Thoughts on a postcard – volcanic land

This is about my New Zealand bus trip from Tauranga to Hastings, at the end of June last year.

The map told me I’d be travelling through the heart of volcano land. I imagined towering peaks, and dark valleys, with the bus winding along a lonely road, cold in the shadows. Well, I was wrong.

Our bus trip, especially the Rotorua to Taupō section was volcanic – but it wasn’t the lofty, Vesuvius kind of volcanic. It was understated and unexpected, for me at least. I was nodding off, head against the window, when I realised the bush on the edge of the road was smoking. And it wasn’t a bonfire. Steam seeped through the earth, sometimes in plumes, other times shifting in veils.

Then came Taupō, the town on the edge of the massive lake by the same name. We never saw much of the lake from the bus, but during the stop I found this view at the end of the street, with the type of peaks I’d been expecting. The lake looks tranquil, yet the land over which it is lying is not. Beneath the water is the restless caldera of a supervolcano, one that has erupted with enough force to earn it the top score (8) on the VEI (Volcanic Explosivity Index). Vesuvius only managed a 5. Thankfully there has been no massive eruption since 232CE, although there have been some shaky bouts.

I took my photograph of the beautiful lake, bought a coffee, then climbed back on to the bus, and we headed on to Hastings, winding down through endless slopes of pine plantations, some freshly planted, some reaching maturity, others just stumps.

By the time we reached Hastings it was dark.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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