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Published: January 25th 2016
It sounds like a dream or some kind of psychosis... Fluorescent yellow ponds, giant soapy geysers, green water falls, bubbling pools of sulphur, the The Devil's Ink Pots and a steaming multicoloured lake. I wasn't asleep though and as far as I know I hadn't had a break with reality.
This was Wai-O-Tapu, the "Sacred Waters". In this Thermal Wonderland everything I thought I knew about the world seemed to be turned upside down.
We arrived on a dull and drizzly morning and were redirected from the visitor's centre to another site about a mile away. Here people were already gathering to watch the Lady Knox Geyser erupt. We had a brief explanation as to how the geyser was discovered... It turned out that some local prisoners tried to wash their clothes in the geyser's warm water and dropped some soap in. They were shocked when the soap broke the surface tension of a subterranean bubble of water which was keeping a larger much hotter bubble of water submerged. The geyser shot up and they scattered, terrified. We were told that, when triggered, the geyser may last for anything from one minute to an hour. We stayed to watch
for about twenty minutes, long after most people had already left.
When we had seen enough of spraying water we went back to the visitor's centre to start our tour. After visiting Rotarua, I thought that we had probably seen most of the weirdness that the world had to offer. After watching soap powder trigger a geyser I should have been less skeptical but I could not imagine what else there could be.
I'm not going to describe all we saw, to do so would tax your patience and my descriptive abilities. Instead I'll just go through some of the highlights. I should warn you not to adjust your monitor - all of the colours shown in these pictures are a close approximation of what we really saw. The Devil's Ink Pots
These are a series of bubbling mud pools which occupy craters where the ground has collapsed due to acidic steam dissolving the ground. The Opal Pool
This is a bubbling pool of sulphurous water which is a greeny-yellow shade. The Bridal Veil Falls
This green waterfall cascades down the edge of a great sinter terrace (a fragile structure
of layer upon thin layer of deposited silica crystals which form immense sheets. The effect of the green water on the white terraces is quite weird! The Devil's Bath
This is a large crater which contains a large volume of water with many different elements in it. The pool looks different colours depending on the light and cloud conditions. When we were there it was a fluorescent lime green but sometimes can be yellow. The Champagne Pool
This is a giant spring which forms a steaming lake 65m in diameter. The circumference of the pool is rimmed with orange deposits of Antimony. The water itself is a shade of green rather reminiscent of the green-stone mined on the South Island. The pool provides a stunning scene, though the large amount of hydrogen sulphide and high temperatures caused by a large volume of steam made me feel uncomfortable. The Artist's Palette
To me this was the absolute crowning glory of the park and I don't want to say so much that I spoil it for other visitors. It was a grand vista that included the Champagne Pool and showed a lake with many different colours
reminiscent of an artist's palette. These colours change with water level, mineral concentration and wind level. We could have spent all day looking at these but were so hungry after spending several hours wandering around the park's wonders that we had to move on.
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