunks Redwood Grove Tree Huggers Very tall Redwoods

After our walk in the Forest, we took a drive out to the Green and Blue Lakes. We couldn't actually see much difference in the colour of the two lakes, but it was a pretty drive. There was lots of activity on the Lake including water ski racing.

We drove on to Te Wairoa where 3 villages are buried as a result of the huge volcanic eruption. We did not take the tour but returned to Rotorua to check out some other activities.

We drove around Rotorua trying to find our way to the Ohinemutu Maori Village, which is supposed to house some of the finest examples of Maori wood carvings. It is actually  the original Maori settlement in the Rotorua district. We finally found the church by driving right into the middle of a Maori funeral possession. We sheepishly backed the car out and apologized for the intrusion.

The Zorb

We toured around Lake Rotorua and headed for the Agrodome. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got there but the "Zorb," one of those unusual Kiwi innovations,  was still rolling people down the hill.

We watched people tumble down the 150m grassy slope in the giant plastic sphere and Chris and Ali contemplated taking the ride. However, because it was such a windy day, the Zorb had to be filled with water when you got in to keep it from blowing away. Since neither of them felt like being wet and cold, we moved on.

The Skyride

Riding 900m up Mt Ngongotaha in the gondola for a panoramic view of the Lake and city appealed to us so we headed for the Skyride. We had a great view of the area from the gondola. At the top there was lots of activity (left) including not only the gondolas, but the chairlifts, luges and mountain bikes. There was a restaurant which sounded like a fine idea until we found out that the buffet was $60/person!

Since Ali and Chris were the more adventurous of our group, they decided to descend by luge, a wheeled toboggan sliding on concrete tracks that wind their way down the mountain. A chairlift brought them back up to the gondola area. It was so much fun they did it twice! The second time they got to advance to the more challenging luge run.
Ali and Chris speeding down the mountain Chairlift back up


One of Rotorua's main attractions, Wai-o-Tapu (meaning Sacred Waters) is an extensive thermal eco system with silica terraces, mud pools and a geyser. It is the most colourful of the thermal reserves with an artists palette of every tint and hue displayed in pools and lakes, craters, steam vents, mineral terraces and even the tracks themselves.

Steamy cauldrons Sulphur Mounds Champagne Pool is a fifth of a hectare of bubbling, hissing water, with an ochre coloured edge. It is 62 m deep & is fed by a hot spring rising from a depth of 400m. Volcanic craters formed by eruptions or internal chasms

Thar She Blows!

We rushed over to catch Lady Knox's eruption, which takes place everyday at 10:15 AM. We wondered how this schedule is so exact and discovered that the geyser has a little prompting with a soap-type organic substance. The attendant  gave us a commentary about the geyser and its history including some folklore. Then he fed it the magic potion, soap powder, that decreases the surface viscosity of the water and causes an almost immediate eruption.

Slowly the geyser burst to life bubbling and sputtering. Before too long it began to spew hot water eventually reaching a height of 20 meters.  The display lasted about an hour. When it was over the bleachers cleared and they locked the gate behind us in order to protect the environment around the geyser.

We headed back to Wai-o-Tapu Park to continue our exploration of the area. We crossed a bridge that took us over hissing water. The steam was so dense that I almost lost sight of Gord.

Oyster Pool The Artists Palette Pool was an amazing colour of green but was really stinky Bubbling Springs Panoramic view


A Hot waterfall empties into Lake Ngakoro

The colors of the water caused by silica deposits and various minerals in the ground, were really incredible

Chris and I  in the Thermal Wonderland after a very extraordinary encounter with New Zealand's most unusual geothermal phenomenon.

On the drive out of the area we stopped to watch the mud boil and bubble in the mud pools.
There is steam coming out of the ground everywhere, wispy puffs and curls from vents on front lawns, through curbside gratings and across roads. On our drive from Rotorua to Lake Taupo we saw that the  steam is collected in huge pipes that are part of the power project  to make electricity.

Thermal Overdose!

We had our fill of the thermal heartland and headed south. We arrived in Taupo and thought the town looked just like Penticton. It is situated on Lake Taupo, New  Zealand's largest lake (616 square km) and  the result of an immense volcanic eruption in AD186. This huge body of water fills a crater that was formed over 1800 years ago in what may have been the most violent series of eruptions in recorded history. The ash from the volcano was seen as far away as ancient Rome and China.

Today Lake Taupo is a leading holiday resort with water sports and excellent fishing amidst stunning scenery.