Buried but Never Forgotten

Buried but Never Forgotten

Day tripping to Te Wairoa ‘Buried Village’ and Waimangu Volcanic Valley

You don’t have to travel far to stand amidst a buried village or a wonder of the world. Just a hop, skip and jump from Taupō or Tauranga, both Waimangu Valley – home to the famous pink and white terraces, situated on Lake Rotomahana – and the Buried Village, on the edge of Lake Tarawera, are within easy driving distance. And, both are hallmarks of the 1886 Mount Tarawera eruption, which obliterated villages and changed landscapes and lives forever.

Alive and kicking

“The valley didn’t exist until the eruption that buried the terraces, making it the youngest geothermal system in the world,” explains Tom Worsp of Destination Rotorua.

“It’s constantly changing which makes it a truly unique place to experience.”

The birthplace of tourism in New Zealand, hundreds would travel to marvel and swim in the healing waters of the terraces. Today they are abuzz with a different sort of activity.

“Cornel de Ronde of GNS Science plans to send a manned submersible below the surface of Lake Rotomahana in the near future –so it’s keeping interest piqued. People are excited to visit an area where history’s still unfolding before our eyes.”

And such beauty there is to behold above ground too. On any given day, visitors play witness to Frying Pan Lake – one of the largest hot water springs in the world – this inferno crater lake rises and falls as it heats and cools. Alongside, delicate sinter terraces grow from the deposits of the hot spring water. Patterning the way, are rare and unusual plants which have adapted to grow on the hot earths of Waimangu, and all sitting amongst regenerating native forests.

“Cornel de Ronde of GNS Science plans to send a manned submersible below the surface of Lake Rotomahana in the near future –so it’s keeping interest piqued. People are excited to visit an area where history’s still unfolding before our eyes.”

And such beauty there is to behold above ground too. On any given day, visitors play witness to Frying Pan Lake – one of the largest hot water springs in the world – this inferno crater lake rises and falls as it heats and cools. Alongside, delicate sinter terraces grow from the deposits of the hot spring water. Patterning the way, are rare and unusual plants which have adapted to grow on the hot earths of Waimangu, and all sitting amongst regenerating native forests.

Up close and personal

When visiting the village – or the valley – it’s the feeling of ‘real’ that echoes from every nook and cranny. A walk through Te Wairoa Village’s 12 acre archaeological site – with excavated ruins and reconstructed sites – is surreal and breath-taking, you see and feel first-hand the catastrophic effects of natural disaster.And the unknown has a place too, reminds Tom. “For me, there will always be intrigue around the Mount Tarawera eruption and adding to this is the story of the phantom waka that was seen on Lake Tarawera just days before the eruption,” he says.

“There’re certain journeys and places you just need to experience in person to truly understand what once was.”

Tour your way

Thanks to specially developed augmented reality apps and multimedia tour guides – one launched by Waimangu Volcanic Valley, and Te Wairoa’s Mozivision – visitors to the valley and village can now tailor their choice of touring and venturing even more.“You can see the lay of the land as it was and the pink and white terraces below the surface of the water,” says Tom.

“And Mozivision personally guides you through the excavated sites – no guess work involved.”

Waimangu in focus

  • Waimangu is the world’s youngest geothermal valley.
  • Exploration is not limited and there are plenty of ways to tour Waimangu – self-guided and guided – think nature walks, hikes, and lake cruises, interpretive signage, technology and map guides.
  • The valley is home to 22 crater lakes.
  • The most famous ‘must do’ is a visit to Frying Pan Lake.

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