ROTORUA, New Zealand — “How hot do you think it gets?” I asked my husband. He simply gestured to the billowing clouds of steam swirling around our private spa pool in the Waikite Valley. An attendant had showed us how to control the temperature of the silky water cascading down a three-level fountain. The hot, she said, came directly from underground springs at a steady rate; we could adjust the flow of mechanically cooled water. I turned the cold tap off. Within seconds the temperature in the pool rose dramatically.
The spa was our last stop on a tour of geysers, hot springs, and bubbling mud pools along New Zealand’s Thermal Explorer Highway. We had seen fantastic landscapes in psychedelic colors, heard the primordial burp of boiling mud, witnessed the incredible power of superheated water erupting from deep within the earth, and visited a village where native Maori still use that power to heat their homes and cook their food.