Friday, 30 March 2012

Wai O Tapu, Waikite Valley & Waitomo

Wai O Tapu, or Sacred Waters, is about 40 minutes from Rotorua. It was pouring with rain as we left town, and was falling harder when we arrived, but we only had the one day to see it so we put our hoods up and braved it.

First stop was Lady Knox Geyser. What a joke - a ranger pours soap powder into a small cone and 2 minutes later it 'erupts'! Iceland - your town of Geysir is safe as Geyser capital of the world.

The Lady Knox Fountain

Two minutes later we left as hoardes of Americans ooooh'd and ahhhhh'd at the 'natural wonder' and we headed to the mud pools.  Now these were real. And smelt of rotten eggs.
Looks like mud. Smells like eggs

Sounds great. Smells bad.


Back in the main thermal area the first attraction is the Devils Home.
Needs an air freshener
 The heavy rain landing on the hot ground did give the area a rather mysterious feel

The rain eased and just in time for us to view the artists palette. Nice colours, bad smells.

The Devils Ink Pots are boiling pools of oil and graphite. Nice.

The Opal pool was a little less threatening - but still boiling hot.

The silica terraces here are not as colourful as Orakei Korako, but are still very impressive

The highlight of Wai O Tapu is without doubt the Champagne Pool. We know this as we saw photos from when it was not raining and wasn't almost completed shrouded in a continuous cloud of steam!  We did get a couple of shots of the edges though.

Finally, the Devils Cave, a bright green lake smelt so bad we headed back to the van, even though the rain stopped for 5 minutes!

We were excited before arriving in Rotorua about visiting the Polynesian Springs Spa - voted one of the top 10 in the world.  We had a look around the previous day and soon realised that we couldn't visit. The water may have been the most miraculous waters in the world but relaxing in a sulpherous haze didn't float our boats.

By chance, we came across a small locally run spa, Waikite Valley Thermal Hot Pools, but had no sulphur smell at all, fed by the Te Manaroa Spring - the largest single source of 100% pure boiling water in New Zealand. We would like to show you photos as it was an amazing place, but we had a private spa and no photos were taken (you'll be pleased to hear!) but here's a couple of the boiling stream instead!

The next day we left Rotorua and its smell behind, and travelled a couple of hours to Waitomo Caves. We booked ourselves onto a black water rafting trip in the afternoon and headed off for a bite to eat and a walk to stretch our legs.

At Arunaki Cave, we walked 'the best short walk in New Zealand', an hour's amble in and out of caves.

At 3pm, we headed off to The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company and joined up with a load of crazy Dutch, American and English people on a coach tour and eventually got into the thickest wetsuits and jackets you have ever seen!

Our training involved us getting a rubber ring and launching ourselves 12ft backwards into a freezing cold river. Then it was time to descend into the caves. It was dark and walking through a fairly fast flowing river at least waist deep with an uneven, rocky bed and very limited headroom whilst carrying a rubber ring was tricky!

It was time to put the training to good use. Standing at the top of a waterfall we launched ourselves backwards landing ass-first on the rubber ring. Shame we weren't able to capture this on film - it was so funny!

We then floated along the river, deeper into the cave.  Our guides then linked us together and told us to turn our head torches off and look up. Above us were thousands of glow worms! Amazing.

Then we found out that in order to produce the glow they were infact defecating! Glow worms aren't actually worms, but larvae and from each of these you can see lots of silk like threads hanging down, which are made by the larvae to catch food attracted to the light. The larvae stays in this stage for 8-10 months, becomes a pupae and then turns into a fly.  The fly has no digestive system so doesn’t eat and only lives for 2 days. Their purpose is only to reproduce; the male dies after mating and once the female lays her eggs she dies too! What a life!

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