This morning we spent at Wai-o-tapu, a “Thermal Wonderland.” We spent almost 3 hours walking along 3 km of paths around fumaroles, collapse craters, geysers, mud pools, bubbling ponds in all sorts of colors. Sometimes the water was colored, and sometimes the colors came from mineral deposits, and sometimes it was just sort of a gray or gray-green. In some places the ground steamed from hundreds of small vents, in others, a great crater spewed steam, which sometimes hid the mud bubbling at the bottom. Most of it was hot, but not necessarily boiling. The Champagne Pool was 74 degrees C; it bubbled due to CO2. The water was a beautiful green when you could see it through the clouds of steam, with a red deposit a couple of feet wide around the edge, under the water. It is a fifth of a hectare (not sure what that is in acres, but it was pretty big).
The Artist’s Palette was yellow in spot, red in others, green elsewhere, all due to different mineral deposits in the same pool.
The Devil’s Bath contained vivid lime/chartreuse green water.
All of this was surrounded by native vegetation.
After getting a couple of pies at the café there, we headed for the i-Site. We had planned to go to the Rotorua Museum, but ran out of time. At the i-Site we got not only free internet, but FAST internet. In less than an hour, I was able to update and add photos to 5 days worth of journal. We even tried to add some video, but we need to work on that a bit first. We also checked email, but didn’t have time to respond—our parking meter was running out. Maybe we will get another chance today.
We came back to camp and got ready for our evening activity—a Maori cultural experience. We were picked up about 6 pm and taken to their “village.” No one actually lives there, but it was to show their traditions.
In groups, we walked through the bush on a trail, and saw the cold spring belonging to their tribe. It produces 110 million liters of fresh water a day. It is cold, and you can see the water bubbling up through the sand and pebble bottom.
We continued walking, to a stream (coming from the spring). Several traditionally dressed Maori men arrived in a waka (canoe), then we went an outdoor theater to see a performance of traditional songs, dances, musical instruments (including a non-traditional guitar!), and weapons by a group of Maori men and women wearing feather robes and other traditional garb with (mostly painted) tattoos on their faces and bodies. Most were young people who seemed to relish learning their heritage and sharing it with us. (Maori make up 50% of the local population, and about 17% nationally. Which explains a lot about the way Maori are treated these days. L)
The performance was followed by a hangi, a feast prepared the traditional way, baked in a pit for 4 hours. The food was mostly not native—chicken and lamb, white and sweet potatoes (kumara), stuffing, and several salads. The desserts were western, too—trifle, pavlova (mostly egg white and sugar), chocolate roll, and mixed fruit. The food was good, even if (or maybe because) it was not traditional. (As the Master of Ceremonies commented: Can’t have traditional Maori food because the Maori ate all the moa. And can’t have seafood because Asian countries are buying it all at top dollar. L)
Dinner was followed by another short walk along the trail back to the spring, where we shut off our lights and saw the banks around the spring were covered with glowworms! When our guide turned a spotlight on the pool, you could see a couple good-sized trout swimming around in the pool. It was so clear it looked only a foot deep or so, but he told us it was 2 meters or more deep in the center. Of course, with the light on, you can’t see the glowworms.
We were brought back to our camp about 9:30 pm, and were in bed not too long after.