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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 5 (September 1, 1929)


Most visitors to our Geyserland region confine their travels to a few well-beaten routes. In the thermal country extending from Rotorua for a hundred miles southward there are places of wonder and beauty, still in their primitive state, which are scarcely known at all to tourists. Such a place is the Orakei-Korako Valley described in the following article.

Forty or fifty years ago the geyser valley of Orakei-Korako, on the Upper Waikato, was better known and more visited than it is today. There was a time when it was on a regular route of travel between Rotorua and Taupo. Now-a-days there are so many other places of interest accessible from Rotorua that this strange and beautiful ravine, pitted with hot springs and painted in vivid hues by thermal action, is not seen by the multitude who go to Geyserland. But its day will come again, and then maybe it will eclipse in fame some now popular scenes in the hundred-miles length of the Wai-ariki country.

Orakei-Korako is in the valley of the Waikato where it flows from the pumice plains north of Taupo into a mountain-girt region that extends nearly to Atiamuri. It is in that area between the two bridges on the Rotorua-Taupo roads, the one at Ohaki and the other at Atiamuri. Once there was a good-sized Maori village there, and visitors were put up in a large guest-house, a carved wharepuni. The place is now deserted except for the Maori guide and canoe ferryman. When its attractions become known as they should, no doubt there will be hotel accommodation there, but that time is not yet. Not only is the hot-spring valley worth the seeing, but the route from Atiamuri is, in my opinion, the finest in point of bold and craggy scenery and furious water-play in all the Rotorua-Taupo thermal zone.

You have the choice of two ways to this valley of strange sights. There is the track from the Waiotapu side by way of Paeroa hills and thermal springs to the east side of the Waikato. This was the old horseback trail in the days when Orakei-Korako was inhabited and was visited by many travellers. By this way the Alum Cave and the silica terraces are seen before the tourist crosses the river; the only ferry is a canoe, with old-timer Rameka paddling it. The other road is a much easier one, the through route from Atiamuri to Taupo or vice versa, an alternative road to the usual motor route through Oruanui and over the Tuahu range. This road, only a horse track when I first travelled it, follows the Waikato River for many miles, in fact nearly all the way between Atiamuri and Orakei-Korako—ten or eleven miles—one is alongside the river.

From Atiamuri to Taupo by the Orakei-Korako route is about 31 miles, making the total distance from Rotorua to Taupo 59 miles. This is a few miles longer than the present road via Waiotapu, but the greater distance is more than compensated for by the unusual landscapes. The main road from Atiamuri to Taupo has little interest for the traveller, beyond the fact that some small native villages are passed en route, until Wairakei is reached. It is eight miles from Orakei-Korako southward to the main road, thence 13 miles to Taupo via Wairakei.