White Island

8pm 25th October

With a bit of will power we were able to get up on time this morning. That and the promise of a decent cooked breakfast at the café; annexed to the boat tour place. Well, I say annexed, but really it’s the same enterprise; motel, café; and boat cruise. We later discovered all the staff multi-skill — the main tour guide was a receptionist from the motel — what a cool job!

Anyway, the breakfast was all that was promised — a good, tasty cooked breakfast, perfect for lining the stomach before a hour and a half’s boat ride. After signing our lives away (again!) on a waiver for the dangers on the island, we were loaded onto the boat and sent off on our way to White Island. The ride was pretty bumpy, but luckily Ness and I were both okay. Ness had some acupressure travel sickness bands on which seemed to help (hard to tell I say) and I was fine so long as I could see the horizon. To that end we spent the outgoing journey on the outside of the boat near the front. Lovely views and crashing waves all around us. We got a bit wet from time to time, but in the sea air breeze we soon dried off.

After an hour or so we reached White Island — a giant volcanic island. It was home to several sulphur mines in its time but is now defunct as each one in turn was either blown up by the volcano, washed away by a landslide or just plain went bankrupt. All that remains of the mine is a few bits of wall and some very rusty equipment.

The island was a cornucopia of vulcanicity: Geysers, hot pools, boiling springs, steaming ground, bubbling mud — everything. It was on a colossal scale compared to the activity we’d seen in Rotorua. Throughout the couple of hours we spend on the island our guide gave us an excellent explanation of what we were seeing. Lots of scientific activity on the island too — cameras and marker pegs which are regularly measured to see how the island changes. And change it does — our guide had only been taking parties to the island for 6 months and she was describing the differences in the island over her relatively short experience, pretty stunning. One whole side of the main crater is now a no-go zone, whereas before parties were led all about it. All together a fantastic experience.

The boat ride back was great — we saw some fur seals on a rock outcrop of the island, then headed back. Again we were out the front of the boat. Well, for some of the journey. I provided some entertainment for the entire boat by going down the wrong side of the boat at the wrong time. A giant bow wave soaked me through and continued to soak me as I frantically tried to prise the cabin door open. By the time I had gotten in I was absolutely drenched and everyone was laughing (as was I!) Not long after that we decided to come back inside, where we whiled away the rest of the journey talking to another couple (a Brit and a Yank) who were interested in our choice of transport. Once safely docked, we showed them our camper van: I got the feeling they were quite jealous of us!

We’ve now pulled up in a camp site just outside Matamata — where the Shire from the Lord of the Rings was filmed. Tomorrow we’re going to try to get on one of the tours around what remains of the film set (not a lot!) Whatever, the scenery on the drive here was fantastic — the vista of the Matamata plains from the hills as we passed over them was fantastic.

Filed under: New Zealand Trip
Posted at 09:10:17 BST on 25th October 2006.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.