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Boil and Bubble at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, New Zealand

The Champagne Pool

The Champagne Pool

If an army of Parrotheads and Grateful Dead fans ever invades New Zealand, I know exactly what strategy to take to stop the assault: The New Zealand forces would need to establish its positition and fall back, leading the unsuspecting invaders to the Mud Pool at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland south of Rotorua.

There, the marching Parrotheads and Dead Heads would come to a complete standstill. They would be rendered immobile by a combination of cannabis, the crazy colors and the pits of bubbling, boiling mud.

A long shot of Waiotapu

A long shot of Waiotapu

Look, I’m not exactly proud to admit this: I could’ve spent the entire day at the mud pit, watching as volcanic gas built up pressure, created huge bubbles, and then exploded, spewing the smell of sulfur and rancid baked beans through the air. It smelled like I was living with my dad again!

Here’s the thing – this part of the north island has a lot of active volcanic features. And here at Waiotapu, they really force their way to the surface. It’s a fascinating landscape of mud pits, boiling ponds, sulfur pits and other weird crap that I can’t even begin to describe.

So what’s so cool about watching mud boil and splash all over? Well, if you’re from a place as extensively paved as Phoenix, it’s wonderful to get a reminder that the earth is very much still alive. That there’s change. And that, for all our technology and influence on the world, humans are just a small part of the whole. And maybe not even the main part of it all.

I forget the name of this feature - I think "Incredible Hulk's Urinal" has a ring to it, though.

I forget the name of this feature - I think "Incredible Hulk's Urinal" has a ring to it, though.

Volcanism shaped both islands, and it’s exciting to think of the awesome power marshalling below your feet as you walk on seemingly solid ground. Look around you at Waiotapu and near Rotorua: You’ll see plumes of white steam venting from the earth randomly. The Kiwis are far-sighted enough to capture some for clean, inexpensive power. But they’re also smart enough to leave it accessible for people to see. It really did something for me to be able to look closely at this and see the living earth.

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Exploding mud!

It made me feel like the world is really new. In fact, I thought of a quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as Dr. Marcus leads Admiral Kirk into the Genesis Cave: “Let me show you something that will make you feel young, as when the world was new.”

Be sure to check the super-sweet videos below – boiling mud in live action, and wind whipping steam off the Silica Flats. Awesome!

3 thoughts on “Boil and Bubble at Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, New Zealand

  1. chantel graham

    Awesome pictures! And a great write-up!
    I’ve never been to a mud pit, but now I have the sudden urge to seek one out. Smell notwithstanding, it truly is a natural wonder of our Earth. I’m so used to ‘ready-made-spas’, and parks, that it amazes me to see something so natural. We have this beautiful spa nearby called Le Nordik. It’s completely man-made, but it’s so luxurious. There are hot and cold salt water baths built into rock-like pools; and there are saunas and steam baths scattered throughout. It looks like they belong in nature, but when you look closely you can see how fabricated it all is.
    Oh well, illusion is sometimes necessary….

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