It was an uncomfortable night, last nights cider and game of cards played a full flush, requiring several visits to the loo by both of us. Usually, stumbling through unfamiliar territory with a certain amount of urgency in the dark can lead to disaster, but somehow we managed to negotiate the usual hazards on each foray, though I have to admit that more than once on return I just stood and stared at scene around me. Dark and silent RV’s scattered here and there, above a spectacular display of twinkling stars and all around mist spectres rising wraithlike from the ground. I knew what they were, just sulphurous thermal vents, but they still made the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. Each time I was glad to slide back into my snuggly safe sleeping bag.
We left the site around 9.30am and headed into the Waiotapu Thermal Park itself, just a couple of kilometres down the road. Wisps of steam rose randomly in the forest we were travelling through. “It’s like a scene from Jurassic Park’, gasped Jamie as we drove around one particular bend. I had to agree, but luckily, no raptors.
We came across a sign that said Mud Pools, so we made a diversion. After parking up we followed a short trail past various forms and sizes of glooping, hissing and bubbling pools of grey sludge. Reaching the end of the official path, we spied a less used trail through the bushes and followed this for around a kilometre and discovered more steaming sludge ponds among the dense mat of trees. The very last being a bright green pond that had an eerie greenish glowing mist just above its surface. Very strange and might weird. Chlorine gas? If so, I could see why tourists are not directed this way.
Returning to the RV we continued to our destination. We were halted at the park gates by a ranger and asked if we were interested in seeing the Lady Jane geyser erupt at 10.15am. We said yes, bought our tickets at the centre, then drove back along the route indicated by our ranger friend. We were one of the first to arrive and took up station on the front row of several circular banks of seats. We chatted to a couple of Australians while we waited for the eruption. I scoffed at Jamie’s suggestion that some one would press a button at the assigned moment. He proved to be not too far wrong.
At 10.15am a ranger stood next to the geyser vent and explained its history, before confessing that the geyser erupts naturally every 72 hours, but to satisfy the tourists, they drop a little parcel into the hole to stimulate it to perform. I guess that the package contained sodium bicarbonate as thermal water seems to be acidic.
Soon enough the vent began to bubble and then shortly after, with a hissing spluttering steam and water shot into the sky. Yes, on the front row we did get wet, but surprisingly the water was cool. The geyser continued to erupt for some 15 minutes, by which time most people had left and that is when we also departed for the Park Centre.
Our ticket also gave us access to the Thermal Trail, which wound its way between mud pools, hot water pools and steaming vents. I won’t attempt to explain what we saw. The photos I will include later, will tell a better story.
After a visit to the shop to purchase a little something for Sue we set off to our next destination to be quickly waylaid by our next adventure. Just 1/2 km from the Centre we spotted people flopping in a river as we crossed its bridge. We spent the next 2 hours there, also flopping in the thermal currents, chatting to people who were also like-minded. A couple of girls persuaded us to cover our faces with mud gathered from some where nearby. It was the promise of taking 20 years off your age and it being a sure-fire hair stimulant that persuaded me, though I am afraid it didn’t seem to do anything for Jamie. Well, nothing that I could see.
Towelled off and dry we set off for Huka Falls, an hours drive away.
The Falls are particularly spectacular from the viewpoint of the amount of water that races through such a narrow gap. Twenty Olympic swimming pools every minute. Fall in and you certainly would be gone in more sense than one. There were a lot of Chinese/Japanese there taking millions of photos and moving as one. We had a short walk further downstream and then upstream before returning to our vehicle.
We drove just another 2km to the ‘Craters of the Moon’, geothermal walk. After paying the entrance fee we set off down into the depression where all the steaming, hissing and bubbling fire works can be found. It was a lovely walk that took around an hour to complete, quite different from the Waiptapu adventure of the morning. This really was ‘Jurassic Park’.
It was getting on late in the afternoon when we once again set sail. Our destination this time was Napier. Our route was one of ever-changing scenery, with one constant being that when forest gave way to field or rolling hillside, it always gave the impression that we were travelling through one huge golf course. Do they mow everything here? Surely it can’t just be the cattle and now abundant sheep that nip the grass so short?
It was nightfall when we hit the bright lights of Napier. We had selected a free RV park on the beach in the centre of the city (so no heater for Jamie to-night!), it was easily found by way of our Satnav.
After parking up we took a short walk to a local Take-away. Run by a mixture of chinese and maori and sporting a very different menu to any we could have conceived. We chose the ‘Boss’; fish, chips, sausage and 2 crab sticks. When we opened our parcels back in the RV, ALL was covered in a crispy batter, even the stick the sausage was stuck on! We carefully peeled the cholesterol inducing wrappings from the foodish centres and placed them in a receptacle under the RV (to feed tomorrows seagulls). This battered food outlet seemed very popular with the locals. I fear for the future budget of the NZ health service, if its citizens in Napier enjoy such fayre.
We finished off the night with coffee and cards.