The Volcanic Plateau, or Central Plateau of New Zealand covers a large part of central North Island and is full of geothermal and volcanic activity, creating a wonderful world of hot springs and spectacular volcanic landscapes. Here’s the story in pictures, because they say more than words.
The extremophiles of Waikite Valley
South of Rotorua, we stayed at a campsite and thermal pool/hot spring spa in Waikite Valley. The streams and springs around there were all so hot they steamed continuously around us. “The temperatures of these springs range from 30°C to 99.5°C. While these conditions appear uninhabitable to life, a group of microscopic organisms known collectively as extremophiles not only survive here, but actively grow! Extremophiles include organisms from all three domains of life, Bacteria, Archaea and Eukarya, and are thought to be modern versions of the first forms of life more than 3.5 million years ago.” (Couldn’t be bothered paraphrasing, but thought it was interesting, ha! More info on the Waikite Valley website) After relaxing in the hot pools, we took a stroll along their Eco Trail, and managed to take some pictures when our camera lenses didn’t fog up:
Bubbling mud pools and Kerosine Creek
There were many more thermal pools and geysers and what not around the area, but as they’re big tourist attractions, they are quite costly. Hence, we went to whatever we could find that was free: the Mud Pool, Rainbow Mountain and Kerosene Creek, a hot stream free for bathing.
The first signs of volcanic mountains
Had to stop along the road to take pictures:
The Tongariro Alpine Crossing
…and then we crossed Mordor, went right past Mount Doom. We didn’t have any rings to throw in there so we didn’t go to the summit. It was strenuous, freezing cold, cloudy, and one of the most spectacularly beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.