Kakahi Falls was our waterfalling excuse to check out the Hell’s Gate Thermal Reserva and Spa. What made this waterfall different from most of the others we had seen was that it was said to be the tallest thermal waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m not certain if this lofty claim was true or not because this waterfall was barely 12m high, and later on in our November 2004 trip to New Zealand, we would see a much taller waterfall along the Tongariro Crossing whose stream was also a geothermically-heated stream. In any case, the hot sulphurous waters of Kakahi Falls were said to be traditionally used by the Maori for bathing and healing. During our visit, the falls were off limits for bathing.
To get to the waterfall, Julie and I paid our $25 NZD fee per adult (as of November 2004) to enter the facility, then explore the geothermal reserve that consisted of bubbling mud pools, acidic lakes, sulphur fumaroles, and roaring sinter cones. The thermal features had colourful names like the Devil’s Bath, Baby Adam, Sulphur Bath, Inferno, and Spraying Pool, among others. So that kind of attested to the hellish nature of these features. We definitely were content with seeing the features while not coming close to touching them.
We eventually took a signed spur to Kakahi Falls where we went on a short native bush walk past the Cold Water Pond before reaching the lookout resulting in the photo you see at the top of this page. Back on the main path, we actually kept going on the loop walk to the backside of the Hell’s Gate reserve going through the steamy and seemingly desolate Sulphur Crystal Valley, which had more features with names like the Devil’s Throat, Devil’s Cauldron, the Mud Volcano, Steaming Cliffs, Hot Sulphur Lakes, the Cooking Pool, and the pale green Sulphur Lake. Indeed, with such place names, it made us wonder if we really were experiencing Hell on Earth.
From the SH30/SH30A junction at the east end of Rotorua, we headed east on the SH30 (Te Ngae Rd). About 10km east of the SH30/SH30A junction along the eastern shores of Lake Rotorua, the SH30 and SH33 made a junction. We veered to the right at this junction to remain on the SH30, and then after about 5km, we saw the Hell’s Gate facility just before Lake Rotakawau Rd.
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