New Zealand – Episode 4 – Rotorua and the Wai-O-Tapu Sacred Waters

Story from the gates of hell

Our itinerary in New Zealand included a couple of hot spots. At the time of our visit, we didn’t think that Rotorua was also literally a hot spot. Bear with us and you will see why.

Rotorua is the place where we experienced what it must be like to be waiting in the antechamber of hell. What some would scientifically call “geothermal parks”, our cameras captured as access roads to the devil’s dwellings. With every wisp of steam, we believed that the sensors in ours cameras would capture thermal demons gushing out. The scenery is spectacular and eerie at the same time. Just when we grew familiar with the place we noticed the following warning signs -“Danger!”, “Keep to the Track!”, “Hot Gases!”, “Hot Area!” and, the scariest, “Unstable Ground”- that reminded us not to get too comfortable.  We watched our every step not sure if our next step would be on solid ground or our foot would remain suspended over the gates of inferno.

One of our destinations was The Lady Knox Geyser. We were told that here hell breathes hot and smelly steam each day at 10:15 am. When we arrived, several hundred people were seated in an amphitheater-like formation and waiting around a cone for the highly praised eruption to begin. While waiting we wondered how come the geyser erupted each day at the exact same time? The answer came in a few minutes. A park ranger with a microphone started telling us a little story about how the geyser was discovered. It happened in 1901 when a gang of prisoners from the prison in Wai-O-Tapu added soap to the hot water to wash their clothes. The ranger emptied a bag of soap into the cone geyser to break the surface tension of the water below allowing hot water to build into a force and reach heights of about 20 meters. It was clearly one of the biggest disappointments of our trip to New Zealand.

Our next stop was Waiotapu that looks like Dante’s hell with the boiling pitch and tar. The mud pools form when steam and gas rise underneath rainwater ponds. The gases react with rocks to produce clay, which makes a muddy mixture in the ponds that bubble periodically like porridge. It was quite a challenge trying to capture the perfect burst.

Before telling you a few words about Maori culture in Rotorua, we must add that the city is nicknamed The Sulphur City because it has a unique pungent smell just like rotten eggs. No doubt about it, this is indeed an odoriferous city.

Māori people have been living in the area for almost 700 years. With a quarter of Rotorua’s population of Maori descent, you will be welcomed here in the spirit of traditional Manaakitanga (hospitality).

Unfortunately, time did not allow us to interact more with Maori culture, but check out the following link for more information.

Extremely severe warning: Do not try to recalibrate the screens!!! All color images are minimally processed, fully respecting the color palette of nature. 🙂

Dana Stavaru’s photos

Lucian Nistor’s photos


Andrei Morar’s photos

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