Thermal ‘wonder’ land

After the alpine adventure in Tongariro national park I am ready to head back to civilization again. Today I am visiting Rotorua. This little town is built on a Volcanic Plateau on the Pacific Rim of Fire and has one of the world’s most lively fields of geothermal activity. Steaming hot springs, boiling mud pools and shooting geysers are all part of daily live here. The sulphurous gasses that escape from ground are responsible for the ‘characteristic’ rotten egg smell that lingers in the streets. According to the locals you really get used to it, but we decide that we rather not stick around too long and hit the road again.

Kan de verleiding dan toch niet weerstaan... je moet wat terwijl je wacht :)

Couldn’t resist, you have to keep yourself entertained while waiting

There are plenty of ‘hot’ sites to visit around Rotorua and a good place to see all this natural violence crammed together in a few square kilometers is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. The main attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser that erupts every day at exactly 10:15, shooting hot water and steam 20 meters into the air. As I am eagerly pointing my camera at the smoking cone of Lady Knox, ready to shoot when she does, I wonder how it is possible that this geyser erupts which such precision? By 10:20 there is still nothing more to see than a few wisps of smoke rising up from the spout and I am starting to doubt if this will happen today.  Then one of the park rangers emerges from behind and my suspicion is confirmed: it’s a trick!


Holding a brown paper bag in his hand ranger David explains how the geyser was discovered in 1896 by a group of convicts who got the fright of a lifetime when they were doing their laundry in the hot water that bubbled up from the ground. As it turns out soap and geysers do not mix! You see, soap acts as a surfactant which breaks the surface tension of the cold water in the geyser’s upper chamber so that it will mix with the hot water in the lower chamber, which causes an 20 meter (65 feet) eruption that can last an hour.  Rest assured that the soap used is organic and biodegradable 😉 While explaining all this to us Dave casually drops the contents of the brown bag, which by now I guessed is soap powder, into the spout of the geyser. Not much later the geyser starts bubbling and thick white foam is rising up from her interior. Meanwhile David continues his story about governor Knox’s daughter after whom the geyser is named. But my attention has shifted to what is happening around the geyser. By now the foam is gushing in big gulps and not much later a big white jet stream shoots straight up in the blue sky, showering the spectators with a cold spray of condensed steam. I can imagine how the unsuspecting prisoners must have felt when they saw their dirty socks shoot 20 meters up into the sky. It was spectacular to watch the force of water coming out from Lady Knox and it blew me away, but at the same time I could not help feeling somewhat disillusioned by the artificial creation of the ‘natural’ wonder…

Champagne Pools: Het water bubbeld als champagne door grote hoeveelheid CO2 gas die ontsnapt. Daarnaast komen er ook andere gassen vrij waaronder waterstofsulfide, vandaar de stank.

Champagne Pools: The bubbling is caused by large amounts of CO2 gas escaping from the earth. Unfortunately there are also some other gasses escaping like hydrogen-sulfide, which explains the stench.


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