The Lake Taupo Region
Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon
Tuesday, February 9
Owing to our late return the previous night from our Hawke's Bay cycling adventure, we decided to let the wake-up time slide a bit. The weather for today, in any case, wasn't looking that great, so we were in no huge rush to charge up some high peak to see the views. It would actually have been a good day to go visit the Waitomo glow-worm caves, them being underground and all, but my sense of the mood of the group was that they were more interested in a low-key day.
That meant staying near our AirBNB house, keeping things more local. Fortunately, there is much to see in the local area around Lake Taupo.
Morning lunch prep
Lori, Caroline, and Jenn very generously prepared another set of sandwiches for all of us for today (they did the same thing the day before, too). With our food needs covered, we turned our attention to activities. Andy and Andrea were keen to check out the local Craters of the Moon mountain bike park. The rest of us were also interested in Craters of the Moon, but in this case, the actual geothermal area for which the nearby mountain bike park was named.
After sorting out the vans (Andy and Andrea in one, the rest of us in the other), we headed off separately. The Craters of the Moon area is only a few minutes drive north of the town of Taupo, and along the way, we noted that even on the highway's edge, there were many spots where little fumaroles and gas vents were belching out steamy puffs. This was not surprising, since the entire Lake Taupo area is part of the larger Taupo Volcanic Zone, a broad wedged shaped zone of the North Island of New Zealand that is very volcanically active, and in fact slowly spreading apart at almost 1 centimeter per year. Volcanoes, gas vents, fumaroles - all of these are to be expected, really.
Huka Falls Canyon
Before visiting the Craters of the Moon geothermal area, we stopped off along the way at Huka Falls - a major feature along the start of the Waikato River, the longest river in New Zealand.
The Waikato River is big and powerful. After all, it drains the entirety of Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake. Running through a narrow canyon before plunging over a couple of drops, the flow of water at Huka Falls is impressive. The exceptionally clear blue (almost turquoise) water in combination with the very robust flow make for a powerful natural scene.
Huka Falls Canyon (downstream)
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Huka Falls - click map to view
After visiting Huka Falls, another few more minutes driving north from Taupo brought us to the entrance of the privately-run Craters of the Moon geothermal area. After paying the $7 NZD entrance fee, we began the walking tour of the geothermal field.
The Craters of the Moon geothermal field is actually fairly new. The area started showing signs of geothermal activity only in the 1950s, and it is strongly suspected that the cause was a lowering of groundwater pressure due to the commencement of operation of the nearby Wairakei geothermal power station.
Many of us had been to geothermal features at other places in the world (Yellowstone, Hawai'i, Iceland), and the sights, sounds, and smells - although always interesting - were somewhat familiar. Still, it never gets old to see and feel indications of the tremendous heat trapped within the earth (about 50% of which is primordial, meaning left over from the very formation of the planet).
Exploring the geothermal area
We wandered amongst the various features. Mostly they were of the fumarole variety, with clouds of rotten-eggy smelling steam issuing forth. We didn't really see anything of the bubbling mudpool or hot water pool variety.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Craters Geothermal Area - click map to view
Hike Data - Craters of Moon Geothermal Area
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet