Full Steam AheadA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 29: IN WHICH WE ENCOUNTER A REAL LIFE SOAP OPERA
Day 33: Rotorua, NZ. After yesterday's disappointing dry hole geothermal experience, we dived into some serious research on Trip Advisor last night. As the grandfather of New Zealand's tourist industry, Rotorua has no shortage of attractions eager to draw their share of area visitors' spending money. Based on our study of reviews, we winnowed the profusion of possible sites to two. Perusal of their web sites resulted in elimination of one attraction, leaving us with only the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.
In our research, we had learned that Wai-O-Tapu boasted the Lady Knox geyser, which erupted daily at 10:15 a.m. Since Daylight Saving Time started last week, we speculated that the eruption would probably occur around 11:15 today.
Arriving a little after 9 a.m., we forked over $65 for two tickets to wonderland. At the ticket counter, we asked if the eruption was predicted for 11:15 today. No, 10:15, like always, we were told, and that set us wondering. When we inquired whether the geyser had some mechanical assistance, the ticket agent informed us that chemical stimulation was used, rather than mechanical.
After perusing the Wai-O-Tapu map and brochure, we calculated that we had just enough time to explore the one-mile circuit of the "top features" and make it to the geyser eruption site by 10:15. Off we went on the paved trail, soon encountering the first of a number of craters—Devil's Home, a crater collapsed by acidic action underground.
|Not a place you'd want to stumble into, whether the devil was home or not|
|Ready for action|
|Look out, Mr. Ranger! It's 10:13!!|
Of course, this turned out to be a rare source of entertainment for the isolated prisoners, so they built up rocks around the opening of the spring to enhance the eruption. And then we realized why the ranger had a package in his hand—and why he was not concerned about stepping next to the geyser at its anticipated eruption time. Since 1931, a tourist attraction has operated here, with daily deposits of a substance which reacts with the spring the way the laundry soap did. Silica from those eruptions has built up on the rocks, creating a cone-shaped structure.
|Lady Knox erupts|
Later in the day, we walked a bit around Lake Rotorua, where the steaming hot springs were on view with no admission fee. With its iconic place on the New Zealand travel map, we chose not to skip Rotorua. But the duck rides, the innumerable souvenir shops, and the efforts to promote itself as "RotoVegas"—not to mention the ubiquitous sulphur odor—should have informed us that it might not be not our favorite kind of town.
Tomorrow we'll hit the road again, driving northwest to Auckland, New Zealand's largest city and our final stop in this beautiful country.
- Started in Rotorua, ended in puzzlement
- Mileage - 45 (Trip total: 15,554)
- Natural geyser eruptions - 0
- Artificially induced eruptions - 1
- Happy tourists - 12,839
SUNDAY, 5 OCTOBER, 2014
More Photos from Today
|Rotorua Museum of Art and History, located in the old bath house building|
|An amusing nickname that references the town's tourist-centric economy|
|A bit of yarn bombing on Rotorua bollards|