David lifts his eyes from the newspaper and peers at me across the breakfast table.
"Mud," I am trying to sound convincing here.
"Mud," he repeats.
"Yes, boiling mud," I can see I have a long way to go. We seem to be in different universes at the moment.
"You know - geysers, boiling mud, steam vents, hot springs," An active volcano or two might be fun but I don't want to press my luck. He gives me his best 'why on earth would you want to do that' look and returns to his paper.
New Zealand sits at the junction of two great tectonic plates: the Australian and the Pacific. These plates are constantly pushing up against each other and in the process have created some spectacular geo-thermal areas. One of the best is Wai-O-Tapu, mid-way between Taupo and Rotorua. We are staying at Taupo and it is only 40 minutes drive.
It is raining softly on our way there. One of the best things about geo-thermal areas are their magnificent colours. Wai-O-Tapu has a reputation as the most colourful in New Zealand. I hope the cloud cover doesn't affect the vibrancy of the colours. I needn't worry. It takes a couple of hours to walk around the whole park. The sun comes out after an hour or so and I don't notice any difference in the colour of the formations.
|The Champagne Pool|
There is something surreal about watching mud boil up from beneath the earth, form large, blob-like bubbles then explode in mini-eruptions before sinking back to be swallowed by its surroundings. Even the boiling water pools and steam vents are mesmerising. The colours are beautiful. There are caves, craters, lakes and pools stained in yellow, green, red and orange, the result of minerals being drawn to the surface.
|A mud bubble exploding|
|A pool of boiling water|
The 'Champagne Pool' is the highlight with its stunning bright orange border running along the edge like a coral reef. Clouds of vapour rise from the water. The breeze drops and mist covers the pool like an aura emanating from a subterranean poltergeist. It drifts toward us and we get a whiff of the 'rotten-egg' smell created by sulphur as it is released.
|Looking across The Terrace|
David's lack of interest in the excursion has turned to fascination as we make our way around the park. Even he can't resist the beauty of this 'nature in the raw'. His favourite is the last formation - the 'Devil's Bath' - a massive crater filled with water turned lime-green by sulphur..
|The Devil's Bath|
|Mud cave with coloured mineral deposits on the walls.|
Tips, tricks and things to know:
- The paths through the park are in three sections. Section 1 is 1.5 km, sections 1 & 2 are 2 km and sections 1, 2 & 3 are 3 kms. The whole park takes a couple of hours to walk around slowly.
- If you have never seen a geyser erupt don't miss the Lady Knox Geyser. It erupts at 10.15 a.m each day. It is a short (3 minute) drive from the Visitor Centre so leave yourself enough time to buy your tickets first and then go on to the geyser.
- Wai-o-Tapu is easy to walk around. There are boardwalks and formed pathways throughout but wear sensible shoes. Flip-flops, sandals and other open-toed shoes aren't practical.
- Bring a hat, water and sunscreen.
- If you visit at lunch time the cafe has a good range of food and a very pleasant sitting out area.
- Don't miss the Mud Pool - a large area of ferociously bubbling, erupting mud where a mud volcano once stood. It is outside the park, a few minutes drive from the entrance.
- For a list of ticket prices and opening hours click - here
- David and I received complimentary entrance.