Billowing clouds of gas, steam and ash are spewing out from the crater and you hesitate to move. An explosion seems imminent but the guide appears relaxed and in control.
The track winds through a 'moonscape' of bizarre lava sculptures and up onto the shoulder of a towering volcanic cone, draped with a skirt of shifting cinders. Onward it goes, past red cliffs, active geothermal areas, silent emerald and blue lakes.
The Waimangu Cauldron steams away at a seething 53° Centigrade as you stroll downhill past Frying Pan Lake, the world's largest hot spring. Nearby is Inferno Crater, an inverted cone with strangely fluctuating water levels and a swirling head of steam.
The ridge-top road winds its undulating way through a patchwork of paddocks and a sparse human population. Otago Harbour is a long ribbon of silky-smooth water far below and Dunedin City, the 'Edinburgh of the South' nestles in its green belt against a dramatic backdrop of forested hills.
Travel anywhere in the Taranaki region and you will have the constant presence of this striking, dormant, strato-volcano (also known as Mt Egmont). From most scenic viewpoints the old volcano appears as a perfectly symmetrical cone, tapering to a 2,518 metre summit in the classic style of Japan's Mt Fuji.
Drive along Lake Pukaki's shoreline and you will be impressed by its pale glacial blue colour. On a sunny day the sky will be a contrasting deep blue and at a certain turn in the road the huge white bulk of the Cook Range will suddenly be revealed.