I found the bubbling somewhat disturbing. Its hiss was ceaseless like a kettle when the off-switch has blown. It roiled and gurgled throughout the night. Even by starlight, the steam was visible. In the morning the yellowed, sulphur-coated bath was visible. I shuddered, uneasy at the thought of having such a contraption outside my window day after day, night after night. Our stay was temporary, a few nights only, but for others, this was their permanent home. Perhaps they no longer noticed the rank odour or the boiling bubbles bursting without end.
An open grate in one corner of our camp site steamed gently to itself. Peering through the bars, bubbling water was visible. We covered it with a loose paving stone to protect the younger members of our group, ensuring there was space for the steam to escape.
Walking through a gated area early in the morning, we were amazed to see open pools of steaming water, obviously boiling in places, and seething beds of mud, where bubbles developed, grew and burst, releasing foul smelling gases from the depths of the earth.
Yet even on the banks of this unfriendly area there were bushes with small succulent leaves, and a metre or so back from the water flaming clumps of montbresias and orange canna lilies. A pukeko, with her long legs and spreading toes, led her chicks daintily through the undergrowth.
We followed her in the same general direction and came to a lake shore of clear sweet water.
This, we had read, was the collapsed cone of a long ago active volcano, since filled with rain water. Here and there bubbles of gas broke the surface, but whether from vegetation on the bottom of the lake or from deeper within the earth’s crust, we did not know.
Here too we saw black swans and grey ducks, shags and kingfishers. How did they know which was safe water to dive into – and which would cause their deaths?
I found it a miracle of creation this part of the world. A place where the centre of the earth, the very core of the planet we call home, breaks through in minuscule ways to reveal its power and heat. It was a place that filled me with awe.
Comfortable? No. Beautiful? Yes. I was once again amazed at the enormity of the planet, but, expanding on that, at the vast extent of the known universe – and the vast expanse of that which is still unknown.
And I found myself asking, yet again, of my Creator “Who is man that you are mindful of him?” and worshipping the Lord my God, my Creator, for I know He is mindful of me – I experience His presence every day.
Sometimes the very earth itself reminds us of His majesty!