Richard & Stacy's Round the World Trip 2001

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The Thermal Area must be a hopping place during the summer time, it is certainly set up to handle a lot of people. There were only a couple of other groups there when we went through. There are actually three main displays in the area - an actual Kiwi breeding area (which is kept very dark and quiet, no photographs, the kiwi are sensitive nocturnal creatures), the Maori Village (essentially shut down for the winter) and the thermal area itself.

The main feature of the thermal area is the Pohutu Geyser.

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As we enter the thermal area, we see geysers erupting, so we grabbed a picture at a distance in case it was over before we got there.  Along the way to the geyser, we walked passed a huge boiling mud pool, known as the Ngamokaiakoko Mud Pool.

When we reached the geyser, it was still erupting - it turns out that it erupts almost continuously the entire day. There are actually two geysers - the main one is Pohutu, which can shoot boiling water 20 metres in the air (it was doing about 10 metres when we were there), and a secondary geyser known as the Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser. It is so named because the water plume it has looks like the feather on the coat of arms of the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales Feather Geyser is known as an indicator geyser - when it erupts, Pohutu geyser erupts shortly thereafter. The entire time we were in the thermal area the two geyser were "playing".

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Beside the geysers runs the Puarenga Awa (River). You can see steam from various vents and the geysers adding their hot water to the river.  The geysers have built up a large mantle of deposits from the heavily mineralized plumes.
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Slightly above the river, the mantle extends to create another pool. It looks like ice, but its actually minerals.  A closer look at the minerals of the mantle - there is a layer of water running over white and yellow mineral deposits - calcium carbonates and sulphates.
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A clear look at the two geysers - on the left the Prince of Wales Feathers, on the right, Pohutu.  Coming around the other side of the geysers, you get a better look at Pohutu, which is definitely generating a larger plume than the Prince of Wales Feathers.
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There was a raised viewing area just beyond the geysers. Down below, in front of the geysers are a number of concrete blocks that are very hot - heated by the water of the geysers.  Stacy hangs out for awhile, wondering if the eruption will end, or something else will start... maybe this just keeps going?

We sat by the geysers for a good twenty minutes. It was very loud, you can't shoot boiling water that high in the air without making some noise. And it seemed to never end - this wasn't "Old Faithful", this was "Old Endless". Eventually we wandered the paths to find other thermal activities in the area.

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This was a small pool of boiling mud, often called a "paint pot." The mud is very fine, and is sometimes retrieved and used for cosmetics.  A small mud volcano, sulfurous steam rising from the hole.
Click to see a larger version... A larger boiling mud area... this one was quite oily, with black liquid mixed in with the mud. There were lots of signs saying "No Smoking!" Have to wonder how flammable things are in the area. Must get the occasional exploding tourist... 

The path became more of a nature trail, taking us into the forest some more, and then every so often there would be a thermal artifact of some kind.

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A stairway leading down from the path toward the water.  This is the head of the Papakura Geyser, which last erupted in March 1979. It is believed that wasteful use of geothermal resources caused its extinction.

The trail led to the Ngararatautara Cooking Pool. This pool was once used by the Maori to prepare food - during the summer, there are still events where food is cooked using this pool. The name of the pool comes from the Tautara lizard, New Zealand's largest native lizard. The clear boiling water resembles the skin of the lizard. The water is crystal clear, alkaline and continuously boiling. There are barriers to keep people way from the pool - the mineral deposits that form its rim are brittle and thin, anyone approaching the pool could easily break through and be submerged in the boiling water.

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A close up view of the cooking pool. The water is boiling, and full of minerals - the rim around the pool is naturally formed black sinter.  The food preparation area - although steam obscures it, there is a wooden crane for swinging and lowering food to the pool. 

The cooking pool drains into the Puarenga River, which runs down to the Pohutu geyser. A bridge crossing the river led us back toward the start of our walk.

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Crossing the bridge, this is the upstream part of the Puarenga river, the cooking pool is out of sight off to the left of this photo.  Looking downstream, the river leads back to the geysers.
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Along the trail back toward the entrance, there were more mud pots...  ...and mud volcanoes.
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This bit of boiling water must be new - there were brand new barricades around it, right beside the pathway. It may eventually grow into a mud pot.  Looking off the side of the trail into the forest, here and there we can see plumes of steam - more thermal surface spots.

By the time we had finished our walk through the thermal areas, we were a bit tired and it was getting late (we still had a couple of hours more driving to get to Kinloch). We decided to take a quick look into the Arts & Crafts centre and at the Maori Village.

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The entrance of the Arts & Crafts Centre had some huge and magnificent wood carvings.  A close up view of a tiki, protective symbols of the Maori culture.
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The Maori village area was all but deserted, just a couple of people looking around.  There were some very old structures off one side of the village. Tiny doorways - we wouldn't fit through them.
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There was a magnificent Maori war canoe, carved from a single tree trunk.  Te Aronui a Rua is the name of this Maori meeting house. The area in front of the house is called the Marae, or gathering place.

Ultimately we cut our exploration of the village short - during the summer there are dancing displays and feasts, during the winter there's not much of anything. Either way we're not big fans of staged native displays for the benefit of tourists, so we headed back on the road to Kinloch. 

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