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July 28, 2001
Rotorua: geothermal wonderland (Russell)

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The four of us at Cathedral Rocks
(It used to be called "The Pinnacles" until the side of it blew off during an eruption)

Rotorua, in the center of NZ's North Island, is a hotbed (get it?) of earthquake and geothermal activity.  At parks and playgrounds, there are fissures spitting out sulfur steam and bubbling pools of hot mud.  People find these things springing up in the middle of their backyards.

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Kiurau park and playground

Because we had only one full day in Rotorua, we opted to take an all-day narrated bus tour of the highlights.  Cameron was very interested because he has studied volcanoes in school.  Joss spent the entire day whining loudly that he was starving to death -- until lunchtime, when he decided that he didn't want to eat anything.  Gail and Russell were reminded of why people hate to see little kids on tours.

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Gail, feeling like a tourist
Cameron and Joss, feeling tired, hungry, and bored

At Wai-O-Tapu Scenic Reserve, we saw rainbows of colored rocks caused by different mineral deposits.  Joss embarked on a mission to collect a sample of each color.  We also saw the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts faithfully at 10:15 every morning (mainly because they prime it -- with soap -- to do so).

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Joss (holding one of his rocks) and a steam pot
The Lady Knox Geyser

Waimangu Volcanic Valley had stunning vistas of huge lakes created by volcanic activity, as well as beautiful rivers and streams where the water was near boiling.  Nearby was a planted grove of -- of all things -- California redwoods.

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A shimmering, iridescent pool of arsenic
A rainbow-banked stream of boiling water

The boys did much better at the Buried Village, where we were able to walk and sightsee at our own pace.  This site holds the excavated remains of a village that was completely buried in mud by the Terawara earthquake of 1887.  We took the long walk (101 steps) down to the foot of the waterfall, and bought food to feed the fish and pigs.

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A Maori house uncovered from 5 feet of mud
Russell at the foot of the waterfall
Feeding the pigs

After the long day of walking, we finally treated ourselves to the hot tub mineral bath that we missed the night before.  We came out relaxed, rejuvenated, and smelling strongly of sulfur.

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The boys, happily at play again

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