Thursday, December 31, 2009

NZ 2009 Day 14 - Rotorua

We decided to visit Wai-o-tapu instead of Agrodome (as per itinerary). We have already seen some sheep shearing and farm tour at Walter Peak and we assumed it was going to be almost the same show. Wai-o-tapu would be a better choice since Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activities.

Wai-o-tapu is a short drive (around 20minutes) from Rotorua town centre. We wanted to be there by 10am to see the Lady Knox Geyser (which erupts, artificially every 10:15am).

First, you have to go to the admissions area to buy the tickets, then backtrack to the geyser area. Take note, there are people checking for tickets upon entry to the geyser carpark.

we were there early to get the front row seats (which were considered splash zones). Foul smell coming from the geyser didn't deter us (although it caused a bit of discomfort for the kids at first)

finally, the guide arrived to talk about Lady Knox Geyser and also to "fuel up" the geyser, hence, the timed eruption every 10:15am.

most of the people have left their seats once the geyser was in full blast

After watching Lady Knox, we headed back to the main area for the other geothermal sights.

There were 3 walking tracks (Walk 1 ->1.5kms, Walk 2 -> 0.5kms, Walk 3 -> 1km) in the park which totals 3kms (around 75mins walk). There were signs to follow so it was easy to go around. And there's also a map to help out in the walks.

WALK 1 sights
a collapsed crater caused by underground acid action. First of the many craters to be seen in the park.

RAINBOW CRATER - named after the sulphur crystals and coloured mineral veins exposed in the kaolin clay walls of the crater.
DEVIL's INK SPOTS - a series of mud pools whose water levels fluctuate with the amount of rainfall. The colour is due to small amounts of graphite and crude oil brought to the surface by the water forcing its way up.

ARTIST's PALETTE - overflowing water from the Champagne Pool. The colours and locations depend on water levels and wind direction.

I took the first photo which had the mirror reflection of the mountain and blue skies. Nice!

OPAL POOL - sulphurous spring on the edge of the sinter terrace named after its greenish yellow colour.

CROSSING THE TERRACE ON THE BOARDWALK - an experience unique to Waiotapu (according to the brochure). The boardwalk crosses from the side of the Artist's Palette to the other side, which leads to Walk 2 and 3.

THE PRIMROSE TERRACE - largest sinter terraces in New Zealand since the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces (eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886). Currently covers an area of about 1.5hectares.


THE SACRED TRACK - picture shows my boys entering the Sacred Track. It passes through a place believed to be an early settlement.

We have taken picture of this nest-like object on top of the trees.

PANORAMIC VIEW - there are viewing decks along the Sacred Track where you could see the Primerose Terraces and the Kaingaroa Forest (largest man-made forest in the southern hemisphere), the green waters of Lake Ngakoro and the cooling tower of the Ohaaki geothermal power station (very distant).


(1) BRIDAL VEIL FALLS - the falls mark the end of the sinter terraces. Have been partially coloured by the overflow from the Opal Pool while the green colour is attributable to microbial mats.
(2) WAI-O-TAPU GEYSER - erupts to heights of up to 3 meters on a cycle from 2 to 36hrs when the water table is low. During our visit, it was quite "tame".
(3) / (4) FRYING PAN FLAT - an eruption crater. Littered with bubbling hot springs and fumaroles.
OYSTER POOL - natural sulphorous water located in unstable ground
SULPHUR CAVE - undisturbed crystallized sulphur formed as hot sulphur gases have cooled in the sheltered atmosphere of the overhanging cliff.

Back to WALK 1

THE CHAMPAGNE POOL - the largest spring in the district. 65m in diameter and 62m deep. Surface temperature is 74 degrees C. The bubbles (middle picture) are due to carbon dioxide. Formed 700 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption. Minerals contained in the water are gold, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic, thallium, antimony etc.

you can really feel the heat from the spring

(1) INFERNO CRATER - has a bottom of violently boiling mud
(2) BIRD's NEST CRATER - starlings, swallows and mynahs nest in the holes of this crater (adventorous birds they are). The heat from below rises up the crater walls to incubate their eggs.
(3) / (4) SULPHUR CAVE - chlorine pools on the right side of the cave. Sulphur crystals have formed beautiful formations on the cave wall above the vents.

 DEVIL's BATH - a large ruggedly-edged crater adjoining the bushline with an amazing natural water colour at its base (the result of excess water from the Champagne Pool mixing with sulphur and ferrous salts).

The visit to this thermal wonderland was interesting, exhausting but worth it. Not everyday in our lives can we see such natural geothermal sights and play with colors. The kids didn't enjoy it that much though. They were complaining from too much heat!

After geothermal wonderland, we headed to adventureland Agroventures. It provides different activities like schweeb, agrojet, freefall extreme. Agrojet seems a little bit dangerous so we ended up with freefall extreme.

The kids were either too short or too light so only hubby and I went on to try it ($46 each).

Preparing for our "flight"

Mark's turn first. Start low... then slowly taking altitude...A few seconds on the air.... and it's done!

my turn! I was a bit scared. But once I was in "flight mode" it was fun! Arms up... arms down... bend your legs... and I'm flying! Good thing there was a net or else I'd really be flying out.

we've done it!

We also visited the Zorbing site (short drive from agroventures). I planned to have the zorbing experience but when I saw the others trembling in cold water after the ride, I decided not to put myself into such torture.

there are 2 ways you could go down - strapped and dry (zorbit) or lose and wet (zydro). In zorbit you would go on a straight track. In zydro, it's a bit of zigzag track. A car would bring you up to the launch area.
Last stop for the day, the most awaited activity by the kids, Gondola and luge. They were soooo excited to go on the luge AGAIN and requested for us to ride more times than we did in Queenstown. We took the family package gondola + 8 luge rides ($95).

The luge track in Rotorua is better and longer than that in Queenstown. It has a scenic, intermediate and advance track. We only tried the scenic and intermediate track as we knew the advance track would be more dangerous.

on our way up

first try... scenic track...

on our second and third ride on the advance track

the kids filled up feedback forms for the luge. Of course, all happy faces and very much satisfied

final photo taking before heading down to town

Back at the hotel, after eating dinner, we geared up for a night swim and spa (again). This was our last night in Rotorua, last time to use the heated pool and spa so we made the most of it. The kids will surely miss it.

DAY 15

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