FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Geothermal delights at Orakei Korako

Posted in New Zealand, Taupo by folkestonejack on April 6, 2019

Our travels have brought us to Orakei Korako, a spectacular geothermal site between Taupo and Rotorua. The site is an interesting one, located across the waters of the Ohakuri Dam and only reachable by boat. It’s a little bit off the main tourist path so it doesn’t tend to get as busy as the geothermal sites in Rotorua but has been gaining more attention since Lonely Planet declared it as ‘arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand’.

Across the water to Orakei Korako

The history of the site is a long one, beginning with the settlement of the area by the Maori tribe Ngati Tahu-Ngati Whaoa who used the natural geothermal resources in their daily lives. The spectacular formations have attracted visitors since the early twentieth century, though the waka that were initially used to ferry tourists across the water to the site have long since been replaced by more modern ships.

The colourful silica terrace that greets you when your ferry gets closer to the other side is simply spectacular and amply explains why tourists have made such an effort to come here over the past 100 years. At one time there were silica terraces of even greater repute at other nearby locations, though these have long gone. The Emerald Terrace is now the largest of its kind in New Zealand and what you see on the surface is only part of the story.

In 1961 the completion of the earthen Ohakuri Dam saw the water level rise 160 feet above the original water level of the river, submerging two thirds of the geothermal area. Today, the silica terraces continue for 35 metres under the lake hidden from human gaze. It is stunning now, so it is hard to comprehend how much more amazing it must have been in its original state.

The colourful sights of Orakei Korako

As we explored the site over the next hour or so we discovered more wonders, such as the ‘Golden Fleece’ terrace (a fault scarp formed in 131 AD); the Rainbow and Cascade Terrace; the ‘Kohua Poharu’ mud pools and the Soda Fountain.

The site also features one of only two known geothermally located caves in the world (the other is located in Sicily) possibly created by a massive geothermal eruption. Known as the sacred cave it holds a poignant plaque in memory of Atama (Adam) Mikaere who was killed in the Far Libyan desert, aged 22, in 1941. The inscription reads ‘His spirit hovers in this lovely cave where as a lad he guided and delighted visitors with his manly bearing’.

Who doesn’t like the sights and sounds of a bubbling mud pool?

Over the next couple of days we should get to see a few more geothermal sights and see the results of some of the volcanic eruptions of the past as we explore the area around Rotorua, but this was the perfect way to start.


The Taranaki Falls and a little of Taupo

Posted in New Zealand, Taupo, Tongariro by folkestonejack on April 5, 2019

How do you follow an exhausting walk like the Tongariro crossing? According to the genius itinerary planning completed in the comfort of a desk in South London the answer seemed to be another hike! Hmmm…

The view at sunrise over Lake Taupo from our apartment at Oreti Village Resort

I had doubts about the plan as I headed to bed last night, but awoke feeling surprisingly fresh and ready to get walking again. A hike it was then. We drive south to the Tongariro National Park, parking up at Whakapapa Village near the incongruous hulk of Chateau Tongariro (a grand hotel built in 1929 to encourage tourists to visit the area).

The hike for today would be the two hour loop to the Taranaki Falls, choosing to start from the more exposed upper track as I think this is the easier way round and offers a succession of watery treats for the return leg.

After an hour of walking through alpine grasslands, red tussock, eroded volcanic soil and a forest of mountain toatoa we descended 100 steps to the satisfying sight of the falls. The weather was pretty grey, so I had plenty of time to muse upon my good fortune in doing the Tongariro Crossing in the considerably better conditions of yesterday.

My breath was taken away by the sight of the water tumbling 20 metres over lava flow which spewed from Ruapehu in an eruption 15,000 years ago. The way back offers further sight of the water flowing away from the falls, passing through a narrow gorge and over the Cascade Falls down to the Wairere Stream. There are a multitude of smaller delights, such as a small section of path completely covered in exposed tree roots. I have rarely seen a walk quite so varied. I was completely charmed by this.

The Huka Falls in Taupo

After a spot of lunch we drove around Lake Taupo to the Craters of the Moon, an hour long walk on a thermally warmed boardwalk around some smoking craters; the spectacular Huka Falls and a brief stop to admire the small wooden church at Mission Bay. A relatively relaxed afternoon which my tired feet certainly appreciated!