22nd June 2013 15:53
I was reaching the end of my time in New Zealand. My penultimate stop took me to the North East of the north island, in Coromandel. As it turns out, I was actually in the wrong part – I should have gone to Coromandel Peninsular, which is closer to the attractions in the area. No big deal though – it just meant going on a shuttle bus tour for the day with a couple of other people. In actual fact, I think it still would have been difficult to get around all the places if I'd been in the right area anyway, they were still fairly spread out.
The hostel I was staying at was not the usual type I'd become accustomed to. I was still sleeping in a dorm, that was still the cheapest bed there - but it was located on a campsite. An overwhelming number of people in New Zealand hire campervans to tour the country in. For me, travelling alone it wasn't really a viable option as it would have been way too expensive. But for many, it's a fantastic way to see the country. Taking full advantage of this, there are grounds all over New Zealand that provide an open patch of grass with electricity points and whatnot for them all to park up and plug in overnight. Individual chalets dotted about also made it feel very much like a holiday park! There were beautiful views of the surrounding area from the grounds – but that's something you're pretty much guaranteed with most places you go to!
In the immediate vicinity of the campsite, there was a pleasant parade of shops and restaurants, catering to the locals and tourists alike.
I made a point to go to a recommended restaurant to try raw oysters and mussels – as the area is well known for the quality of this food they produce. I'd never tried them before, so I was willing to at least give it a go – although I must say, when I got in there the BBQ ribs for the same price on the menu were extremely tempting! The mussels came in a tomato like sauce, and the oysters just came with balsamic. I didn't dislike them – but I probably wouldn't be ordering them again, put it that way. After finishing both dishes (and still feeling hungry!), I almost regretted not ordering the ribs! But I was glad I tried them at least. I guess I'm just not a seafood person!
Back at the campsite, what I hadn't banked on was the wailing of a loud air raid siren later that evening! Whilst running around screaming with my arms flailing around in search of an air raid shelter, I was told it's used by the fire service and is completely normal. It's only now, having just looked it up while writing this, that I've discovered it's specifically used to summon the town's volunteer fire fighters, as there is no permanent department on standby for any emergencies. It was completely surreal. And it was LOUD. Why they can't just give them beepers I don't know...
The following day I was up early for the tour shuttle bus pickup. We first stopped off at a viewpoint which gave us a great 360 degree panorama of the area. As views, go it wasn't too shabby!
As we continued our journey in the bus, we were informed of a pizza place that we would be driving past, called Luke's Kitchen. Now as some of you may know, I love pizza just a tiny, little bit... so I just had to buy one from a place called Luke's Kitchen, didn't I?! We stopped off to pick up a menu. The plan was to phone them up to order when we started driving back, and pick it up on the way. Something to look forward to for the evening then!
Back to the task at hand... and we had arrived at Whitianga, where there is a very small passenger ferry which crosses the bay. Our guide dropped us off here to explore for a while in our own time, while she drove round the long way and arranged to meet us on the other side. I settled down by the water to enjoy the view and tuck into my packed lunch (yes, that's how organised I am!).
After enjoying the water and the boats, and treating myself to an ice cream... I crossed on the ferry to meet the shuttle to drive to our next stop, Hot Water Beach. This is quite a funny one, because as you walk along the sand there are very few people on there, but in the distance you can see a huge swarm of bodies all jostling for position in one small section of the shoreline.
The reason is because at this one point on the beach the water under the sand gets heated up by the thermal activity in the ground, and by digging down into the sand you can make your own little hotpool to lie in and relax! It sounds easy in principle – but when you actually get there you realise it's a logistical challenge!
First you need to find a spot to start digging – no small feat in itself, due to the huge number of people there! When you do eventually find a spot, you need to dig for quite a while before you have anything even remotely resembling a pool to lie in. The chances then are quite high that your pool will either be too hot, or too cold – so you then need to try and construct a channel from someone else's pool to steal all their hot water! Even after you've got the temperature bang on, you can't yet lie back and enjoy your work – as you need to build up a big wall at the front in an attempt to stop any rogue waves that decide to ruin the spa atmosphere!
All in all, it's great fun, if a little hard work! And to be honest, it's not exactly a pool you end up with – more of a puddle... but really cool nonetheless!
After spending a while enjoying the "relaxation" of the beach, we continued on to Cathedral Cove. Coincidentally, part of a recent music video by Macklemore was shot at this location:
Following a well deserved dip in the water here, and a short sit on the beach, the time came to make our way back to the campsite. Not forgetting to stop and pick up my delicious pizza on the way back! Oh – the sunset wasn't the worst I've seen either....