Midday on Friday I left GNS in Avalon, New Zealand to make my way to Auckland to board ship for the science cruise. U.S. personnel had to report on Saturday (we do not leave port until Tuesday), so I only have ~1.5 days to explore and made my way Auckland.
I left GNS in a bit of a hurry. The weather in the area had been quite terrible. There was lots of flooding and some of the heaviest rain seen here in quite some time. Within ~30 minutes of my drive to Taupo, where I was couch surfing for the night, I was stopped on Motorway 1 for over an hour. I literally turned the car off and just sat there.
Once we started moving the drive went relatively smoothly, minus the incredible amount of rain I drove through. At times the roads were quick windy but after ~250 miles and ~5.5 hours I finally made it to Lake Taupo. I arrived at a stranger’s house to crash on the couch for the night (thank you couch surfing). My host made dinner; I brought wine, and we just relaxed for the evening with some of his friends. We discussed traveling and his upcoming trip to the U.S., earthquakes, and music. I really had a great evening. I recommend couch surfing to anyone who is just looking for a place to crash for an evening.
After my host made brekky on Saturday I continued my journey to Auckland. First stop was Lake Taupo, which is New Zealand’s super volcano, similar to the U.S.’s Yellowstone. The primary difference is Taupo has a lake in its caldera. Another interesting difference – there are a lot of people that inside the Taupo. I am not going to lie, sleeping there was a bit unsettling for me. But I digress, before I left the house I was a bit concerned that I would be greeted by another bad day of weather, but as I loaded my car I was pleasantly surprised –clear blue sky! I will admit – I was quite lucky to have such a beautiful to do some exploring because the rest of the week had been S#!T.
Next was a short stop at Haku Falls. I visited the Falls last time I was in New Zealand, but apparently never transferred my photos. 20,000 liters of water flow over the falls every second. The sea green of the water is beautiful. The sound of the water rushing over the falls is intoxicating. THEN the sound of a stupid, little jet boat-like watercraft doing loops at the base of the Falls…ugh! I realize it is a money-maker, but it really does ruin the beauty of the falls.
My next stop was the Orakei Korako Geothermal area; 1 of 5 geothermal areas between Taupo and Rotorua. I chose this location because of it was described as the 1 of 2 places in the world where caves existed within a geothermal field. I was slightly confused when I arrived because the “visitor center” was on a lakeshore, but it turned out a short boat ride was required to actually access Orakei Korako. I contemplated whether to do the 1-1.5 hour walk because of time, but decided I should see at least one geothermal field, and this one was supposed to be special. The walk was quite easy, but worth every moment. The colors were spectacular, and there were mud pots at the end of the trail, which I find fascinatingly beautiful and unique. A quick look at the time on my return across the lake told me I had to keep moving; I wanted to be in Auckland before dark.
After driving to 2 other geothermal fields without stopping to explore due to time constraints I decided to drive out of the way to stop by Rotorua. I had no idea what to expect when I arrived, I had simply heard it was a must see and that there was a lake in the caldera. When arrived I all I saw was a quaint, little town. A quick look at my GPS showed the lake was nearby. The caldera is very unassuming at only 950ft; it was hard to believe it was a volcano…that is until I opened the car door! Holy rotten eggs Batman – there was a pungent smell of sulfur in the air. Sulfur deposits were everywhere and there was heat coming from the lake. As I was taking in the beautiful scenery (and smell), I heard a bubbling nearby. I turned to find water bubbling out of the sand (see the video below). The Earth’s natural forces never cease to amaze me – it always takes my breath away (and not because of the smell) and I am in constant awe of its power.
After a short stop in Rotorua, I knew I had to get to Auckland ASAP. It was not long before my 120 miles journey to port than I received an email from the chief scientist emailed to inform me U.S. personnel (those who had to be on ship by May 16) decided to eat on ship, but go out for drinks afterwards. I knew I would not make it in time for dinner, but I hoped to make it in time for drinks (I am a geologist after all!!).
I drove much faster than I should have, made up ~30 minutes on the road, and made it to Auckland, and ship, just in time for drinks. I quickly loaded my suitcases on board (with the help of the captain and a crew member), quickly caught up with my scientist friends and we headed to the nearest bar to celebrate one of the young scientist’s permanent position and what would be our 3rd to last night of drinking before settling into life on a boat (and no booze) for a month.
I already missed GNS, but I looked forward to a month at sea. I know I will spend the next month learning new research techniques, and thinking about the Hikurangi and other subduction zones in ways I have not thought about before, which is why I fell in love with science in the first place!!!