Tikitere, near Rotorua
Before going to New Zealand I had thought that Rotorua was a small town with one thermal park to visit. Turns out I was completely wrong! Rotorua is actually a small city and there are different thermal areas you can visit. Having a friend in New Zealand who could steer me in the right direction, Hells Gate was recommended to me as the one to visit.
It turns out that Hells Gate is the most active of Rotorua's geothermal parks. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw upon visiting the site, gave it its name Hells Gate, apparently when he saw it he thought he had arrived at the gates of Hell!
There is a mud spa attached to the park and you can bathe in the thermal pools. Be warned the smell of sulphur is very strong! You and your clothes end up smelling of it!
Geothermal pool with the mud spa in the background.
The whole area is a smoking, bubbling, heaving mass!
Between the two rather barren looking areas of geothermal activity there is a green area which is a respite from the starkness of the landscape.
These are the Kakahi Falls, the water in the falls is hot, about 40 degrees Celsius. (Apparently the temperature of a nice hot shower!) Maori warriors used to come to the falls to bathe themselves from the blood of battle! The sulphur in the water was good for their wounds.
I was surprised to see hydrangeas in what is a native vegetation area. Reading the information guide, it seems that hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and azaleas were planted over 100 years ago by the local Maori to signify the special relationship between themselves and the Europeans.
This bubbling mass is called the Devil's Cauldron.
A baby mud volcano, every so often, the mud at the top erupts, it falls on the side and that's how the volcano grows.
The water in this particular pool is so hot that it's boiling furiously, the water is literally leaping up into the air.
Steam from the thermal pools, there are signs everywhere to stay on the path, warning of the extremely high temperatures in the pools.
The yellow areas are deposits of dried sulphur around the pools.
I'll be honest and state that visiting a geothermal park was not my favourite experience that I had during my trip to New Zealand. I had wanted to visit one and that's why I went to Rotorua, but I found the smell of the sulphur really overpowering and unpleasant. Hells Gate was really interesting and would agree that it's a great geothermal park to visit and there's so many different things to see, for anyone wanting to experience Rotorua's thermal activities, this would be the place to go.
Hells Gate is about 15km from Rotorua's town centre, the area is called Tikitere, it was easy to find and well signposted from the main road from Rotorua. (Having a GPS made it even easier to find!)