Wai-O-Tapu, Huka Falls
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Can't believe tomorrow is Halloween! It doesn’t really feel like it, since it’s springtime here. I’ve seen a few costumes and decorations here and there, but it’s definitely not as big of a deal down here as it is in America.
We started the morning at some bubbled hot mud pools near Rotorua, then watched the eruption of a geyser called Lady Knox. The geyser erupts naturally every 48-72 hours; so, they pour soap in it when they want it to blow for crowds of waiting tourists. In this way, it was basically a giant version of the volcanoes everyone makes in 6th grade science class.
The legend goes that the geyser was discovered 100 years ago by inmates from a nearby prison who bathed in the hot pools because the prison lacked shower facilities. One day, they watched their piles of clothing blow sky high, and the tourist attraction was born.
Leaving the geyser, we drove down the road to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which cost $30 and was pretty similar to stuff we’d already seen for free, so a bunch of us skipped it. From people who went in, I can tell you that it’s a series of boardwalks leading around geothermal pools that are naturally tinted in shades of fluorescent orange, yellow, green and red.
In the afternoon, we saw Huka Falls, which were powerful and impressive, colored a swimming pool blue and bubbling white froth. First, we viewed the falls from a scenic lookout point way above them; then, further down, you could see them from a trail that led over the Waikato River that feeds into them.
Next, we walked along the river and into the town of Taupo. We had lunch, checked email, etc., then drove along the shores of glittering Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand. The lake is actually the crater of a super volcano. Our guide said that whenever it erupts, that will be the end of New Zealand and possibly the world. Yikes.
In the afternoon, we passed through the small town of Bulls. The signs say it all.