Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland New Zealand (near Port of Tauranga) - Part 1

New Zealand, Port of Tauranga.
17th Dec 2012. This was a cruise stop on the Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas. The ship would dock at the Port of Tauranga, which is near Mount Maunganui in the Bay of Plenty.

Today, we will be renting a car and driving ourselves to various places of interest. The first stop would be the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Thereafter we would drive past Rotorua and go to the Luge.
Look at this map. The ship is docked by near Mount Maunganui. You can see Waiotapu on this map, just below the number 5 Highway. The distance was more 100km if you use Highway 29 and 33 - that is the better route in terms of ease of drive. Using Highway 36 (Pyes Pa Road) is slightly nearer, but the drive is much more difficult because of the winding roads.

We arrived at 7am. All aboard time was 5:30pm . We had a long day ahead of us. The ship will leave without you, if you don't make it back on time.

Getting out of the port was very quick and easy. It was drizzling slightly. The car rental company was supposed to deliver the car to the port. So I went ahead to look for them.

You can see the Voyager of the Seas from the road. She is a 138,000 GT ship. When she was launched in 1997, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. She is still a beautiful ship and she will undergo a major revitalization in October 2014.

See those vans there waiting? I later found out that they were picking up cruise passengers who had rented cars with other car rental agencies. Those vans would bring the passengers to the car rental office. Looks like renting a car was a rather popular way to get around. I even saw a rented van!

In our case, we deliberately chose a car rental company that would bring the car to the port gates. We could also return the car at the gates. I was a bit early so I had to wait for the staff to arrive.

I saw those limos opposite. Interesting. I wonder who had hired limos for the day. (I am assuming cruise passengers had hired them)

ABC Rentals - this was the rental company we engaged. We booked over the Internet. In fact, this looks like the rental car that we booked, a Nissan Pathfinder from 1997 (rather old!). The staff arrived on time and the paper work was a breeze. So we set off quickly to our destination, using the GPS which we also rented. The GPS worked well.

On the way to Wai-O-Tapu, I followed the GPS and it took us there using Highway 36 (Paye Re Road). It was a challenging drive! I wouldn't recommend it though, if you are short on time. So, remember!!
Thanks to good weather and competent driving, we arrived in good time. In order to see the Lady Knox geyser, we had to get here before 10.

Welcome! Kia Ora! We got a Family Ticket. The cost was $80NZ. This was a famous tourist attraction with rave reviews on Tripadvisor.

Lady Knox geyser was a short drive from the main entrance. You will pass the turn-off to Lady Knox geyser as you drive into the main center. This was after we parked and were walking to the geyser. A short 3 min walk.

There she is - Lady Knox geyser. A sizable crowd had gathered by this time. We weren't the earliest.

We managed to get seats on the second row near the front. That was good. We were eager to see some geyser action!

Camera facing backwards. A good crowd had gathered.

Now, the geyser doesn't blow up automatically. A chap will come out, give a short introduction, and then throw a bag of soap into the geyser. I am not into chemistry so I am not sure how the soap triggers such a massive reaction.

It was quite a sight! 10 m into the air.

After enjoying the geyser, we headed back to the main visitor center. Parking wasn't a problem. We decided to grab a drink and quick bite before going on the walk.

This is a map of the park. I liked that they had 3 choices for the visitor. Walk 1, Walks 1 and 2, Walks 1,2 & 3. We decided that we would do it all, otherwise we would not be able to see all the sights. Total distance - 3km.

And we start. It was a good day for walking, cloudy and not too hot.

Along the way, there are many of such signs that explain what you are seeing.

See that sign.. don't go down there.

The path to walk is very clear. Follow the path. Stray at your own peril. Falling into that hole will surely spoil your holiday.

You may wonder - what's the worst thing that can happen if I go off on my own? Check this out. What do you think will happen if you fall in there?

You could get boiled alive.

Yeah. And I don't think anybody would climb down there to rescue you.

Didn't I say that you might be boiled alive? This is another sign telling you the same.

Woah. Keep clear. Holy smokes!

The Shaky Isles. Scary. Reminded me that NZ gets hit by earthquakes. Our cruise ship would not be calling at Christ Church because of the quake.

We have arrived at the Artist's Palette - Number 5 on the map. The sign explained how the different colours came about. E.g. Orange - Antimony/Arsenic.

Hey, let's go swimming in this pond! Duh.

She's literally letting off steam. 100 Deg C, they say.

This was the OPAL POOL - Number 6 on the map.

The Sacred Track.

Trees, very tall.

This caught my attention. Zorro was here? Beats me.

Look down, you can see the people walking. We would go there.

Some signposts. We just followed the path.

Note that the walk becomes fairly undulating. There were steps. Up, and down.

We are now at point 12 of the map. Here, you can decide to carry on with Walk 3, or turn back. See the sign. It read, "This 20-25 minute walk is through one of the most active parts of the Reserve.". Yeah, we wanted to go see the most active parts!

And we walk on.

Rather tempting to go touch the water in the stream. NOT RECOMMENDED!

See the paths. As the sign said earlier, all children must be supervised at all times. It is very easy for a young child to veer away from the path. No joke.

And then this child may decide to go play in this puddle. Isn't the puddle really cool? It even has bubbles!! Yipppeee!

Hey, I just noticed that adult squatting down, touching the water. Oh well, I guess adults could try . At most you get your little finger burnt.

See the yellow sign.

Notice the path just becomes a wooden log. Don't veer right of this log. Ok, I say again, if you are going to bring your kids here, watch them closely.

Because that blue pool is so tempting, the kid may just run over and jump in. This was the Oyster Pool, number 16 on the map.

Sulphur cave. Throughout the park, the smell of sulphur was strong, sometimes very strong. But because the park was so large and open, I did not find the smell to be overwhelming.

This was the farthest point of the park. Point 18 on the map. You could go no farther. Neither could you swim in that green pool.

And we head back. We were keeping good time. I recall it took us 35 minutes to get to the farthest point, from the visitor's entrance.

Kids enjoying the walk. Train them up for long walks! Good for them.

The pathways and routes are very well designed. You do not repeat the sights as you walk back, other than point 18 to 19.

This was number 21, the Champagne Pool.

Birds Nest Crater, number 23.

Devil's Bath, number 25.

Yikes. Green stuff.  Looks gooey.

We have almost reached the entrance.

End of Wai-O-Tapu

After this, we would head on to Rotorua and do the Skyline and Luge.

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