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Published: December 13th 2006
Hmm, no mention of any thermal areas on here then.
We woke up this morning to a clear, sunny day and at long last the temperature seemed to match the good weather. We donned our shorts and t-shirts, slapped on some sunscreen and went off in search of adventure.
This we found at Kuirau Thermal Park, a public parkland featuring a whole host of volcanic delights. We started our tour at the local duckpond (where else?) and luckily we had come armed with some leftover bread. We made lots of new ducky friends and even met a few local sparrows all of whom didn't take a blind bit of notice of the pockets of hot water bubbling up at various places in and around the pond. It was a pretty setting around the pond with a bridge rising over the water and essentially separating the muddier hot bubbly bits of the pond from the main body of water.
We next meandered though the amazing thermal park area and all our senses fell under the spell of the volcanic plateau. We peered deep into numerous pools of gurgling mud and experienced the tell-tale smells of volcanic activity - that's the smell of rotten eggs to you and me - every
What the Quack?
Glynn tries to catch himself some freshly boiled duck by the hot pond.
time we passed a hissing steam vent and all the while felt the blaze of the sun bearing down on us. There must have been at least 25-30 different muddy pits and steam holes to visit and it was all there to be enjoyed free of charge. Cool! (Or hot, as the case may be!)
In one area of the park there were a couple of warm water pools where we could take off our shoes and soak our toes in the naturally heated mineral rich waters, like a mini kind of spa. The water wass actually deep enough to soak our legs in up to our knees and it was very relaxing indeed. We joined a couple of French travellers at one of the spas and I tried my best to wow them with my language skills but I guess I'm seriously out of practice as I barely understood a word they said back to me! At least they seemed pleased that an English speaker had tried to speak French for a change.
We next got chatting to a Polynesian man who told us about a few other freebie places we might like to visit. He also
Bridge of Smells
Here's Jude on the bridge over the hot pond.
mentioned that the spa water is usually far hotter than it was today but he thought the temperature might be regulated by the authorities according to the season. Now that it's offically summer, the waters may have been cooled down for a less fiery spa experience. After he left, we had the spa to ourselves for a few minutes until a big group of elderly South Korean tourists arrived and tentatively began testing the water. None of them could speak a word of English and we knew no Korean but somehow we managed to share a few laughs with the 15-strong group. It was a lot of fun and was a lovely way to chill out and spend an hour or so of our time.
The piece de resistence of the thermal park was waiting for us at the very far end - a big steaming sulphurous lake that was simply mesmerising to behold. Every few steps we took afforded us a different perspecive of this stunningly beautiful crystal clear pool that was easily half a kilometer across. There were some viewing platforms dotted around the outskirts of the lake giving us the oppotunity to get closer to the
This mudbath was a tad too hot for us!
intense heat of the steam rising in waves from the water's surface and carried along on the breeze. A raised walkway led across one edge of the lake where we saw how the sulphur deposits had silted up to form a boggy marsh of bright yellow and orange colours. Beyond the walkway were two smaller bodies of water, one of deepest green, the other of bright turquoise. The two pools were no more than 10 metres apart and had obviously attained their colour from a variance in the minerals in the water. It was breathtakingly beautiful and something you really should see if you're ever in Rotorua.
As we made our way to the end of the park, we were surprised to see that the main road runs almost parallel to the lake and we saw cars and trucks whizzing past that couldn't have been more than 25 metres from the steaming lake's edge. I just hope no new craters open up over there! We then took a gentle stroll back to the hostel enjoying every moment spent in the hot afternoon sun and managed to catch a great view of the whole thermal park by walking up the
Glynn and the Gurgler
Glynn watches as the mud pool gurgles away.
steep slopes leading up to Rotorua Hospital. From the other side of the hospital grounds, there were fab views across Lake Rotorua and with visibility at it best, we could see for miles and miles.
All in all, going to the thermal park was truly like stepping into another world. It was a little scary to think that new craters and vents appear all the time and one could well just fall open right beneath your feet as you're walking. Thankfully, nature was kind to us today and no new holes appeared along our route. The most surprising thing about the park for us was the lack of people there. We really couldn't believe that so many hoardes of tourists pay through the nose to go on tours of other geothermal areas and by-pass this natural wonderland that is completely free of charge. The only thing the paid-for parks seem to have in their favour are some geysers which we learned were mostly induced by the staff tipping water down the vents and maybe some slightly larger pools and craters. Personally, I think we got a pretty good deal :-)
On our return to the hostel, I attempted
What's That Smell?
Jude regrets making Glynn a bean curry last night!
to cook us a nice dinner of Thai curry and rice but it was pretty hectic in the communal kitchen. It seemed that the world and his wife had turned up to cook too and there just wasn't enough room for everyone to move around. People congregated around sinks and cookers with hot pans flying between the two - how no-one got injured is a mystery but I was relieved when the curry was cooked and I could escape to the dining room. When I delivered the food to Glynn, I found him deep in conversation with a couple of Japanese girls. They seemed really nice but conversation was difficult while we were trying to eat of course, so we agreed to chat more when we saw them again.
We spent a quiet night in after that and enjoyed the luxury of having a tv to watch for a change, even if it was just a case of watching crappy British soaps like Emmerdale. I can't say I miss that osrt of thing at all but it was that or crappy American sitcoms - it was hard to remember which country we were supposed to actually be in!
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