Thursday, February 2, 2012

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools


This was one of the coolest places (for me) that we've been in New Zealand so far. On the way back from Lake Taupo we wanted to stop at some hot springs, as we weren't overly impressed with the ones at the Taupo holiday park we stayed at. On the way was a neat sounding free hot pool called "Butchers Pool" which was a little disappointing once we found it. I envisioned a natural pool area in a free flowing stream, but we found a wooden rectangle area covered in foam with a few guys sitting around in it. We decided it wasn't our cup of tea and we'd move on to Waikite Valley where the pool cost money but was hopefully a better experience. It was!

Sadly I thought I took a picture of Butchers Pool, but I did not. :(

Anyways, on to Waikite! When we were almost there we took a wrong turn (we immediately knew it was wrong, but decided to investigate anyways) into the "Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland" attraction. We'll definitely be returning here again, but on the way out of the parking lot we noticed a sign for "Mud Pools". We'd seen some mud pools earlier in the day at Craters of the Moon, but they were hard to see (you could hear some bubbling, but water levels were low and the pools were dryish). So anyways, we turned in to the mud pools here and were pleasantly surprised with the overwhelming awesomeness!

The remains of a bigger mud explosion we missed!
Evidence of mud explosions everywhere. Almost looked black and white!
Here's a video I took. :D

Onward we went to Waikite once again. We got there and the place looked pretty nice, lots of steam rising from the valley floor below near where we parked:

Natural Steam!
We knew we were in for a treat!
We went in and had a really enjoyable hour and a half reading in some nice water. There were kids, but they were well behaved, not like the ones I encountered in Taupo and a bunch of activities along the way home (running into me, stepping on m foot to get in front of me to find Bees at Honey Hive, etc. lol)... Anyways, just as we were about to leave I remember I saw a sign pointing to an Eco-Trail you could walk down. Worth checking out, I figured! Off we went. WOW. The natural stream was super cool to see. Near boiling water all the way, which they gently cool by running it thinnly along the surface exposing it to air for a while before it drops into the hot pools we were just enjoying. At the top of the stream is the source, where 40-50L of 99.6 degree (celcius) water boils up from the earth below. Way too cool to see. I knew these existed in theory but had never seen one so obvious and amazing. Definitely made the whole experience!

The water is cooled down as it moves from stream to pool.
Even late in the cooling stage it's still pretty hot.
Reading in the hot pool! My favourite activities combined.
Jax takes a break from reading. Wonderfully clear water.
Nice little Gazebo for when it rains and you still want to hot pool with a dry head.
Steamy water. Looks so out of place in nature.
Who knew that part of NZ used to be part of South America? I did not. Plate tectonics knowledge fail.
These calcium formations may look like gross foam, but they are awesome minerals instead.
Even moss is cooler in NZ.
The Source! So hot! Don't want to jump in here, unless you're a Targaryen maybe..
Ah! It's so hot!
Wondrous calcium deposits by the source.
More information about the chemical composition of the source water. And a reminder that you should keep out of the steaming bubbling water. Yep.

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