How the world began
After a near apocalyptic and violent volcanic eruption that completely destroyed all plant and animal life on the night of 10th June 1886, a new world began. Waimangu Volcanic Valley is that new world, formed after Mount Tarawera‘s eruption, and is the youngest geothermal site in the world. The aftermath was became home to a wide range of unusual thermally adapted plants and micro-organisms, plus a geothermal utopia of multi-coloured rocks, hot pools and springs. The valley, which lies on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’, features streaming volcanic crater lakes, craters, boiling streams, as well as an unreal aqua blue acid lake.
I’m going on an adventure!
Over the December holidays, I had the chance to visit New Zealand, a country with more sheep than people. Some might know it better as the place which houses the set for the famous movie ‘The Lord of The Rings’. However, I did not visit the Hobbits’ home. Instead, my family and I were all set to take the path less travelled – to go on a trek in the Waimangu Volcanic Valley in Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand.
After a half hour drive, we finally reached Waimangu! The visitor centre was right on top of the hill. As we embarked on the trail, we were treated to a panoramic view of the valley at the lookout point. It was breathtaking, and look! That’s Mount Tarawera in the far background. We chose to go on the main valley walkway, which was a four kilometer trail to Lake Rotomahana. Despite the slightly sloping terrain, it was a relatively easy walk. The whole area was serene and peaceful, with hardly any visitors around. It was just us, taking our own sweet time to immerse ourselves fully into the scenery around us, to relax and enjoy the trip at our own pace.
Not your usual panorama
Our next stop was the Frying Pan Lake Lookout. Covering 38,000 square metres, the lake is the world’s largest hot spring. It has an average depth of 6m, with an average temperature of about 55 degrees Celsius, hence the name. Interestingly, real boiling actually occurs on the lakebed, but carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide gas evaporating at the surface gave it the appearance of boiling. Although the lake water seems pretty harmless (aside from the heat), it’s actually acidic! (It has a pH of 3.5, for all you science people out there.) My sister and I took as many panoramas of this lake as we could, but honestly speaking, none were as awesome as the real live view.
Te Ara Mokoroa Terrace
Continuing on the trail, we passed by a boiling stream and even baby geysers. Along the stream, there were deposits that contained traces of various minerals such as tungsten and arsenic. These minerals, along with the blue-green algae, formed the various orange, brown, green and yellow colours seen along the edge and about the geothermal site. It was strangely pretty, and something that I had never seen before.
The Pale Blue Jewel of Waimangu
Further down the long-winding boardwalk and two minutes up a flight of stairs, we finally reached an aqua blue lake – the Inferno Crater Lake! It is the largest geyser-like feature in the world, although the geyser cannot be seen, since it’s underwater. The color of this lake water is mesmerising, but do not be fooled – the water is highly acidic (with a pH of 2.1)!
Venturing deeper into the wilderness
The nature trail was the last part of the main valley walkway, where we passed by winding streams that originated from hot springs. On both sides of the walkway, there were many different kinds of ferns and unique plants, such as the toetoe plant, which is an uncommon native plant (they kind of look like ‘lalang’ grass)! Walking in the midst of the New Zealand bush, I have to admit, there was a brief moment where I felt like I was walking through Jurassic Park.
After a 20 minute walk along the dirt path, we finally reached the end of our trail! Our 2 hour morning trek finally ended with a spectacular view of Lake Rotomahana. We could see Mount Tarawera beyond the lake and we also spotted a few black swans swimming around.
Exploring the nature in New Zealand really allowed me to relax and recharge in lieu of another draining and stressful school year ahead. In fact, this trip made me realize that sometimes we are too caught up with work that we forget how beautiful our planet really is. I believe the beautiful sceneries in this article are only a few of the many spectacular sights of what New Zealand has to offer. The trek in Waimangu was enjoyable, and it was indeed a fun and unique experience to go on the path less travelled.
Louise Lee, 15S46