Published: December 5th 2002December 5th 2002
After a few quiet evenings on the east of the North Island I decided that I needed to meet some people again. Rotorua is nicknamed Roto-Vegas by some of the locals due the huge amount of tourism that goes on there. Having been to Las Vegas the nickname is a little oversized. Although tourist oriented, see the mud pools, smell the sulphur, the scale and size of the city is along the lines of a small town back home.
The Funky Green Voyager is where I chose to stay. Run by Gerard an eclectic verbally active host with a brusque but friendly style. Must find a really big word for Gerard.
I spent my first day in Rotorua at the Wai-O-Tapu - Thermal Wonder World, a collection of smelly coloured and bubbling pools, and the Lady Knox Geyser.
The Lady Knox Geyser erupts everyday at around 10am. The consistency of the eruption is ensured by the addition of soap powder about 3mins before the eruption is desired. According to the guide the Geyser was discovered by inmates at a local jail, they found the pool of hot water and decided that it would be perfect for washing clothes.
To help they added soap powder, the detergent lowered the surface tension of the water, increased the excitement of the water below and after a low rumbling sound erupted hot soapy water 10m into the air. The prisoners must have been shocked by the unexpected event, but with little other entertainment in the area came back and built a cairn around the pool to increase the size of the eruption further. Every time the eruption occurs, salt, sulphur and soap crystallise around the base of the geyser adding to the small white cone at its base.
The rest of the park is less dramatic but equally interesting. Steam rises gracefully from the hot surface of the pools, sulphuric odours make breathing an unpleasant but essential task. From many of the bubbling springs a gurgling choking sound emanates. On the largest pool known as the artists palette reds, greens, purples, yellows and oranges all combine and float like food colouring on a saucer of milk. The other attractions have been named “Devils Home”, “Thunder Crater” and “Opal Pool”. One of the most attractive is the primrose terrace, the largest sinter terraces in the New Zealand since the destruction of the
Pink and White terraces in 1886 with the eruption of Mount Tarawera.
When Mount Tarawera erupted a valley named Waimanga was formed. The area has been re-colonised since the eruption, gradually by native trees and plants. I visited the park and took the 4hr walk through the area. One of the most beautiful places on the walk is Frying Pan Lake, the world’s largest hot spring. The average lake temperature is 55°C (131°F).
The next day in Rotorua I decided to do something more along the adrenaline seeking lines. White water rafting looked a little tame so I went for white water sledging, with Kaitiaki
adventures. For around 3hrs we hurtled down grade II to IV rapids on sledges wearing ice hockey helmets and life jackets. Six adventure seekers and a guide at each end followed each other like a line of suicidal ducklings down the rapids. Rocks were avoided by kicking as hard as possible (turbo) steering a course to deeper (safer?) areas. Waves were dived through. We spent about ½ an hour getting together the skills needed to traverse the rapids, mostly a case of not letting go of the sledge and learning to get back
on top when rolled underneath. At one point in the rapids I rolled over and went downstream under the sledge, left leg cramped up, but due the practising of rolling back onto the sledge got back on and made it to the next eddy. Steve, one of the guides, quickly stretched out the cramp and made sure I was okay before proceeding any further. All in all the white water sledging was one of the most thrilling activities I have done.