Thursday, Jan 6.
The past few days have been so amazing, we’ve barely noticed the quality of our campsites. (Well, maybe we’re just used to it now.)
Yesterday we made the short journey from Rotorua to the Bay of Plenty.
But before leaving Rotorua, we went luging.
It was nuts.
We were each given a plastic toboggan with wheels to ride down a winding cement track.
I don’t know how it’s legal.
I slowed down at all the corners as the signs instructed, while Matt and Devan tried to run each other off the track.
But by the third run, I was getting air over the jumps.
It was pretty exhilarating, but I would say today’s activity in Whakatane takes the cake.
We went on a group tour of White Island, the only active volcano in New Zealand.
It’s rated as a level one on a scale of five for its volcanic activity. According to our guide it would be a higher threat if it was closer inland.
The island is an hour-and-a-half boat ride through the sea. It was a rough trip for some – at one point there was 12 people puking on the back deck.
To be fair, we were on a smaller boat, speeding through some pretty gnarly waves.
Matt, Devan and I felt fine for most of the trip.
It hit a low point when the smells started wafting our way and the staff began using buckets of soapy water to wash away the puke.
On a lighter note, we also passed through a pod of dolphins during the ride.
They were show offs, following the boat for about 10 minutes, jumping and swimming along side us.
Besides the dolphins, pulling up to the volcano’s crater made the journey worth while for everyone.
Stepping onto the island was like landing on Mars.
The ground was rocky, the air was filled with plumes of white smoke and the crater’s jagged edges enclosed us in a circle.
While there were a few patches of green on the crater’s outskirts, the centre was full of red rocks, a thin layer of yellow sulphur, and dark bubbling mud.
Crater Lake, in the volcano’s centre, was a florescent green. It’s one of the most acidic lakes in the world.
White Island wasn’t only visually stimulating – it was smelly.
It reeked of sulphur.
The island used to be mined for sulphur until a landslide in 1914 killed 10 workers.
Everyone on the tour was given a gas mask and hard-hat before stepping foot on land.
The masks helped us breathe without coughing.
The hardhats were a form of protection incase of an explosion. The island doesn’t give off lava – it has an explosive eruption, shooting out rocks and ash.
I would say this experience is one of the coolest yet.