Very close to Rotorua is a place called Whakarewarewa and part of Whakarewarewa probably houses one of the world’s most unique “housing estates”.
Ok, so it’s not exactly a “housing estate” at all, but rather a small community of houses that are quite literally right on top of an active geothermal area full of steam vents, geysers, and pools of boiling mud and water.
I’ll go into more detail shortly, but this is a very special community to live in indeed.
A Caldera http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caldera is the remnant of a large collapsed volcanic structure and often additional volcanoes and vents open up after the caldera has formed, this has happened in Whakarewarewa, many areas surrounding Rotorua , Yellowstone National Park in the USA, Lake Toba in Indonesia, and Santorini in Greece to name but a few.
Often these caldera regions are accompanied by some amazing geological land features and Rotorua’s were amongst the most impressive of them all… Pink and White terraces had formed, filled with hot water and very distinctively coloured by minerals in the water.
So… Why aren’t New Zealand’s Pink and White Terraces attracting the world’s Press and tourists today? The easy answer is: because it’s impossible to make a tourist attraction out of something that no longer exists.
They were obliterated by a volcanic eruption in 1886.
The texts from several of the information notices tell me:
Pre 1886 : Te Tarata (Pink Terraces) and Otukapuarangi (White Terraces) at Rotomahana Lake were attracting visitors from Europe in the early 1880′s . Te Paea Hinerangi (guide Sophia) and Kate Middlemass (Guide Kate) were already well known as guides who took visitors to the terraces from Te Wairoa Village.
On the night of June 10th, 1886 the eruption of mounts Wahanga, Ruawahia and Tarawere bought devastation to the Pink and White Terraces and to the Villages and homes around Lakes Rotomahana and Tatawera. Over 60 people sheltered in Guide Sophia’s home at Te Wairoa Village which managed to with stand the power of the eruption. Sophia moved to Whakarewarewa where she continued to guide well into her old age.
A classic case of Mother Nature gives and Mother Nature takes away… there are theories that more of the terraces might exist deep below the surface of Lake Rotomahana, but one thing is for sure… this entire area is full of exciting geothermal wonders… or a geological time-bomb, depending on how you do your geological maths.