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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3 (July 1, 1933)

New Zealand's Best Scenic Feature

page 21

New Zealand's Best Scenic Feature

The following article was awarded the £5 cash prize in the Magazine's recent competition upon “New Zealand's Best Scenic Feature.”

(Rly. Publicity photo.) The Great Wairakei Geyser.

(Rly. Publicity photo.)
The Great Wairakei Geyser.

New Zealand has charms enough and beauty-spots without number, but for sheer diablerie of attraction and weird entertainment I should give the palm to Wairakei's Wonder Valley. A veritable Devil's Playground is this sinister mile or so of sulphurous rock, belching steam and boiling fountains. Vicious miniature geysers seethe and bubble furiously in shallow geysers seethe and bubble furiously in shallow rock-pockets, and the whole valley is an inferno of heat and activity, sizzling, simmering, rumbling like Hell's Kitchen.

The show piece is the great Wairakei Geyser which plays regularly, first forming a boiling whirl-pool until, in a whitened frenzy of rising water, she springs out of her cauldron in a glittering column of hissing spray and filmy clouds of steam, leaping, roaring, ringed with rainbows, like a mad Maenad tossing her white tresses.

There are many marvels, some beautiful, others terrible; the Champagne Pool, forever agitated with bursting bubbles and bells of foam, convulsively shuddering and heaving, and every now and then tormented by some invisible urge into a snowy explosion; the Devil's Ink Pot, a viscid black pool; cheerful little 1924 briskly bubbling, born during the Taupo earthquake of that year; a ring of simmering mud lakelets, white, cream, grey-blue, known as the Beauty Shop; the Eagle's Nest, a geyser cone built up of fallen sticks and twigs encrusted with sparkling white sinter, whose perfect tiny crater erupts in a glistening little geyser every few minutes. The Dragon's Mouth is a frightful rocky gap like the jagged jaws of some fabulous monster, out of whose crimson throat issue sulphurous jets of steam and strange muffled rumblings.

Deep down in the Pool of the Dancing Stone, a boiling cauldron forever in restless motion, a great solid looking boulder is seen to rise and sink like a bouncing ball, once, twice, thrice—until the seething pool with a rush and a roar flings itself into the air in flashing explosions of spray and steam. Lovely are the three Fairy Pools, turquoise, pale blue and milky white, and the Boiling Waterfall pouring down a terraced slope in steaming cascades, encrusting the rocks with gold and coral-coloured deposits. Wairoa Valley, or the Rainbow Mile, is like a monster artist's palette splashed with many-coloured steaming pools, sea-green, salmon-pink or claret colour, while a golden water-fall pours itself over a terrace of siliceous rock.

An isolated marvel is the Fumarole or Karapiti Blowhole, where forever and forever a tall snowy column of vapour pours forth, its spectral shape wavering like a smoke-plume in the wind. Sir James Hector declares this great steam-vent to be the safety-valve for the North Island. This infernal steam-blast is an awe-inspiring sight billowing out of a nine-inch opening in the earth and mushrooming out in a snow-white cloud, while far below imprisoned waters boil and fret in impotent frenzy. Its sultry breath is like the snoring of the sea-wind in the crags and crannies of a wave-fretted cliff, and it beats upon the face like the blast of the sirocco, dry and withering, fierce and terrible.