From Castle Rock / Froggatt I drove up to Hahei on the North East tip of Coromandel Pensinsula – the weekend retreat of Aucklanders. I say it’s the North West, but only as far as the main roads take you – gravel roads will take you quite a bit further north but I decided not to take the time to explore them.
When I drove into Hahei I realised this was the sort of place I needed to get over the repetitiveness of moving from place to place. The whole drive up the peninsula was great but it was a long windy road to get there. Arriving at Hahei was like a mini Krabi (Thailand) or Halong Bay (Vietnam….erm, but I didn’t make it there). Although the karsts and islands cropping out of the ocean aren’t quite as impressive it was a beautiful setting and made me switch on my own cruise control.
(Picture : Hahei beach) The weather was almost tropical at around the mid twenties – hard to believe a few weeks ago I was climbing on glaciers.
I had a pretty action packed day (for me!) the next day and went for a wee stroll to Cathedral Cove, which you could walk to from the accommodation (obviously I took my car for 10 mins and saved myself one hour return). On the way you walk past Gemstone Bay where the Department of Conservation (DOC) have set up a snorkelling course, marked by three buoys which have displays of what you can see in the area. I thought the Forestry Commission back home did pretty well setting up mountain bikes trails, but a snorkelling course in a marine reserve? Only in New Zealand. Superb. The water was fresh but absolutely fine after the first thirty seconds. Being spoiled by recent dive and snorkel trips I stupidly never went round the whole course – if I did I would have probably seen loads of crayfish etc but it’s just not the same on your own I guess (lame excuse!). Despite having seen shedloads of them, I did get a bit of a move on when I saw a one metre long stingray (not sure of the exact type) 10 metres from the shore. (ok, ok, I know the picture’s crap)
A further 5 minutes took me to the real Stingray Bay which was an ideallic little cove with crystal clear water.
Like everyone here, I followed the tide times and went to Hot Water Beach just before low tide in the afternoon. You have to see it to believe it but basically there is a natural hot spring on the beach running below the sand, everyone takes a shovel ($5 to hire), digs a hole, hope they get lucky and hit hot rather than cold water, then voila – your own little hot spring in the sand. I had three failed attempts to find gold (hot water) but managed to hijack someone else’s pool which was at a perfect temperature. Yes, even the temperatures vary just like the real hot springs you pay loads of cash for….the closer you are to the hottest part of the sand….erm, the hotter your pool is. If you strike it perfect you can use the sea water to regulate your temperature. At the hottest part of the beach you can’t even stand on the sand it’s so hot!
Considering I had merely hijacked a pool I was quite happy sitting back, drifting asleep in the sun while everyone tried to either warm up or cool down their pools. Bliss.
The accommodation in Hahei (Tahipi Lodge – will have to check the name!) was great as well. The second night’s bunch were fare more talkative, all gassing about travel and loads of other stuff as I sat there necking a bottle of vino, and we all tucked into the stash of Feijoa fruits that appeared in the kitchen (yes Kirsty if you read this in Wellington I bloody love these now!)….
(Picture : Diggers at Hot Water Beach) This picture was taken by somone else staying at the same place as me so I copied it from him. I’m lying there in the middle, half asleep with my Hoi An tailor made board shorts from Vietnam.