Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Mud, mud, glorious mud

It's been a funny old week and no mistake. I did manage to make a few new friends among the fresh Flying Kiwi-ers - I even hung out quite a lot with the 18-year-old Geordie lads, once they'd decided that my music was OK for an oldie, and I knew my rugby! (They played quite seriously for a local league.) But it wasn't quite the same, and there was another serious disappointment when the Tongariro Crossing was cancelled due to bad weather - an alpine walk and 70kph gale-force winds being uneasy bedfellows. However, there were a few high points to make up for it - and most of them included mud.

Yes, it was time to hit Rotorua, and it was awesome. The first day we had free time and I went alone to the Maori village and thermal pools while most others headed straight for the spa. It may have been touristy, but I think I got the better deal: Te Puia houses a replica village, carving and weaving schools, mud pools and hot springs, and the Pohutu geyser. The village was a little kitsch, but still interesting, particularly the replica whare [meeting house], one of the few that tourists are allowed to enter. Sadly I was there too late to see the carvers and weavers at work, but I saw their stuff on display (and sale - it was a miracle I didn't leave bankrupt!). And the mud pools and hot springs were fabulous - there was even a cooking spring, where Maori women would have boiled their food in woven flax bags; you could even cook at different temperatures depending on the pool. The geyser was great, too - the Prince of Wales geyser (so named because it looks like three feathers, his symbol) gushes continuously, and the Pohutu every 20 minutes or so, spraying viewers in sulphur-scented water and generally delighting all concerned.

The next day was Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which many consider to be superior. It was certainly spectacular, starting with the Lady Knox geyser, which is ignominiously induced to perform every morning at 10.15am by pouring soap into the opening (this breaks the tension between the layers of hot and cold water inside, and brings the hot water rushing to the surface). Three prisoners discovered this phenomenon while they were washing their clothes years ago, and it still has the power to send shivers up the spine - not so much because of the water rushing out, but because of the rumbles beneath your seat just before it comes. Quite unnerving.

Not so unnerving but really cool were the mud pools - from the brilliant lime green water of the Devil's Bath, to the sulphur yellow caves and the pink and orange of the Champagne Pools, this is the most extensive area of thermal activity in the world. The smell was indescribable - no matter what they say, you don't get used to it, at least not in a couple of hours - but the colours, and the plop-plop-plopping sound of the mud making a bid for freedom, were a delight. We spent a happy few hours there, basking near the warmth of the water, and because of its uniqueness it was another highlight for me.

And that was it, really - the next few days were mostly spent on the bus or sheltering from the rain, apart from a few hours in Taupo, looking at the lake in the afternoon sunshine, and spending a lovely few hours in the bonkers local museum, a riot of eccentricity (it included a replica Sixties caravan with original fixtures and fittings, to demonstrate the height of Taupo's tourist era, and a local man had willed it his collection of model aeroplanes!). And now I'm walking the Queen Charlotte track, of which more when I get to the end - currently I'm resting my much abused knees (most of it seems to be uphill) and gearing up for the last push! So it's goodbye from me until then...

1 comment:

  1. Bummer re Tongariro - seriously cool. Try and get back man - or if your truckin further South - get on Kepler if your up for a big one. Give me some pics - facebook.com/walknz- love to see them