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Published: August 8th 2007
Today we visited the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Springs. Our first stop were some very impressive mud pools, this was the first time I'd ever seen anything like it. The mud was bubbling and popping, making the most incredible noise and there was an eerie steam that hovered over the mud-scape that made for some unreal and stunning photographs
One thing I have neglected to mention so far since coming to Rotorua is the smell that is every where and impossible to ignore. It is the smell of sulphur which as you will know is not so easy on the nose. After being in Rotorua a couple of days I was kind of getting used to it but at Wai-O-Tapu the smell went up several notches on the smell-O-metre!!
Next the shuttle dropped us off at famous exploding geyser. As we approached the area I was stunned by the crowd that surrounded it, there must have been well over 100 people there. The geyser is meant to erupt daily at 10.15am every day, to a height of over 21ft. I couldn't help thinking that it was a bit unusual for a natural occurrence to be so punctual, that
was until a bearded man rocked up at 10.10am along with a bag of soap suds that he proceeded to pour into the geyser's mouth, inducing an eruption!!
The eruption however was not a let down it was actually pretty darn cool and gave every one a great picture opportunity (see slideshow). After the money shots we got back into the shuttle and were dropped off at the scenic park that is central to Wai-O-Tapu. This is an 18sq.km scenic reserve, associated with volcanic activity dating back over 150,000 years. My first glimpse of this thermal wonderland left me totally speechless. It was like some alien terrain, like being on another planet; the colours were certainly not of this world. The eerie steam that lay over parts of landscape like a table cloth would shift in the blink of an eye and I would find myself emersed in hot fog without a cue which way was forward.
We did nearly the longest route around the park but time permitting we had to hurry back. Some of the most amazing sights included the champagne pool that is what a crater on Jupiter must look like and the
Artist's pallet which surprisingly looked like an artist's pallet! The photos where just amazing (see slide show).
After getting back to our hostel we all went our separate ways and I headed to the Polynesian baths. This was certainly an experience I won't forget. Before any treatments like massage they recommend you soak in the hot pools outside for one hour so the minerals can be absorbed into your skin. The four hot pools are beautifully done, set against a stunning backdrop and surrounded by plants and flowers. They go up in temperature the coolest which i think was 37/8 C when I was there to the hottest, 42 C. I started in the cooler one and after 15 minutes I was sure I could go hotter. I then got into the second one that was around 39 C it was certainly hotter and I felt my face flushing but I with two hotter hot pools ahead of me I was not giving up. I then got into the second hottest pool, 40/41 C. Here I sat for a bit, now feeling a little bit weird with my face now like a beetroot and suddenly got a bit
worried that I couldn't see any one and if I fainted I may drown. This is where I thought is sensible to get up and get out and as I did stand up I felt worryingly light headed. For any one who can suffer the 42/43 C pool, you have my complete respect.
After the massage, which weirdly involved being showered by four shower heads at the same time as the massage, I felt very clean and relaxed and headed back to hostel with my still beetroot red, shiny face.
In the evening we headed to a traditional Maori, Mai, Ora Evening. Although it was extremely touristy by nature it did show us what is was to be Maori. First on the agenda was picking a tribe leader from our coach. He had the job of reconstructing what it would have been like to meet a Maori tribe leader and the etiquette you had to observe. Next we were taken to a mock Maori settlement where they demonstrated the handicrafts, how they lived and the games they played for fun. Here we learned a bit about the importance of allegiance to your tribe and bloodline. Then
we attended the most yummy banquet, some of the food was traditional but it was the dancing, singing and eating together that demonstrated what the Maori tribes were about. The evening probably left me with more questions than I came with like; what is it to be Maori today? but I put them to one side and after we were dropped back we headed to the pub to discus intellectual stuff such who the hottest Maori was.
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