This time we were off to visit another Geo Thermal area, also near Rotorua (the area is full of them), this time it was Wai Mangu, it is more expensive and not quite the drawcard tourist wise as Wai-O-Tapu for a few very obvious reasons; the cost (triple the price, plus the optional boat cruise), it does not have quite as many attractions, there is really only a few key spots, the rest is pretty much a pretty hiking track. There is also more history here. You have to either walk a fair distance to see any activity (at least 1km) or catch the shuttle bus between bus stops, at Wai-O-Tapu, there are the artist’s pallet and champagne pools right near the entrance and it is all wheelchair accessible at the start.
We took the optional boat cruise around the large Lake Rotomahana, which used to be an active Volcano. It is one of the very first Tourism areas with people travelling to see the Pink and White Terraces and bath in the healing qualities in the minerals pools – all now many, many meters below water level. This area was one of the largest natural disasters in NZ history in June 1886, when Mount Tarawera erupted and actually created most of this geothermal valley we now know today. So we caught the bus down to the lake and then boarded the boat for our 45-minute cruise. It was not overly exciting for the first half as we leisurely made our way across the lake, all very pretty, but slow and not too much to see. The second half was much more exciting as the Skipper brought us is closer to land and the terraces and small geysers and such, great fun watching the geyser go off, which was happening about every 15 minutes or so (If I remember correctly). This is a not naturally formed lake and is completely landlocked, it’s the only source of water is rain, it is slowly gaining levels unseen ever before and they have lost some of their lower walking tracks and have now dug a trench to let some of the water runoff to a nearby lake system, before the valley is completely flooded and lost. We then took the shuttle back to the base camp and started our overland trek.
This is more of a nature walk than anything and we walked the first leg (1.5km) and then bussed the 2nd leg (1.5km). Sure it was all downhill, but quite steep in spots, very steep. To be honest I think we should have caught the shuttle bus to the 1st bus stop, looked around and explored the Inferno Crater (intense bright blue lake), then caught it to the 2nd bus stop and looked around at the Warbrick Terraces and so on, in most cases there really is not a huge amount to be seen between stops and you can always backtrack from one stop to another. The last leg was supposedly only 800m but was now mostly underwater and unusable, they have a new higher track which I think has to be at least another 1.5km if not more – THAT nearly killed me! You cannot see the walking tracks while on the bus, so I had no idea.
Frying Pan Lake
Birds Nest Terrace
All up we took 4 hours to explore this area and they tell you back at base you only need about 1.5 hours – WRONG! The boat itself takes at least 45 minutes, we made it back to the room for a quick shower and change and then back to Tamaki Village for a Cultural Experience and a Hangi dinner. It was still a lot of fun (we did this last time), but a lot more commercial. I do believe half the fun last time was the bus ride over there and back, as we had our car, we missed that part this time.
Eventually, we fell into bed for an early night – I think I fell asleep on the bed!
Have a look at the images I took last time we were at Tamaki Hangi