Ah Rotorua. You sure smell bad. At the start at least. But you have some damn fine geothermal activity.

We visited Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland today, and saw geothermal pools sculpted from thousands of years of volcanic activity, in dozens of bright colours from the many different mineral deposits. Wai-o-tapu has the largest terraces and is the most diverse volcanic area in the Taupo Volcanic Zone.



The surface features of the geothermal area are generated by groundwater that is superheated deep underground by old magma bodies which have not yet fully cooled. The superheated water dissolves minerals from rocks and deposits underground and deposits these in places where it reaches the surface and evaporates. The colours of the deposits indicates the minerals involved in the process and may vary even locally. For example, the following colours (minerals) are found: green (colloidal sulphur / ferrous salts), orange (antimony), purple (manganese oxide), white (solica), yellow (sulphur), red (iron oxides) and black (sulphur / carbon).Photovoltanica

The geothermal pools are consistently at temperatures up to 260ºC. So these ones aren’t for swimming. But they bubble and boil, and the landscape looks so alien with the steam venting throughout the trees. The landscape is sparse, dry, harsh – not much can survive the heat and acidity.

We saw the Lady Franklin Geyser erupt. We waited and waited with all of the other tourists – Namita was patient.



We walked around the track and saw a whole heap of other geothermal activity – from boiling mud pools to steam vents.








At the end of the track you walk out onto a platform above the brilliant blue Lake Ngakoro.


Afterwards we head up to Hell’s Gate to get some mud on. We were warned as we went in that we should buy some ammonia to get the sulphur smell out of our swimwear, but we thought we would buy some cheaper at a supermarket on the way home.


We splashed around in the mud for a while, and sat for too long in the sulphur pools.


We aren’t quite sure what it did, but it was meant to ‘enhance our general wellbeing’.


We eventually got out, got changed, and shoved all of our swimwear together in a bag. It was to remain in this bag, wet, for another week. We forgot to get ammonia on the way home, and then no-one was game enough to open the bag. It was a bad idea. Suffice to say we lost all of our swimwear.

As we got used to the sulphur smell, we hadn’t realised the smell was getting into our clothes – when we got home we had to throw away half our things. We soaked everything we had brought with us in the bath with ammonia for 24 hours, washed over and over, and the smell still wouldn’t go.

Sulphur was seeping from our pores for days – things we hadn’t even worn in Rotorua started to smell like sulphur. It was epidemic. We must have smelled really, really, bad for a few days. We feel terrible for all the people who stayed in our hostel/hotels after us.