Sunday, July 14, 2013

Waimangu Volcanic Valley

Our next day was a pretty big one, and one of our favorite excursions of the whole trip. Rotorua lies in the middle of the north island, just off of Lake Rotorua. It sits on top of a pretty active sulfur deposit, which makes for amazing hot springs and landscapes but has the unfortunate side effect of making the whole area smell like rotting eggs. You get used to it after awhile, not as big of a deal as it sounds. To really get an idea of the amazingness we drove just outside of town to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and went on a two hour hike. Check out this steaming lake!

Our drive there was really interesting as well. Fascinating landscapes. Thick forests of evergreen trees changed abruptly to dry, grassy hills and then again to lush rainforests. The grassy hills had a stepped look to them in that they reminded us of thin cake tiers stacked all the way up.

Olivia was pretty stoked to start the hike, and she got some flexing and stretching in with a tiki carving. Let's do this!

Our Volcanic Valley trip started with a 2 hour hike down through the valley. The Volcanic Valley was incredible! There were geysers everywhere, boiling hot springs with steam that rose up through the rocks, vibrant sapphire rivers and waterfalls, and stunning rock formations all along our hike through the rainforest. The next few pictures all speak for themselves.

We got super lucky here. This is Emerald Lake, which is seperated from the rest of the valley. We had to take a small side hike up some stairs to see this. Apparently, the chemical balance of the water is really delicate, and because of all the thermal activity, it's only ever bright emerald likes this a couple months out of the year, and it's not consistant at all. Most people just see a dull lake instead of this incredible spot of color.

Wai is Maori for water, and mangu is Maori for black, so the literal name for this area is Black Water. Even though this next photo looks photoshopped, the landscape actually was this vivid. Spectacular!

Upon arrival, we asked if the hike was fine to bring a stroller on. The lady at the front desk said, "Yeah no problem, there is just one section with a couple of stairs." Oh, New Zealand. Couple of stairs means about three flights of stairs down. Fortunately, there were three of us to carry the thing down it.

Immy woke up right around then, so we took her out to check everything out. Until 1886, Rotorua was famed for the Pink and White Terraces, which were advertised as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Unfortunately, they were completely destroyed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera, which also created the whole Waimangu Valley. The eruption was so strong that ash was seen as far south as Christchurch, and in Auckland, people thought the noise and the flashes in the sky was an attack by Russian Warships.

Immy going for a ride with Aunt Olivia. Being all adorable, as always.

Here's the swampy portion of the lake, which we passed during our hike. It was another interesting contrast to the geysers and vibrant landscapes from earlier.

Next we took a 40 minute boat tour of the lake, and finally a 15 minute bus ride back to the Visitor’s Centre. The boat tour took us on the lake that was formed by the eruption of Mount Tarawera in 1886. We couldn't get a decent picture of it, but it's a mountain with a giant hole in the side of it. That explosion must have been enormous. I mean, obviously it was, since it destroyed pretty much everything in the area, but it's still impressive 130 years later. We would highly recommend this hike to anyone travelling around this area.

Immy was super pumped. Plus she's super cute in her Valentine's Day pants!

That afternoon, we checked out the Rotorua Museum, which tells the history of the city. This is not one of their selling points, but they may also have the world's largest elevator. 

Seriously, you can get lost in there. That's Laurel's baby yoga pose, invented in the moment.

While at the museum we learned that Rotorua sits inside an active volcano. Yes, inside. That seems not safe. Our enthuiasm for Rotorua waned a littled bit, and we were kind of glad that we were leaving the next day.

We took advantage of our live-in nanny, Olivia, and went out for a much needed Valentine’s Day date night. (Yes, we are insanely behind on posting updates.)

Grilled venison and wine! Cheers to another great year together!

On the walk back to our car we passed this dog sitting inside of a car. Pretty sure he stared into our souls. Whatever you are doing, car dog does not approve.

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