Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland sounds pretty cheesy, like something Weird Al might parody a la “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.”
Just 700 years ago, thermal/volcanic eruptions blew up this whole area and sprayed rock and ash all over the region.
Today you can see the remnants: a hotbed of thermal activity which somehow results in all the colors of a kid’s chemistry set, sprayed on the ground and leaking from various acidic pools.
Another strange feature is that visitors are constantly dosed with hydrogen sulfide gas, with very little warning about the dangers. At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I was constantly reading signs about dangerous volcanic gases; but on June 16th at Wai-O-Tapu, people were wandering around with toddlers (not recommended). Breathing a gas that converts to sulfuric acid when it dissolves in the moist membranes of your body (think nose, lungs, and eyes). So, if you’re pregnant or have small kids with you, think twice about visiting this park.
Since I have so many pictures and stories from Wai-O-Tapu, I’ll probably do a full article about it sooner or later. For now I’ll leave you with a picture of Lady Knox geyser, which would naturally erupt every 24-72 hours. In order to allow everyone to view it, they “seed” it with surfactant daily at 10:15. This basically forces the geyser into a regular schedule. The photo is a bit tweaked to bring out the rainbow:
After Wai-O-Tapu, I decided to head to Coromandel Town. This turned out to be a much longer drive than I anticipated, because the last 50km of it is a super-windy coastal road going through a dozen tiny towns. But it did afford me a few classic (and sunny!) views of New Zealand’s beautiful coast.
After arriving in Coromandel, I found a lovely Holiday Park where I could view the sunset from a beach. Here’s one of the best shots:
For those who’ve been following me since Hawaii, you might remember the Green Flash, a strange atmospheric effect at sunset just as the sun disappears below the horizon. It only occurs when conditions are right, and just over the ocean (but apparently some very low and distant islands don’t disturb it). Here’s my latest flash:
This flash was about 2 seconds long. I set the exposure compensation to –2 stops, so that I could capture more of the green color than last time. Success! This is a 100% crop (meaning this is zoomed in to show the actual camera pixels, and not resampled). The photo is not modified in any way! Now, I need some extension tubes to magnify my view a bit more. Mu-hahaha.
In the evening it was clear and a bit darker than I’m used to, so I tried some nighttime photography. However, it wasn’t anywhere near as dark as in the Peruvian rainforests. You can see the effects of even minimal light pollution in the bottom half of this photo.
I could barely see these trees; even after my eyes adjusted to the light they were just silhouettes. But in a 30s exposure, a few lights from nearby houses and roads washed out the horizon on an otherwise beautifully dark sky. I did see a shooting star – it was just a few degrees out of my camera’s field of view on one of the photos. So close.
Tomorrow I finally get on an Auckland ferry, and find a good spot for night shots of the city!