We did a lot on our ninth day of this trip, but surprisingly it’s been one of the most relaxing days we’ve had (I actually got to wake up after 6 today!)
The first thing we did today was visit Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal park in Rotorua. This park is sort of like a baby Yellowstone but with its own special features.
The name Wai O Tapu translates to “ Sacred Waters”. This park and it’s activities are overseen and protected by New Zealand’s department of Conservation and all the hot springs and plant and animal species on the park are protected.
What I loved the most about this park were, of course, all the colorful hot spring pools. I visited Yellowstone a little over 10 years ago now, and I remember the bright beautiful blue color of the waters in the pools there. Here, the waters were a vibrant sea green. We learned during our visit that the water from these springs drains into the Wai-O-Tapu stream, which eventually joins with the Waikato river and the Tasman Sea. Something that surprised me was that even in areas where there wasn’t any water, you could still hear a stream flowing. I’m not sure, but I think this sound was actually coming from the water flowing underground!
Another highlight of visiting the park was seeing the geyser, Lady Knox, erupt! Unlike the Old Faithful eruptions you can see in Yellowstone, this eruption wasn’t natural, but purposefully caused by a park ranger. According to the park ranger, they caused these purposeful eruptions because if the built up pressure in the geyser wasn’t released regularly, the geyser could have a sudden, HUGE eruption which could result in the destruction of the geyser itself! The park ranger poured some soap into the geyser which caused it to erupt.
The way they found that soap makes the geyser erupt is actually kind of funny. Apparently a long time ago the park actually used to be a prison site, and the prisoners were sent to work there to help build the man made forest that sits behind Lady Knox. One day the prisoners decided to use the spring water to take baths and wash their clothes. One of them dropped his soap in the spring and caused it to erupt! According to the tour guide, there were a bunch of butt-naked prisoners running around because the geyser had shot their clothes up in the air. After that they kept experimenting with the hot springs to see if they could make their clothes shoot higher in the air. My favorite part of seeing this geyser was getting to feel the water that came out of it! No worries, it wasn’t actually hot by the time it landed on my skin.
After grabbing some lunch, we made our way over to the Redwood Forest here and got to walk on the canopy of the trees. This one is similar to the canopy walk they have in BC. There were two things that I loved the most about this experience. First, getting to walk through the tree tops and seeing all the beautiful ferns underneath us! (The leaf symbol in New Zealand is an image of the silver fern that is famous here). The second was simply sitting down and watching the trees in front of us. Above us the redwood trees seemed to go on forever and when the sunlight changed it warmed up or cooled down the forest.
We only have 3 more days left here in New Zealand and I can’t believe how fast time has gone by! Tomorrow we are heading to the North most point of the North Island, Cape Ringa, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. More on that tomorrow.