After weeks of high temperatures and low rainfall things had to change - and change they have. Gone are the endless blue skies and in their place it's like the Lake District in the rain (but warmer), caused by a cyclone passing to the north of the island.
We therefore encountered a wet Rotorua, but were still rather amazed to drive into town and see great steaming holes in the public park and whiffs of volcanic gas everywhere. We took a chance on the weather and decided to visit Whakarewarewa, or Whaka for short. More specifically we visited Whakarewarewa Thermal Village which provides a bit of an insight into a Maori Village lived among an area of intense geothermal activity.
The village is self managed and has recently acquired the land rights to the Te Puia site next door, which represents the alternative place to see the thermal springs.
The area is criss crossed with fault lines and these result in steaming lakes and vent pipes emerging from the ground. It all feels very fragile.
We started with a 30 minute cultural display of Maori song and dance followed by an hour long guided tour of the village, which is worth the ticket price of £20.
The thermal cooking pool was really interesting as was the communal bathing area where cooled water is fed onto big tanks. The much improved site has presumably been funded by the tourist ticket sales. That said, the tourists all leave by 4.00pm and the site returns to local use only.
These pools are everywhere
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the site are the geysers. There used to be a whole lot of them, but abstraction of heated water in the area has reduced the pressure and today three operate with one vey intermittent. The main one, Pohutu, erupts 20 to 30 times a day so with a bit of patience you can get to see it in full flow.
White water in grey steam against grey clouds - not the best way to see it!
Fortunately for us the rain held off for the two hours we were there, but closed in again as we left for our camp site near Blue Lake.
A good day in spite of the rain.