Friday, August 21, 2009

Hiking in Waimangu Volcanic Valley, Waimangu, NZ

Woke up feeling somewhat recovered from my cold so went ahead with my plan to hike along the trails in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley about 25 km from Rotorua. Since this was to be my last full day in New Zealand, it was my last chance to explore this unique thermal area created by the June 10, 1886 eruption of Tarawera. That event opened a line of craters all along the rift zone of the multiple eruptions, forming several craters and thermal features and completely destroying the Pink and White Terraces as well as all plant and animal life in the area affected by the eruptions. The Waimangu Volcanic Valley is the only hydrothermal system in the world that was completely formed during recorded history, as well as the only New Zealand example of a biosystem naturally reestablishing itself after total destruction.

After a leisurely breakfast and organizing myself and my camera gear for a day of hiking and exploring, I was on the road by about 10:30 AM, arriving at the visitor center around 11 AM after a couple of stops to snap some photos... Of course! I'd decided to hike and then take the boat ride around Lake Rotomahana (formed (from a smaller lake in the same spot) in its current configuration by the 1886 eruptions) to see more of the thermal features available only by boat.

The "wanderer's guide" to the hikes suggests that 2 hours is the time required for the easy hikes and says that allows for stopping to take pictures. HA! Suffice it to say that I managed to make it to the boat dock on Lake Rotomahana in time for a few photos of the lake area before the 2:50 PM boat left the dock. The boat captain asked the bus driver, as I got on the boat, "Is this the 1:10 PM lady?" (1:10 PM was the time the Visitor Centre estimated that I would make the boat ride when I purchased my admission to the Park at ~ 11 AM) One thing to note, however, is that I took the side trip to the Mt. Haszard Trail which is billed as requiring good fitness, having steep hills and rough underfoot and requiring up to one hour to complete just that portion of the trail. And I became TOTALLY side-tracked at one point by attempts to capture a bumble-bee going after pollen in what I think was a form of heather flowers.

All in all, I took FAR too many photos to post them all anywhere for fear of boring everyone to tears... but here are a few for you to peruse.

view of rift valley from outside visitor center at Waimangu Volcanic Valley
View of the rift valley taken from the Panorama scenic lookout outside the Visitor Centre for Waimangu Volcanic Valley.
wood carving at start of trail in Waimangu Volcanic Valley
This is Ruaumoko, Vessel of Remembrance, at the start of the hike from the Visitor Centre to the boat landing at Rotomahana Lake. From the wanderer's guide: The surface design of the statue includes spirals (Koru Rangi) put on all points of movement to bring the ancestor to life. The bulb in the middle of the spiral pattern is "Koru" (symbol of rebirth). Rangi is the divide/contrast between the Haehae (the cut line, to slice) and Pakati (the knotch, to cut deeply).
inferno crater lake, waimangu volcanic valley, nz
Inferno Crater Lake, Waimangu Volcanic Valley, NZ... From the wanderers guide I learned that this lake is somehow linked to Frying Pan Lake and the level of Inferno Crater Lake ebbs and flows and coincides with greater and lesser discharges from Frying Pan Lake, respectively.
tourist at scenic viewpoint on Mt. Haszard hiking trail in Waimangu Volcanic Valley
Tourist (yours truly) at scenic viewpoint on Mt. Haszard hiking trail in Waimangu Volcanic Valley, NZ. This is the highest point on the Mt. Haszard trail. The next photo is from the name spot without the tourist and with a somewhat wider view as well as a caption explaining what you are seeing.
View of Lake Rotomahana (middle distance) and the Tarawera Volcano from the Rift Valley Panorama. The large hole (just below the horizon line about 1/3 in from the left edge of the photo) is where the side of the mountain blew out in the 1886 eruption of Tarawera Volcano. (also visible if you look closely on the left part of the photo above the trees in the foreground is steam rising from the walls of Black Crater, another geothermal feature created by the 1886 eruptions)

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