Rotorua is one place where the turbulent forces that formed New Zealand are most evident. This city, on the Volcanic Plateau, has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity and sits squarely on the Pacific Rim of Fire. It also smells strongly of sulphur.
We had visited Rotorua many times in the past so after a quick stop to photograph these boiling mud pools in a local park, the only ones that you can see for free, we carried on out-of-town to visit “Waimangu” the Volcanic Valley, a place we had never visited when we lived in New Zealand.
Mt Tarawera eruption
In 1886 Mt Tarawera erupted, devastating most of the surrounding landscape, and killing more than 150 people. It also covered and destroyed the world-famous “Pink and white terraces” New Zealand’s first tourist attraction
The Pink and White Terraces became New Zealand’s most famous tourist attraction. Visitors from England, Australia, Canada and Europe braved a ship passage of several months, followed by an overland trip of 150 kilometres to make the pilgrimage to Lake Rotomahana.
All this changed during the night of 10 June 1886. Already rumblings in the ground, earthquakes, creeks emptying and refilling, lake water levels rising and falling, were indications of strange happenings. Moreover, a few weeks earlier a group of Europeans and their Maori guides had seen a canoe appear in the distance on the lake. They watched the canoe approach until it suddenly vanished before their eyes. Everyone agreed on what they had seen, but to the Maori it was an apparition, an omen of danger and death. This night was to confirm their predictions of disaster.
The eruption opend up a line of craters from the northern end of the mountain. Seven small villages were destroyed. Many human lives were lost. All plant, animal and bird life was destroyed. Lake Rotomahana exploded to 20 times its size, with a new water level 40 metres higher than previously. Tragically the fabled Pink and White Terraces were gone, presumably destroyed.
This was how the Volcanic Valley was formed as the newest Geothermal area in the world.
Now we are going to explore it.
This lake looks so peaceful and tranquil from a distance but as we get closer we can see the steam rising and swirling across the surface.
The majestic Cathedral Rocks rise up from the opposite shore in a myriad of colours.
A side trip into a side valley takes us up to the Inferno Crater Lake. The water is highly acidic and gets to 80c. What an amazing colour it is.
As we head back to the main track along the valley we spot this sign…
We had been walking up and down along the valley for almost 4 hours so we were very pleased that the entrance fee of $34.50 (seniors price) included a bus ride back up to where we started from.