Hell’s Gate, aptly named so by the Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, was a very foreign sight for me. First there was the constant smell of sulfur, reminder of the underlying volcanic activity of the region. While the temperature of the air was excruciatingly warm, it couldn’t beat the temperature of the different bodies of water and their dangerously acidic content, some at temperature surpassing 100 degrees Celsius and at a pH of 1 (pH in the range of sulfuric acid).
(Excessively hot water made for steamy pools.)
There was not really much life going around that specific area, with its stones turned yellow from sulfur deposits. I was more specifically impressed with a pool that was around 6 meters deeps as well as a mud volcano.
(Stones had yellowish and redish coloration.)
The mud volcano actually is continually growing and erupts at a frequency of approximately every six weeks, when it projects mud at a radius of about 5 meters. As fascinating as I find this, I was glad it didn’t erupt as I was standing beside it looking on.
We finished our visit with mud and sulfur baths. While it left my skin soft, my eyes did not agree with it. Don’t worry, I did have better sense than to dunk my head underwater, but the the fumes were quite enough to irritate my eyes and force me to leave. I spent the rest of the day reaching for the eyedrops bottle and avoiding sunlight. While the baths had a very clear relaxing potential, it didn’t work for me (seems like one in ten persons will react the way I did). However, I really loved the walk through the thermal springs’ park and would highly recommend it, even though my clothes smelled like rotten eggs for a few days afterward and I had to buy ammonia to wash my bathing suit.
(Yes, this mud is actually boiling)
I should also mention its traditional value for the Maori’s community, where they used
the water for different purposes, including healing their battle wounds. However, as you walk the trail, you are not constantly reminded of this fact. There are of course a few explanations of the names of the different pools, but they do not beat you over the head with it. So as you walk around the place, keep in mind that this is an important place for the Maoris and it is full of significance.
Oh and do stop at the carving workshop. It’s a nice way to finish your walk and it makes for a nice token to bring home.
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