Mt Tarawera & Te Wairoa buried village
's volcanoes do not only provide for fantastic scenery to be marvelled at (cf. White Island
), sometimes they show their destructive muscle in a darker fashion. On 10 June 1886, Mt Tarawera on North Island erupted violently and caused New Zealand's worst natural disaster in recorded history. Over a hundred people were killed, villages buried in volcanic mud and a major natural landmark obliterated.
The famous Pink and White Terraces were a system of sinter terraces with stacks of pools of water similar to Turkey
's Pamukkale only in two-toned silica colours. Back then they were regarded as New Zealand's most significant tourist sight. The volcano left not a trace of them. They were swallowed up by the crater and are now somewhere deep below today's crater lake.
A group of villages close to the Terraces were showered with hot ash and mud that formed when the lava mixed with water. It was here that most of the casualties were claimed. There was, however, one lucky survivor, a priest who was rescued after having been trapped in his buried house for four days.
One of the villages, Te Wairoa, was later partially excavated and turned into a (dark!) tourist site. Several excavation sites are centred around a modern museum, which includes artefacts salvaged from the disaster site, historical material, displays, etc. not just about the site itself but also about volcanology and the area's nature in general. (Opening times: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (last entry), admission for adults: 27 NZD, under 15-year-olds: 8 NZD. 30 minute-long guided tours are complimentary. In total about an hour and a half should be allocated.)
The area is full of other wholly worthwhile volcanic and geothermal attractions, but the buried village is clearly the darkest site around. The story of the Tarawera eruption is also covered in Rotorua Museum (daily 9.a.m. to 5 p.m. in winter and to 8 p.m. in summer, 12 NZD).
roughly in the centre of New Zealand
's North Island, some 130 miles (210 km) south-east of Auckland.
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