NZ: Days 12 and 13
We left Paihia in the early morning after much confusion about who had and had not got a seat on the bus.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Kiwi Experience tour gets incredibly busy over the summer period. Those people who hadn’t had a booking out of Paihia, which, due to the popularity of the location was on currently a three day waiting list, had to either go onto standby or get left behind for another night until a space opened up.
We already had all of our dates heading South organised so it wasn’t a problem for us, but we left behind many friends whom we had spent the last 3 days with and would probably now not meet up for another week or so.
° ° °
After reaching Auckland, we were once again thrown into the chaos and confusion over the newbies who hadn’t booked to leave Auckland and were thus stranded for 2-3 days to leave that city too. To clear up the workings of Kiwi Experience once you are booked on for a bus, you get an automatic seat for the duration. However as soon as you leave that bus, ie. to extend your stay at a certain location you have to pre-book or go on to standby for a later bus.
Adding to matters, Eminem was playing in Auckland and the Rugby 15’s tournament was also ongoing in the city; There wasn’t a single spare room to be had! Again, we automatically had one guaranteed nights accommodation with the Kiwi Experience tour so were booked back into Base hostel for that night. But for those who hadn’t yet booked themselves onto a bus, they then had to find some outrageously overpriced accommodation. The moral is- be prepared and have an idea what your plans are before hand.
Anyhow, we once again had a very brief stop through Auckland as it didn’t have a great appeal to us. Like I mentioned in a previous post, the city and the harbor is generally quite nice and I’ve heard the beaches away from the city are also pretty great. But, coming from Paihia, we were happy just to sit back and have some downtime and integrate with the bus. We were happy to be off in the morning and heading towards the Eastern, Coromandel Coast- one of the most popular destinations for New Zealand holiday goers.
° ° °
We jumped on the packed out bus the next morning and were heading Eastwards. We would remain on this bus, with almost everyone else, until we made it all the way down to Wellington. Its a good thing therefore, that almost everyone was awesome and we got along like a storm. Even our driver Jed, was top!
The routine of the trip to the Coromandel, largely depends on the tides; The main attraction, Hot Water Beach, requires the tide to be coming in, so the volcanic water doesn’t burn us! As our tidal point was at midday, Jed was on a march to get us there in time! We stopped off a couple of times for lunch and to grab groceries, but apart from that we whizzed across the coastline and made it there bang on midday.
Hot Water beach is special! Ranked in the top 10 Lonely Planet beaches, the shoreline lies above a volcanic chamber. This chamber, despite being hundreds of kilometers below the surface emits enough heat to cause natural springs and hot bubbles that penetrate the sandy shoreline. These temperature can reach up to 60° and therefore without the addition of cold, sea water at high tide, these areas of the beach are pretty much inaccessible.
Bearing in mind that we had arrived at midday, on 14th February- Valentines Day- you can only imagine how packed the beach was and it was a real fight to find any thermal space. Armed with 6 spades between 50 of us, we worked in groups to take over the beach and to dig out our stake of warm sand.
When you get the right balance between tidal water and thermal uprisings, its brilliant, like a warm Jacuzzi. But every now and then you’ll get caught out by the odd boiling up-squirt- and it really is boiling! There were many a person jumping around on one leg to get out of a particularly hot spot- on occasions myself included.
When the novelty had eventually worn off, we were back on the bus and headed towards Cathedral Cove.
It is easy to see why this place is so popular with New Zealanders- the beaches here and the coast is stunning. In fact, as we were walking down along the trail towards Cathedral Cove, there was a large wedding ceremony taking place on the cliff edges; Pretty stunning location for a wedding!
We descended from the cliffs to Cathedral Cove where a white-sanded, secluded bay reveals naturally formed arches, cave openings and small rock islands. From here some people took a kayak tour around the cove and up the bay. We instead decided just to chill out, go for a swim and dry off under the sun. It was great!
After relaxing down at the beach for the rest of the day, we headed back up to the coach, just as the sun was beginning to dip. From here we drove back, hugging the spectacular coastline back to Hot Water Beach, where we checked into Hot Water Beach Backpacker Lodge, $34. The accommodation was fantastic! Very much like a Butlins camp.
We were given two units within the holiday park, away from the other families. With our units, we collectively feasted on a BBQ and drank beers and cheap wine on the veranda. From here, the entire bus, all 50 of us, created a huge ring and started up the drinking games throughout the evening and into the night. It really was awesome to share such a camp-like experience with so many decent people- everyone just seemed to click very quick. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable end to an enjoyable and memorable day! Tomorrow should be just as exciting, we’re heading to the world famous Glowworm caves in Waitomo!
Hot Water Beach Backpacker Lodge: $34 NZ / £17 p/n *****
Hot Water Beach: Free ***