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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Travel: Getting to know Rotorua's History

Getting to Know Rotorua's History - Southern In Law in New Zealand
See more of our New Zealand Adventures & other travels here!

Well hey! To break things up, I thought I'd share a little bit more of our New Zealand Adventures with you (as we still have so much to share!). Just like in our last post, this one has BLUEEEE SKIES... but even better than that? 

This post has Jesse dancing. Yep. My "shy" husband doing the haka - but you'll have to read on a little bit for that video. As well as that there's bubbling brooks, boat trips, exploding geysers and plenty more to see!

But enough yapping, let's jump right into it! 
Join us as we explore more of New Zealand! >> 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

Our morning started off at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. We'd arrived bright and early ready to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10:15am- but in true Kristy and Jesse style, we arrived a little too early, so we headed into the park to explore the different walking tracks before driving up to the geyser. 

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

The park is made up of three separate walking tracks and you can choose to do one, two or all three, depending on how much time you have and what your fitness level is. All of the walks are relatively easy with plenty of rest stops and minimal stairs. 

Wai-O-Tapu means sacred waters in the Maori language and the park covers a huge 18 square kilometres with plenty to see. It's covered in collapsed craters, cold and boiling mud and water pools, steaming fumaroles and sulphur lakes. It's said to date back around 160,000 years and whilst it's a little bit smelly (from the sulphur!), it's definitely somewhere to add to your must see list!

The Champagne Pool at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

The Champagne Pool definitely isn't something you'd want to drink, but it is incredible to look at. Unfortunately, we arrived when it was covered in a thick layer of fog/smoke (as it was cold and the pool is hot) but it was still incredible to see.  

The spring is the largest in the area at 65 metres wide and 62 metres deep (that's around 213 feet by 203 feet deep) and it sits at a surface temperature of around 74C/165F. It was formed around 700 years ago by a hydrothermal eruption and has been bubbling away ever since! 

The water contains a variety of different minerals including gold, silver, mercury, sulphur, arsenic, thallium, and antimony and that's why the pool has such an incredible range of colours. 

The Artist's Palette at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

The Artist's Palette was another highlight for us. This pool is actually filled with water that overflows from the Champagne Pool, however, as the water cools and the minerals are exposed to the atmosphere, they begin to change colour - giving this pool an entirely different look! At one edge of the pool is a geyser which erupts every now and again, shooting water up to one metre in the air as the steam rises and forces the water below to the surface.

The Primrose Terraces at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

The Primrose Terrace was almost like we imagine the surface of the moon to look like. Made up of three sinter terraces, it's actually the largest of its kind in New Zealand since the partial destruction of the Pink and White Terraces in the eruption of Mt Tarawera. 

This area is incredibly fragile and has been created by water from the Champagne Pools which dissolves the silica and forms siliceous sinter. It has been progressively forming over the last 700 years and they currently cover an area of around 1.5 hectares (3 acres). 

The Devil's Bath at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

But there's no denying that Wai-O-Tapu is a bit stinky - and that's all to do with the sulphur. I asked Jesse how I should describe the smell to you and he gave me the typical boy answers; 
  1. farts 
  2. rotten eggs 
  3. poop
I promise you, though, it's not unbearable and you actually kind of get used to it after a while. Depending on which way the wind blows, the smell will change in its intensity but the Devil's Bath was definitely one of the stinkiest places in the park. 

This large crater is filled with sulphur rich water, giving it an impressive slime green colour. The colour changes depending on the amount of light/cloud cover, however, it's definitely unique! I don't know how much I'd like to swim in it but we made ourselves laugh by imagining Crowley and his demon friends relaxing and bathing the day away :P (#supernaturalnerds)

The Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

After checking out the park, it was time to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt! 

The Geyser is presented just once per day and entry is included in your ticket, however, you need to make sure you're there before 10am to get to see it (we'd suggest getting there around 9:30am as you may have to line up for a little while!).

It's not in the park itself, however, a short three minute drive (or a short walk) will have you at the amphitheatre ready to watch!

Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

Here's a quick little look at the geyser erupting (as well as some of the commentary - if you want to hear a thick kiwi accent definitely press play!) but you'll have to ignore the wonky shooting at the end as whichever one of us were filming apparently forgot to hold the Bandit straight :P 

The Lady Knox Geyser Erupting at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

The geyser is definitely a crowd attraction, however, there were plenty of seats. We got there around 10am and got a spot, however, some people who got there right on 10:15 or after has to stand at the sides. 

The Lady Knox Geyser Erupting at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand

As you would have heard in the video, the geyser erupts at the same time each day only because it's made to erupt - it doesn't actually run to a schedule!

So that tourists can see what the geyser looks like when it erupts, each morning they add a specially created surfactant to the water which reduces the surface tension and allows it to erupt. 

Waimangu Volcanic Valley New Zealand

After checking out the geyser, we were off on our next geothermal adventure! This time to Waimangu Volcanic Valley - just a short 10 minute drive north. 

Waimangu is a self guided walk/tramp (what they call hiking in New Zealand) with an optional boat ride at the end of the walk. 

Frying Pan Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley New Zealand

They call Waimangu Volcanic Valley the world's newest geothermal valley - and that's because the land was formed by a violent eruption on the 10th of June 1886. Before that time the land was made up of rolling scrub-covered hills with absolutely no geothermal activity. 

During that night, the eruption completely destroyed all plant, animal and bird life in the area and the vegetation you can see in our photos (or see if you visit yourself!) is a result of plant re-colonisation from that day onwards.

Frying Pan Lake at Waimangu Volcanic Valley New Zealand

The lake you see in the two photos above are of Frying Pan Lake, which was actually created in April 1917. The western basin of the echo crater violently erupted, completely destroying an accommodation house on the land (Waimangu House) and killing two people. The newly created crater was dramatically larger and deeper and quickly accumulated water, forming what is now frying pan lake. 

The lake bubbles away making it seem as if it's boiling hot, however, it's actually due to the carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide gas bubbling up. The water is acidic and actually sits at around 55C/131F. 

Birds Nest Terrace Waimangu Volcanic Valley New Zealand

There is so much to see throughout the walk. They estimate it takes around 2 and a half hours, however, it only took Jesse and I 45 minutes because we're speedy little things! :P

Boat Tour at Waimangu Volcanic Valley New Zealand

We highly recommend adding the boat trip to the end of your self guided tour of Waimangu Volcanic Valley at it is so worth it. Ticket prices xoare $37 per adult without the boat tour or $79.50 with the boat tour which takes around an hour, complete with full commentary. 

Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

The video above shows just how incredible the view from the water is. The water is crystal clean and there is so much to see - from craters and terraces to steam vents and fractures. 

Tauranga Accommodation Review New Zealand Airbnb

But after all that walking (we'd clocked up 27,000 steps at that point!), we were in need of a rest so we headed back to our accommodation to relax for a little while before heading out for the evening. 

We were staying out of Rotorua in Tauranga; a harbourside city around 55 minutes out of the heart of Rotorua. We'd discovered this little gem on Airbnb and knew it would be the perfect place to call home for the next couple of days as it was away from the hustle and bustle of Rotorua (known as Rotovegas to some!) but close enough to still drive into Rotorua for the day to do all the things we wanted to do!

Tauranga Accommodation Review New Zealand Airbnb

The design of our little one bedroom apartment was incredible - especially the bathroom. The owner, Lynne, is an artist and you could tell by all of the perfectly placed artworks and unique features. 

Since we had some time to kill we enjoyed an afternoon relaxing in the spa that was just outside our front door and then headed back inside to get changed and ready for the evening's activities!

Tamaki Maori Village Experience Rotorua New Zealand

That evening we were headed to Tamaki Maori Village. After being taken from Tamaki's Head Office to the Village in our "Waka" (the Maori word for canoe - though it was actually a bus!) called Huia (the Maori word for gather), driven by our hilarious bus driver Wallace, we arrived at the village with our chief ready to convince the Tamaki tribe to let us in. 

On the bus ride over, Wallace had chosen our chief for the night, a German man (whose name escapes me!) who would face the chief of the village and his men as they tried to intimidate him. 

Tamaki Maori Village Experience Rotorua New Zealand

The Chief and his warriors arrived on their very impressive waka, ready to scare off the chiefs of the tribes.... but it's easier for me to show you rather than tell you!

Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

After unsuccessfully scaring off the chiefs, the chief of the village welcomed the various chiefs and their tribes into the village for a night of adventure and discovery.

Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

Part of that discovery, as promised, was Jesse learning the Haka! 

Tamaki Maori Village Experience Rotorua New Zealand

But whilst the video will do most of the talking I just wanted to leave this still here too (Hi husband, don't kill me!). If you click on the photo you should be able to see Jesse's intimidating facials up close :P 

Warning! Turn your speakers down a little for this one!
Click to watch | Taken on our TomTom Bandit

As well as learning the haka we were taught a bunch of different traditional games and learnt about Maori culture, customs and traditions before heading in to enjoy our Hangi feast! 

Hangi is the traditional way of cooking for the Maori people where they dig a huge pit in the ground, start a fire to heat up the hot coals and then place their food on top once the fire is out and the coals are hot. They then cover the food up and fill in the pit with soil to allow it to cook before digging it up once again once it's ready to eat. 

Whilst Tamaki Maori Village do have gluten free options, it's a buffet style and all cooked together so it wasn't exactly coeliac safe - and that's why this coeliac ate before we left! Jesse enjoyed a feast of lamb, chicken, vegetables and stuffing all cooked in the hangi and there was plenty of dessert options for those with room left in their tummies!

After all of that, we headed back to the Tamaki Head Office on our waka once again with Wallace leading us in songs from around the world (asking each different group to sing a song from their hometown - we had people from Germany, India, America, Canada, Australia and France on our bus!) as well as singing "She'll be coming round the mountain" whilst taking us around and around and around the roundabout in the bus :P 

Once we got back to our accommodation we crashed as we'd had such a full on day - but we had another crazy busy day ahead of us which I'll have to share with you soon! 

The Details;
Tauranga Accomodation - Escape to the Lakes, through Airbnb
Wai-O-Tapu - $32.50 NZD Adult $11 NZD Child (includes admission to the Lady Knox Geyser at 10:15am) 
Waimangu Volcanic Valley - Self Guided Walk - $37 NZD Adult/$12 NZD Child or Walk + Boat Ride - $79.50 NZD Adult/$24 NZD Child 
Tamaki Maori Village Experience -$115 NZD Adult/$25-65 NZD Children, dependent on age (includes 3.5 hour experience, free transport to/from Rotorua Accommodation or Tamaki HQ and full hangi meal)  
Car RentalGo Rentals Compact Auto Toyota Corolla 
Kristy and Jesse explored NZ as guests of Tourism New Zealand.

But tell me, when you travel what are your favourite kinds of activities?
Do you prefer action and adventure, would you rather relax and veg out or do you like to get to know more about the area you're in and it's history?
We like ALLLL of the above - and as you'll see in our next post, we went from history and discovery to FULL ON adrenaline!

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