Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Craters of the Moon

another view

Lake Taupo

Maori carving


nice homes

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Huka Falls

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Craters of the Moon

Lake Taupo was formed when a giant volcano blew its top thousand of years ago. But the area around it is still seismically active. When you start digging a hole around here, you never know what you will find. A hydroelectric crew was doing some construction and their digging disturbed the water table. As the water pressure shifted, the Craters of the Moon came into being. Steam vents and mud pools erupted across the landscape. A boardwalk has been built through the area to keep tourist tootsies cool and safe, but new steam vents can pop up anywhere. As we walked on the board walk, steam seeped up between the planks in a few places. Sulfur in the ground combines with the rain water and makes an acidic cloud that eats away at the rocks. When there is more water than heat, the dissolved rock turns into a bubbling mud bath. Typical plants of the area try to make a go of it here, but the acid and steam turn all but the most hardy into skeletons. Being in a spot like this makes me interested in geology to a degree that I never am at home.

New Zealand’s longest river, The Waikato flows out of Lake Taupo and slams into a narrow chasm, making a spectacular thirty foot leap into a surging pool. One way to see the falls is to take a jet boat to them. Today we just walked, admiring the crystal clear aquamarine water as it gushed downstream. The Waikato is harnessed numerous times as it makes its way to the sea and provides 15% of the country’s electricity needs. Between the hydro and the heat from the steam vents, this area could stop contributing pollution to the ozone layer altogether.

We returned to Lake Taupo and took a small boat around about half this large lake in two hours. Lovely homes, some belonging to VIP types line the shores in spots and on one peninsula, a Maori stone carving dominated the scene. We saw kayakers and people fishing. There are so many sky diving companies here, that the prices are relatively affordable and every so often we could see falling dots which presumably were divers taking advantage of the bargain. This area is a real family vacation spot. With only limited time to see it all, we can’t afford to linger, but Lake Taupo would be a great place to recreate.

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