North Island volcanoes and geothermal areas: Auckland view from Mount Victoria … Piha … Approaching White Island … Mud geyser … Fumaroles … Crater Lake … Sulphur factory ruins … Whakarewarewa … Mount Ngauruhoe … Tongariro Crossing … Red Crater … Heading downhill … Tongariro and Ngauruhoe
After the conference in Australia, I headed for New Zealand, to visit my friends John and Juliet who'd moved there at the same time as I'd moved to Chile in 2011. We took a drive around Auckland on the evening I arrived.
We went to Piha, an hour's drive from Auckland, and climbed Lion Rock.
We went on a road trip around the North Island, and spent a few days in Rotorua. While we were there we took a trip out to White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano.
The island was pretty epic, with lots of geothermal activity in the crater. The volcano had erupted in 2012 and 2013 so it was definitely possible that another eruption was imminent.
There were fumaroles everywhere, steaming and roaring and building up the sulphur deposits that used to be mined on the island.
White Island's viciously acidic crater lake has a negative pH apparently.
White Island was too volcanic for sulphur mining to be viable in the long run. Factory owners probably don't mind too much if their workers are swept out to sea by pyroclastic flows - workers can be replaced - but if the factory itself keeps getting destroyed, that's a deal breaker.
Back in Rotorua, we went to Whakarewarewa and saw Pohotu and Prince of Wales Feathers geysers erupting.
Near the base of Ngauruhoe's cone on the Tongariro Crossing
It had been sunny at first but then we had a complete whiteout for a bit. The sun started to come out again as we were nearing the highest point on the crossing.
It was good weather again at the top, and we relaxed in the sun on the edge of Red Crater, which last erupted in 1926.
From Red Crater we headed down. If we'd have been coming this way in summer there would have been colourful lakes on the way but they were all frozen and buried under snow.
The day after the Tongariro Crossing, we drove to Whakapapa, and stopped for a coffee with a good view at the Chateau Tongariro.