Way back in October my post titled The Unquiet Earth featured the words of J. A. Froude who was exploring New Zealand’s geothermal region around Ohinemutu and Rotorua in 1885. The poor man has been left in limbo too long and historic events of this week prompt me to take up his story where he left off.
Ohinemutu was so novel a scene that I could have stayed there indefinitely, and have found something every day new and entertaining to look at …. but our immediate business was to visit the famous [Pink and White] Terraces, the eighth wonder of the world.
The Terraces themselves were twenty-four miles off. We were to drive first through the mountains to a native village which had once been a famous missionary station, called Wairoa. There we were to sleep at an establishment affiliated to the Lake Hotel, and the next day a native boat would take us across Tarawera Lake, a piece of water as large as Rotorua, at the extremity of which the miracle of nature was to be found.
Lake Tarawera from Wairoa with the long ridge of Mount Tarawera in the background.
Twenty four miles in a horse-drawn vehicle took up most of the day but, eventually – There stood Wairoa and its inhabitants. It was late afternoon. The people were all out loafing and lying about.
“McRae’s Hotel”, or more correctly the Rotomahana Hotel, at Wairoa. Joseph McRae is standing at right with hand on hip.
In the morning we had to start early, for we had a long day’s work cut out for us. We were on foot at seven.
A one hour journey across Lake Tarawera in an open rowing boat followed. Then, led by their guide Kate and her apprentice Mari, a half mile walk on a bush track brought them to – the White Terrace in all its strangeness; a crystal staircase, glittering and stainless as if it were ice, spreading out like an open fan from a point above us on the hillside, and projecting at the bottom into a lake, where it was perhaps two hundred yards wide. The summit was concealed behind the volumes of steam rising out of the boiling fountain, from which the siliceous stream proceeded.
The stairs were about twenty in number, the height of each being six or seven feet. The floors dividing them were horizontal, as if laid out with a spirit level. They were of uneven breadth; twenty, thirty, fifty feet, or even more; each step down being always perpendicular, and all forming arcs or a circle of which the crater was the centre.
We walked, or rather waded, upwards to the boiling pool …. It was about sixty feet across, and was of unknown depth. The heat was too intense to allow us to approach the edge, and we could see little, from the dense clouds of steam which lay upon it. We were more fortunate afterwards at the crater of the second terrace.
A fixed number of minutes is allotted for each of the ‘sights’. ….. We were dragged off the White Terrace in spite of ourselves, but soon forgot it in the many and various wonders which were waiting for us.
to be continued on Thursday…..