Having already visited Yellowstone and Iceland in previous travels, this destination was the final piece in the geothermal collection. Unlike the others, the bubbling hot pools can be found in the centre of town. In the town’s park to be precise.
These are pretty unimpressive cordoned-off pits compared to the beauty that can be found a few miles out of town. Within an hours drive there are a collection of very different thermal parks, each with their own character and features.
Some are brutal, sulphurous, other-worldly landscapes….
But my favourite was Waimangu Volcanic Valley. It was, uniquely, created within recent historic times (1886), when an eruption left behind a succession of geothermal features along a beautiful valley. Some features, like the worlds largest hot-water spring, Frying Pan Lake, were created as recently as 1917 in an eruption that buried a nearby tourist hotel.
The whole area is very important to the Maoris, who discovered the area and utilised the geothermal activity for cooking and for medicinal purposes.
We went to a Maori cultural centre to learn more about their history and traditions.
We also had a hangi feast…with meat and vegetables cooked underground in a pit and covered in sacks and earth. The lamb and chicken tasted so good…very tender due to the slow cooking.