Having visited Heaven’s Gate while in Sa Pa, I thought I’d complete the set over here with a trip to Hell’s Gate. A localised collection of sulphurous deposits, steam baths, minature volcanos and boiling mudpools this site is run by Maoris and is historically of great importance to them. Many of the pools within it were named by George Bernard Shaw when he visited the area – in fact it was he who christened the area Hell’s Gate.
What could be a boring collection of rocks with some steam coming out from under them simply isn’t. There are many different pools of varying sizes, hot rocks, huge steam baths, mud pools, geysers that are regular as clockwork (another park nearby has one that erupts at 10:40am every day), a beautiful steam-enshrouded waterfall. Some of the pools are uniformly hot, others have hot and cool areas. Some are full of chemicals, others virtually pure. There is one which reaches over 100 degrees celsius as a result of the impurities in it. Another maintains a steady 98 degrees and can be used to cook a whole pig in under 2 hours. In fact, towards the end of the walk there is an area where visitors can purchase raw food and cook it in the steam and hot water. There is also a mud spa where you can bathe in the stuff. Apparently it’s good for the skin, and also for curing those nasty little scrapes and gaping wounds you get in day to day combat as a Maori warrior.
The only downside was that about halfway around, my camera batteries started to give up the ghost. Then the replacements failed after half a dozen pictures. Heading back into town (via the lake until the rain started) I bought a bunch of new ones for about half the UK price from one of the few shops open. Kiwis don’t open up their shops on a Sunday even to the paltry extent we do back home.
Courtesy of the heavens opening, we opted not to visit the other steamy water park and returned to the KiwiPaka via KFC (mmm… double bacon cheeseburger!). The afternoon was spent chilling out and catching up on postards, blogs and so forth. Gradually, the rain eased and we walked back into town.
Tonight we went to Freo’s, where we’d intended to go the previous night, and had another nice meal. Again, far too much food was provided, I know why the Irish had a potato famine – the Kiwis have all the damn things. Or at least it seems that way when you see how many chips you get with a burger. Dessert was a mindblowing selection of fresh fruits and sorbets (blackcurrant, lemon and mango).
We plodged back to the hostel in time to catch the early minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean and necked some alco-fuel while we watched it. After having seen this for what now amounts to the third time, bed beckoned all to willingly.