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Friday 7 Feb 2014
Taupo, New Zealand

Geysers and glassworks

I left Rotorua after breakfast and headed south to Wai-O-Tapu.  There are geothermal parks around Rotorua with various geysers, volcanic lakes and bubbling mud pools.  There wasn’t time to visit all of them, so I chose to see the geyser at Wai-O-Tapu, followed by the colourful thermal park.  It is a natural geyser, but it is given a helping hand at 10am each day.  The geyser was discovered by chance when settlers were washing their clothes in the nearby lake.  The soap they were using reacted with the minerals in the water and caused the geyser to go off.  Nowadays, there’s a 300-seater amphitheater built around it and a short presentation to go with it.  The ranger told us the history of the site and added a bag of soap powder to the top of the geyser cone.  It took another 10 minutes or so for the reaction to kick in, then bubbles and froth began to spill over the edge, before the jet shot up into the air.  It was not as tall as the one in Calistoga, California, but it was still quite impressive.  Unfortunately, it only lasted a couple of minutes, then 300 people tried to race each other out of the arena and back to their cars to drive down to the rest of Wai-O-Tapu, a few km back down the road. 

The ‘Thermal Wonderland’ is divided up into three routes, depending how far visitors want to walk.  I followed the paths for nearly two hours, just taking in the scenery.  The Artist’s Palette was a stunning shallow lake ablaze with colours - amazing shades of deep orange, cherry red and emerald green.  The Champagne pools bubbled gently with clouds of steam rising off the water.  There were deep chasms with bright turquoise water in the bottom; yellow sulphurous caves; steaming fumaroles and an amazing pink shallow terrace, formed by the mineral deposits from the water running off the pools and down towards the lake.

One of the most amazing colours was in the Devil’s Pool, a deep crater filled with such surreal lime green water, it was so bright it looked like neon or some weird mad-scientist acid.

On the way out, I followed another signpost to the mud pools and found another boardwalk, which lead up to – surprise, surprise – a bubbling mud pool.  This was the best one I’ve seen so far.  At least the size of my old garden, the surface was covered in patterns of circles spreading out from the many spurts and gurgles bubbling away.  The mud was jumping nearly two feet high in some places, so I amused myself for a while trying to capture the mud spurts on camera.

I’d planned to go for a swim in Kerosene Creek afterwards, a thermal stream just outside Rotorua, but I spent so long in Wai-O-Tapu that I decided to just carry on down to Taupo.  A free swim was still tempting, but I didn’t fancy stinking of sulphur for the rest of the day, or having to throw away a bikini afterwards.

On the way to Taupo, I came across a brightly coloured showroom and a sign for glass-making demonstrations.  Lava Glass is the studio of local artist Lyndon Over.  I was just in time for one of his demonstrations, so I went through to his workshop and watched as he put together a fun glass robot.  He used clear glass but added black buttons, facial features and a red glass heart.  It was fascinating to watch him build up the segments, adding arms and legs, and then gently shaping the glass to balance the robot while ‘walking’.  It was a relatively straightforward piece, but there was still more to it than I expected.  I’d love to watch him do one of his complex pieces.

There was a small café and a sculpture garden out the back, which I explored happily.  The garden was full of brightly coloured glass in all shapes and sizes: swirled glass balls; bright dappled flowers on metal stalks; blue and white speckled mushrooms; tall glass spirals; and an enormous rainbow made out of individual rods of coloured glass wired onto a frame.  I loved it all!  My favourite display was the giant forest paperweights.  These were about the size of a rugby ball, made of clear glass, but each contained three or four intricate trees, small individual flowers and grass.  Each one took over six months to put together as each component had to be made and cooled separately, before being pieced together, then coated in clear glass – the final piece then took another two months to cool down in the kiln.

I found the YHA in Taupo and got talking to a German lad called Jan.  We headed down to the lake in search of fish and chips.  I topped off the evening by booking tickets to see Grease in Melbourne with my cousin Jill in a few weeks.  So exciting!


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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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