A violent struggle created this world, according to Maori mythology: Indigenous New Zealanders say Sky Father and Earth Mother were ripped from each other’s arms to make room for mountains, forests, and oceans. Around Rotorua, a Maori heartland and home of the mineral-rimmed Champagne Pool (above), it’s easy to believe the struggle continues, as the eerie landscape bubbles and churns like some primordial stew. Geysers erupt, mud boils, and steam seeps from cliffs and sidewalks, leaving a sulfurous scent in the air.
In a land where adrenaline lovers ride rockets suspended on wires and roll downhill inside giant plastic balls, biking seems one of the saner ways to plunge into a landscape that compels exploration: hot springs, glaciers, rain forests, and volcanoes, encircled by nearly 10,000 miles of coastline, packed into a country barely bigger than Colorado. New Zealand is made for journeys, physical and spiritual.