The landscape in New Zealand was incredibly varied. In a single afternoon, we could drive through green pastures and rolling hills, expansive tussock grasslands, and forests befitting the Jurassic period. We couldn’t have imagined that this would only be a sampling of all the scenery New Zealand would show us.
Our temporary base was near the National Park. Most visitor there came for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, one of New Zealand’s most spectacular tramping-tracks, also known as the filming site of Mordor. Due to the freezing weather and my wariness towards the serious hike, we declined the 19.5 kilometer/12 mile trek.
After breezing through our travel guide for alternative, near-by attractions, something quickly caught my eye- Craters of the Moon. I nearly skipped the description, due to the irresistible name. If you were to ask David or myself if we’d go to outer space, being aware of all its hazards, we would always say yes. This being said, we were on our way to the Moon.
We arrived at the scenic reserve to find a stretch of land smoking like a city rooftop-view in winter. Scores of geothermal vents were exhaling puffs of steam, as pockets of boiling mud spotted the soil. Strolling along the protective wooden walkway, minding the danger signs for "unstable thermal areas," we passed through intermittent steambaths and clouds lightly perfumed by sulfur.
Our amusement level peaked even higher once we found the giant craters. The largest was a huge scoop of earth brimming with gurgling and bubbling puddles of mud, swirls of hissing steam, and curious colors. Another crater was a cauldron brewing a thick, muddy potion. The sights were unbelieveable. I felt like a wizard was surely nearby.
Whether we felt like we were in a fantastical land of magic, on the moon, or some other planet, New Zealand’s sights were impressive and surprising. And, what was more unbelievable, was that this was simply the beginning.