Here we are in our final week and the last chapter in our Most Excellent Adventure epic. Before I sound a tad sombre, let me recount our last week’s happenings in what they describe as the winterless, sub-tropical Northland.
I closed last week’s blog with the prospect of the eagerly anticipated Coromandel Peninsular; home to the iconic Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. Our first destination was the beach, which we have to say, does exactly what it says on the tin. First off, Hot Water beach is stupendously beautiful, with magnificent surf that any Cornish dude would be willing to negotiate. The golden sands are like velvet beneath your feet and with the blue seas, trimmed with white, the thunderous crashing of the waves to the shore and the balmy temperatures, you can just imagine how happy we were. Whilst Mrs here was a little nervous about getting in the waves, it didn’t take too long for my inner child to scream out – let me out to play. So with a little coaxing, she was in and giggling all the way. There was no serious swimming going on, just playing in the surf, feeling its strength and allowing it to carry you to the shore, like some ungraceful beached whale. A Hale Berry moment it was not! Still we had amazing fun.
The surf aside, the reason you go to Hot Water Beach is to dig your own hot water jacuzzi in the sand, at predetermined low-tide co-ordinates, allowing the underground thermal spring waters to wash over you. It’s somewhere between a mud bath and a hot water spa. So armed with our spade, we headed off. The beach was strewn with early morning revellers of all shapes, sizes and nationalities. Whilst English may not have been spoken by everyone, there was only one language required – dig, shape, sit, smile and enjoy.
We struggled to find a space for our little tushes, as the spa was pretty full, although we found a tepid feeling spot and the digging began. The temperature was a little disappointing – a bit more like Warm Water Beach, so our engineering skills were required. With ample dexterity and ingenuity, we built a channel from the boiling sand in the middle, to fill our DIY jacuzzi. Within 20 minutes we were languishing in gorgeousness; within 30 we were stewed nicely and within 40 we looked like overcooked prunes. Thankfully the surf cooled us off nicely. What a great experience, just shame there were so many others. Ah well can’t have paradise without sharing it.
How do you follow that? Well we did our best – as you can only imagine. We took ourselves off to Hahei Beach and had a boat trip around the coast and out to the Islands. What a great introduction to the seascape that offered the most perfect setting for Pirates of the Caribbean. With secret coves, blowholes, caves, seals and sting rays, what a way to see this volcanic influenced coastline. Now I skirted subtly over the sting ray bit – had I known about their shallow sea feeding habits, I would perhaps have been a little more cautious about my swimming exploits. That said we were told that ‘around about now the Orcas pass by and feed off these little guys.’ So with hope and anticipation of seeing their Antarctic migration, I forgave the sting rays presence. Alas no sightings yet!
We found a sensational freebie campsite at Cook’s Beach, where we parked up right in front of a golden beach that we pretty much had all to ourselves. The sound of crashing waves would be our evening’s lullaby and our morning’s alarm once more. Beach-combing was one of my past-times, so I have a ton of shells to bring home, if they allow me out of the country with them. If not, then you’ll find me in a New Zealand jail for shell smuggling – I’m sure they will have more lenient punishments than for drugs.
Our Peninsular experience was soon behind us as we travelled up and over t’other side and with another night’s freebie camping, Northlands called us. To get there though, we had to pass through Auckland – now this was a serious shock to the system. Three lanes of traffic, jams, pollution, noise – arghhh! It was horrible and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. Where were our beaches, our thermal springs, our mountains and lakes? Where was our serenity and our peace?
Soon enough though we found solace in a brand new landscape – white sand dunes. How lovely to see this beautiful spectacle. The green vegetation set off against the brilliant white dunes was too much for the photographer in me to bare, so of course I obliged, more than once. Miles and miles of white beach and surf stretching as far as the eye could see. If you ignored New Zealand’s only Oil Refinery it was perfection. We found a stunning site that was wild, hidden amidst the dunes, yet not so concealed that the thunderous sound of the crashing waves could not reach our ears.
Now at this point, I was ‘umming’ and ‘arring’ about how far north we went. Bay of Islands was enticing me and at a push we could have done it, although having had a whistle stop tour of the south, we were keen to do more being than doing, in the north. So we decided not to push ourselves and just allow some time to breathe. In fact we met a guy today that summed up our north island adventures – sometimes you’ve just got to leave footprints rather than tire marks and we’ve certainly done that this week.
Today has seen our finale – one last adventure to the west coast, where we will do our packing and cleaning before we drop Baz back to his rightful owners. It felt like it was going to be a bit of a transactional couple of days, although just like Cilla Black’s – Surprise, Surprise (for those of you old enough to remember the original programme!) we weren’t expecting this.
We heard it before we saw it – surf waves as tall as buildings – or so it seemed to my eye. I used thunderous for our east coast surf, although I wish I had saved it for the west, as I can not find another adjective to aptly describe the texture of the sound. It’s a deafening roar, as if a thousand lions are calling their loved ones. Our final campsite is right along this coast and our spot for the next two nights is nestled up high, overlooking the surf-
kiters skimming the waves and miles of black sand beneath us. This is such a contrast to our beach carpet, up until now. It is WILD here and you feel alive when you feel the wind against your face, the salt upon your lips and the primeval elements of nature colluding. In fact this area in Maori legend is known for the war against the Father of the Elements, the Father of the Forests and Father of the Oceans. And you certainly get full force of all three as you stand precariously on the cliff edge, watching, listening and feeling the effects of the battle.
Add to this the Gannet colony that is perched on the cliff edge, close enough for you to get right up close – if you have a strong enough stomach for it, that is. Truly amazing. Just a dream for the photographer in me and I think I might be tootling up there on my own for a few last shots or two. Currently running at 2,500 saved pictures (which will come as no surprise to some of you) and probably another 500 or so that I’ve deleted. So not done too badly in six weeks. I suspect there will be some serious editing when we get home though!
So our last week has been a lovely way to invest in ourselves. We have had time for chill, have coffee, lunches out, go swimming, read and watch the world go by. We have though, also turned a travelling corner and finally find ourselves looking forward to our impending return. We have truly loved our adventures and we will return, as we feel like we have embarked on a little love affair with this beautiful Island and a little piece of our hearts will remain here. We are though ready to come home and reflect upon the amazing experiences we’ve had and the privilege that has been our visit to the Land of the Long White Cloud. And as Perry Como sings we’ve had many, many Magic Moments.
Aotearoa, with gratitude we thank you, with respect we honour you and with pleasure we will remember you for all our remaining days. It has been memorable for so many reasons and 25 year partnership has been cemented even further, if that’s possible. It has been a journey that will undoubtedly give us many stories to tell. We hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us and thank you for your company. It’s been a blast.
And so with a touch of sadness and reluctance, although with much joy and heart-felt appreciation for what we’ve savoured, we sign off – for now!!!!