I had heard about Craters of the Moon, but on all our visits to Taupo, we hadn’t made a visit. For me, who is not madly into jet boating, skydiving or trout fishing (all of which involve getting scared, cold or wet) Craters of the Moon rates as one of Taupo’s top tourist attractions.
First up was watching a group of school boys on a field trip, measuring the temperature of the soil adjacent to the board walk. Their readings of the temperature only 10-15cm under the surface were between 90 and 100 degrees centigrade.
I was intrigued by the raw beauty of the place. For the scientists – the signage tells me the brightly coloured clay comes from the action of condensed steam and gas (which is acidic) chemically altering the pumice soil.
One of the types of thermal activity at Craters of the Moon is mud pools. The signage tells me “These occur when steam condenses into water near the soil surface. The resulting acidic soup eats away at the surrounding rock, turning it into a soft mud that bubbles and splutters as more gas tries to escape.”
A second thermal feature is craters. “These may form when a steam vent is temporarily blocked. When it clears, the fall in pressure causes the underlying water to boil vigorously. Steam then erupts into the vent. The eruption throws pumice into the air and the surrounding soil collapses, forming the hole of the crater.”
I guess these must be fumaroles – a third geothermal feature. A fumarole is an opening from which steam and volcanic gases escape.
The volcanic plant life also caught my eye.
Our walk took about an hour. We worked up our own head of steam walking up to the top (though it looked effortless for the field trip boys). Look at this image to see how well-priced this activity is! Beautifully maintained board walks and look out points and informative signage make this outing an easy one. You go at your own pace, without intrusive guides – though do heed the warnings about sticking to the path. A big thumbs up to the awesome volunteers who keep this outing affordable.