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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62

Valley of Wairakei

Valley of Wairakei,

where we could enjoy the luxury of a swim in the hot bath, and by way of variety an immediate change into one that is deliciously cold. This is but an introduction to the wonders of this Wizard's Vale. As we cautiously pick our way along the fern track leading up the valley, we see steam issuing in puffs in all directions. Presently we come suddenly upon a mud volcano, which bubbles more or less continually, but occasionally throws up boiling mud for some feet. Then we come upon sundry geysers which play intermittently to a considerable height; one known as the Whistler makes a distinct whistling sound when in action; others are marvellous for the encrustations which are formed upon the stones, branches, and twigs, upon which they act. Then we are led to the steam hammer. We are shown a mild-looking and not over clear little lake, and are invited to stand and listen for the hammer. Suddenly a loud thud like the violent falling of some unfortunate individual from an elevation occurs, then another and another, while the very ground we stand upon vibrates as if shaken by an earthquake. These are followed by some moments of profound silence, then the hammer proceeds as before to give these intermittent blows. No one can satisfactorily explain how the sounds are produced, but the fact remains, and many superstitious tourists have taken to their heels fearing the presence of the evil one. The whole valley abounds in steam jets, fumaroles, solfataras, and geysers, but perhaps the most beautiful and remarkable is the Champagne Pool and Tuhuatahi Terrace. The latter presents in miniature the character of the marvellously curious and beautiful terraces which, however, perished in the unfortunate volcanic disturbance of June 10th, 1886.

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Although this generation may never again behold wonders on so large a scale as were the pink and white terraces there are here and there dotted about this northern wonderland, sundry terraces in course of formation, and, perhaps, one of the most beautiful is the Tuhuatahi Terrace, on which I have stood and gazed into the glistening depths of the Champagne Pool. The waters appeared constantly sparkling, and exhibiting many varied and lovely colours, while again and again the thermal action below would force up the surface into one boiling fountain several feet high, followed by a cloud of steam. Then there are numerous other wonders which time will not permit of a description, such as the Great Wairakei Sulphur Pool, the Heron's Nest, the Petrifying Geyser, Nya Mahanga (the twins), Prince of Wales' Feather, the Boilers, the Funnel, the Eagles' Nest, the White Springs, and last, but not least, the Donkey Engine. Another wonderful valley is the Wai-o-tapu, which cannot be excelled for the marvels in number and variety of its hot springs, the brilliant colouring of its lakes, the exquisite loveliness and charming weirdness of its geyser-terraced cauldrons, the satanic horrors of its endless fumaroles, which seeth and screech incessantly, the dazzling beauty of its silicious deposits, or the remarkably fantastic forms they assume. Then there is the curious Orakei Ivorako, famous for its alum caves and terraces, with numberless hot springs, and the varied forms of thermal action found elsewhere in this strangely weird district.

Before leaving the Tanpo district, we must look across the lake if our time does not permit of an excursion to the wondrous Tokanu, and the fiery mountain of Tongariro, and also Ruapehu, respectively 7,000 and 9,000 feet high. The lake is some 600 square miles in extent, and to stand on its shores and view the snowcapped mountains on the further shores, and observe the cone of Tongariro, from whence issues a small cloud of steam, is to behold a scene of strange contrast and enjoyment.