from another time

The trip back from Whakatane to Rotorua had a distinctly Jurassic-Park-jungle-chase feel to it; pouring rain, whipping wind, mud slides across the roads and a mild feeling of impending doom.

Arriving in Rotorua where the weather wasn't as bad it was only a matter of following the steam to find interesting examples of just how active the planet really is. Anyone I've spoken to who has been to Rotorua has always reduced it to one thing: its smell. While it's true that the place has a strong and inescapable smell of sulphur it's a bit unfair to point to that as its defining characteristic because there are so many more memorable things if you're prepared to look around. Above is a good example - crystal sulphur terraces in a steaming river, the source of which is boiling water spewing right out of the ground. The experience of watching mud bubble and vent steam is another amazing sight...

people pay good money for this stuff, too

I got too close at one point and was treated to said mud being splattered over my hoodie. Never fear, it and I survived.

Best investment? AquaTech Sport Shield for my camera. It also received a serving of volcanic mud and got a good workout in the constant rain. Without it I wouldn't have been able to take 90% of the photos I took in Rotorua.

cute fumarole

This little fumarole, along with many others like it, was found in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Although there's an entry fee it's well worth the price to see things like the giant sink holes and brilliantly coloured chemical lakes. You can walk over the silica terraces and through the clouds of alkaline steam wafting from the Champagne Pool, the edges of which make it resemble a wound in the ground.

As can be seen below, part of the park was closed due to flooding from the night's rain (which in other parts of the country had fallen as massive amounts of snow that blanketed many areas down to sea level).

flooded mud pools

Not far away were the cleaner thermal springs which produce hundreds of litres per minute of clear boiling water. It's even possible to bathe in controlled areas fed from here, but I was content just to watch the water rising up from deep inside the earth.

hot and cold

Although I woke up the next morning to a brief "there's that smell again" moment, the sights of Rotorua are what really stick in my mind.