Bubbling Rotorua – North Island, New Zealand

An Eerie, Primeval Sci-Fi Show

At steamy Rotorua, center of the intense thermal field of the Taupo Volcanic Plateau, mud pools bubble and sulfurous fumaroles hiss up through crevices in the earth’s surface, creating a bizarre geothermal spectacle that George Bernard Shaw called “the most hellish scene” he had ever witnessed.

There are bubbly “Champagne cauldrons,” hot and cold rivers, otherwordly-looking natural silica terraces, and the unpredictable Pohutu Geyser, which sprays up to 100 feet in the air – sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for several hours at a time. Rotorua is home to one third of New Zealand’s Maoris, whose legends explain the geothermal activity as a gift of fire from the gods. The area first boomed as a spa town in the 1840s, and although it’s become commercialized and unashamedly touristy, visitors have been drawn to its sometimes frightening natural wonders ever since.

If the ubiquitous smell of sulfur becomes too much, escape to the astonishingly beautiful country­side or to Solitaire Lodge, one of New Zealand’s most beautifully sited hotels: It’s built on the elevated tip of a forested promontory over­looking the magnificent, rainbow trout-rich Lake Tarawera and an extinct volcano of the same name.

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