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Ciaran and Ruth's Worldwide Adventures

Knox your socks off

IRELAND | Wednesday, 15 August 2007 | Views [701]

Wow. This place never ceases to amaze. Today's spectacular experience centred on Lady Knox's Geyser and the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland close to Rotorua. The geyser, named after the daughter of some Governer General from the past, erupts with faultless predictability every morning at 10:15. We figured that this timing was determined by mother nature as one of the barely understandable surprises of this planet. To our mild disappointment a park ranger showed up at 10:15 with a lump of soap which he dropped into the mouth of the geyser which triggered some minutes later the eruption that we all came to see. The geyser was discovered some years ago by a bunch of prisoners being held in an open prison in the area. These convicts - while paying their debt to New Zealand's youthful society - retained a healthy interest in their personal hygiene. To their delight then, they stumbled across this natural hot pool in which they could wash both themselves and their clothes. One enthusiastic prisoner even brought along his personal stash of soap one day. When he added this to the pool he unexpectedly caused an explosion of water stretching some 10 metres into the air. It seems that beneath the ground there are two natural water containers. The addition of soap and the resulting pressure-increasing frothiness causes an artificial emptying of one container through the small gap on the earth's surface. The geyser does erupt naturally every day or so, but the 10:15am versions owe less to the invisible hand of mother nature and more to the invisible hand of market forces.

Wai-O-Tapu is famous for the naturally occurring colours in the mud pools and water spots throughout the park. Vivid yellows, greens and oranges paint the park like a canvas. It really is sensational, made a little less so by the rotten egg stench created by the hydrogen sulphide which seeps from the ground.

Though it's neither legal nor clever to jump into the hot pools or mud baths in the park, this is perfectly fine at the Polynesial Spa Baths in Rotorua. The baths here reach up to 42 degrees Celsius, which I've got to tell you, is purely exhausting after fifteen minutes or so. A very pleasant break though from the chilly winter air.

As a final word, we forgot to mention yesterday that we met a couple of Kiwi birds. Not New Zealand ladies, but actual birds. These two instances of the endangered national bird of New Zealand pecked and poked their way through their small habitat where they're monitored and managed by the Dept. of Conservation. Lovely little fellas really.

Tags: Sightseeing


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