Our day trip out of Rotorua turned out to be a personal tour, since we were the only ones signed up. Our guide drove us southeast out of town and we were soon on a long, straight road through monoculture forests. This is timber country.
After almost an hour, we were in the Whirinaki Forest and back in the bush. This park is known for its podocarp forest and its amazingly tall trees. We took the Forest Sanctuary loop track.
Robbie knew a lot about plants and pointed out a few that we might have otherwise overlooked. This is an umbrella moss.
This is a royal fern. If you look closely you will see that the fronds come out from a base that looks a bit like a crown.
This fern has baby ferns growing out of the fronds. I wish I remembered what it's called...
And this is the iconic nikau palm.
We spent a fair amount of time listening and watching for birds, and we did hear lots of keas. We even saw one flapping from tree to tree, but I don't think I got a good enough look to actually claim it. Otherwise we saw robins, fantails and grey warblers (I think).
After walking for an hour plus, it was back in the van to head to thermal country. Here's Robbie welcoming us.
This view down the valley hints at what's to come: wisps of steam from thermal vents, poisonously colored water, and heat.
Inferno Crater was the most beautiful of all. It was actually named "Gates of the Inferno" by the nineteenth century explorers. Not only is the water this exquisite shade of blue, but the water ebbs and flows like a tide. Caution: the water is between 35 and 75 degrees Centigrade (95-200 Fahrenheit), hence the steam.
The other pools were not as beautiful but had an eerie appeal of their own.
After our walk through the valley, we boarded a boat that circled Lake Rotomahana. It was timed just right for us to witness a few geysers erupting right on cue.
The acid yellow outcroppings reminded me of dragon tails. Add in the iron-colored hillside and the wisps of steam, and you have a good look at this weird landscape.