Dec. 4, 2012
To add to the uniqueness of this park, there was a large group of young men, Maori, learning and practicing a, well, I’m not sure if it’s a haka (the traditional Maori preparing for battle dance) or some other war dance – this is the dance over two crossed sticks, with some kicking back the feet and hopping in and out of the quadrants and pivoting on one foot and some more flicking back of the feet. The oldest man sat on a tree root and supervised; the next oldest man seemed to be the instructor (and he had the facial tattoos, minus the forehead lines which denote battles won). The young men learning the steps were mostly in their twenties, some doing a better job than others, all very energetic. When they finished the practice, they went to one of the hot tubs in the park, all sat with their feet in the tub, and the man with the facial tattoos closed his eyes and began a chant, after some explanation to the class. I didn’t hear what he said, but I have to say the chanting sounded something like Hebrew liturgy – not exactly the chromatic scale but not off key, just a different scale, a chanted melody rather than complex, and the language is alternating consonant-vowel, always ending on the vowel. Somehow strangely familiar, and all I could think was that it sounded sort of like synagogue.
After that, we drove around a bit, trying to recharge the new battery while looking for a not-to-pricey holiday park, but they all seemed to be more than we wanted to pay. We finally found an area about 25 km south of Rotorua, the turn off for where we’re headed tomorrow morning – a “geothermal wonderland” with craters, geysers, mud pools, steaming pits, all that. Had dinner at the tavern, chatted with the owner, he said okay to our freedom camping in the parking lot.
Then we took off to see the nearby mud pools. This is one of those geological features that seems to be straight from the moon – a huge field of mud and water, burping and belching and shooting mud in weird shapes, making mini volcanoes and islands out of the mud and then exploding into showers of mud and starting all over again. Seriously, it sounds like a class of 7th grade boys making every rude noise they ever imagined (and trust me, I know 7th grade boys well!). At the same time, it’s really funny, because you’ll see a flat island start to bulge and then schlooooopft! It explodes and mud goes flying and it might explode several times, in increasing violence and sound, until it settles down for a few minutes. Then multiply that by twenty or thirty or fifty of these explosive mounds, and you have the mud pools.
My favorite was a flat island about 10-15 feet from the edge of the pit, which would sit dormant for about five minutes. Then it would give off a few little spurts and sputters, suddenly spout and explode and shoot mud everywhere, to the point that it actually would explode itself apart into nothingness – then suddenly it would burble back to the surface, a flat little island, and sit quietly for another five or ten minutes until it would bubble and burble itself apart again. It was almost like watching a fast-motion film of a volcano being created – very cool! I watched it create and disappear over and over again – the only thing that stopped me was the rain, which somehow sped up the mud explosions.
I know, boiling hot mud and steam doesn’t sound as if it could capture anyone’s attention for very long – but seriously, this was mesmerizing stuff! It was funny and weird and other-worldly with just a hint of gross in there! Plus trying to catch one of these mid-explosion took a great deal of concentration and patience (and steady hands and quick reflexes).
And remember to click on photos if you want to see them enlarged - the exploding mud really is funny when big!