Saturday, December 11, 2010

Geothermal Thrills

The stench of sulfur hangs thick in the air in Rotorua. One of the most active thermal areas on earth, it is home to countless attractions that cash in on all of the bubbling hot springs, spouting geysers and gurgling mud pools. Anywhere between about $20 and $100 bucks a pop will gain you entry so some particularly steamy spots, often with Maori "cultural performances" thrown in for good measure.

Now you see, I sorta have a problem with this. I don't know if I am bothered more by the notion of paying to see something that happens naturally, or by the contrived displays of "culture" for tourists' benefit, but one way or another I just can't get into the idea. It feels as if my entry ticket may come with a free "sucker" stamp across my forehead.

Lucky for me, the park smack dab in the middle of town happens to be a pretty active little hot pot on it's own. Free of charge and without the men in stage make-up, we got to wander around and check out the earth at its rawest. Thick boiling mud emitting heavy sulfuric steam, volcano-crater lakes in an unreal collage of colors, mirror-like pools with vapors swirling upon their surface. Not the kind of park you wanna take your kids to play tag.

It was a little unsettling knowing that just feet from our feet lay a boiling cauldron just screaming to get to the surface. Weird!

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