Where We Be
Taupo, New Zealand
“Orakei Korako is possibly the best thermal area
left in New Zealand and one of the finest in the
world,” says
Lonely Planet. We felt it was like a
mini-Yellowstone without the crowds. One of the
most charming aspects is the boat ride across the
lake to get to the unspoiled thermal area. Some of
the largest silica terraces in the world are located
here, as well as colorful pools of technicolor-blue
and intriguing hot water algae colors of burnt
orange and sulfur yellow. We made stops along
the well-marked boardwalk at Rainbow Lookout,
Golden Fleece Terrace, Artist’s Palette, and Soda
Fountain. A highlight was Ruatapu Cave. A “pool
of mirrors” at the bottom contains hot water you
can stick your left hand in (why left? I don’t know!)
to be granted a wish. And the water is just acidic
enough to clean your jewelry at the same time.

The drive to Taupo was memorable for its scenic
farmland, rolling green hills dotted with sheep
and cattle, and occasional flocks of wheeling
birds. It was so picturesque and “New Zealandy”
in the autumn sunshine that it made a strong
impression on both of us. We’re getting close
enough to the end of our trip that we have these
“I-don’t-want-to-leave-yet” moments when the full
beauty and grace of New Zealand hit us hard.

We stopped to visit Huka Falls on the outskirts of
Taupo, where the 100-meter-wide Waikato River
forces itself into a 15-meter-wide rock chute,
creating a long stretch of churning whitewater.
Spurting out of the bottleneck, the water ejects
into a frothing pool, dumping enough water to fill
two Olympic-size pools every second.

Our last stop was at an unusual tourist sight
called Craters of the Moon. In 1954, drilling at the
nearby Wairakei Geothermal Field (one of the only
places in the world where thermal energy is
harnessed for use) caused an explosion that
resulted in this steaming, pockmarked landscape
of craters and boiling mud pools. The walk
features hundreds of steam vents and “open-
wound” craters that hiss and sizzle and
sometimes even thump ominously. Steam rises
like smoke as if the bushes themselves were on
fire. Fumaroles hiss and spew. It makes you want
to walk on tiptoe lest you do something to cause
the next explosion.
Incredibly blue pool in front of white silica terraces
Surreal photo of steam, sunlight,and greenery at Craters of the Moon
Lake Taupo fills the crater formed by a monumental explosion 26,500 years ago
Technicolor magic at Orakei Korako
Almost-burning-bushes at Craters of the Moon
Brilliantly colored hot water algae
Silver fern, emblem of NZ (silver on its underside)
Orakei Korako thermal area lies just across the lake
Thermal humor
Flirting with danger
Green palms are framed by the large cave mouth at Orakei Korako
Bright yellow sulfur deposits
This white-faced heron doesn't mind the hot water
Odd forest of striped trees
Bubbling mudpots reminiscent of Yellowstone
Craters of the Moon near Taupo
Large steam vent at Craters of the Moon
Black swans with their young at Lake Taupo
Powerful Huka Falls near Taupo
Robin looking lovely in front of Huka Falls