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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, Rotorua

Wai-O-Tapu means “sacred waters” in Maori. For many tourists, the colours of the pools and lakes in Wai-O-Tapu are simply amazing!

My New Zealand Vacation, Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu, Photo10600
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Amazing colour of a pool
Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua, May 2006

Covering 18 square km, Wai-O-Tapu is covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumeroles. Beneath the ground, streams are constantly heated by magma and water has been recorded at up to temperatures of 300 degrees Celsius! The water is so hot that it absorbs minerals out of the rocks and passes out as steam at the surface which is ultimately re-absorbed into the ground. The wide range of colours of the pools and lakes in Wai-O-Tapu are due to the rich mineral content in the waters.

My New Zealand Vacation, Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu, Photo10547
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Collapsed crater
Wai-O-Tapu, Rotorua, May 2006

Rotorua – Geothermal Hotspot

In terms of geothermal activity, Rotorua ranks as one of the most active hotspots in the world. At one of the thinnest sections, the Earth’s crust is only about 17km thick and beneath it, molten magma!

The two main attractions that people come to Rotorua to experience are its geothermal activity and Maori culture. Rotorua is a city of about 53,000 people and of which a third is Maori. The city is located on the southern shore of Lake Rotorua. In fact, Lake Rotorua with a diameter of 16 km is the circular depression of a massive volcano! If you get your hands on a topographic map, you would recognize this feature of the land. Being at Rotorua, I would not have realized this at all. So while at this city, I was actually walking and sleeping on the rim of a massive volcano! This Rotorua “volcano” is one of several large volcanoes in the Taupo region. It is estimated to have last erupted about 140,000 years ago and the magma chamber had collapsed to result in the Lake Rotorua we see today.

My New Zealand Vacation, Rotorua, Photo10521
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Hot, bubbling mud pool
Rotorua, May 2006

The attractions of Rotorua mainly revolve around hot thermal springs, geysers, bubbling mud pools and other geothermal features. You will know you will soon arrive at Rotorua when you smell a rotten-egg odour in the air! This pervasive smell is due to the sulphur fumes which arise from all these geothermal activity. You may find this smell overpowering initially and it kind of makes your head woozy. Not to worry, you will soon get used to it and perhaps you will even crack some jokes about the smell too. My coach driver was joking about passengers boarding the coach and giving him funny looks because they must be thinking that he has been farting on the trip! Kiwi humuor. :-)

My New Zealand Vacation, Rotorua, Photo10523
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Bubbling mud, contributing its share of “fart” smell in Rotorua
Rotorua, May 2006
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