After working many long, hard hours campaigning for Red Cross and not earning a cent I decided it was time to call it quits. I had some money in the bank and had gotten a phone call from another Canadian girl, Audrey, who is in New Zealand on the same work exchange program as I. We had met up when she was fresh meat in New Zealand and we went out for drinks before she left on her tour bus the next day. We kept in touch as we had gotten along so well, so when she arrived back in Auckland ready for adventure I was all set to join in.
It was a Friday morning and I hadn’t even slept it. My phone was ringing and it was Audrey on the other end. She was asking if I wanted to go to Hot Water Beach, over on the Coromandel Peninsula.I figured I may as well, I had exhausted Auckland and was intching to go out and explore more. I had been planning to head to the Coromandel a few days later anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity! We decided to go on a trip for a few days and do the whole peninsula. I packed up my car, picked up Audrey, then we were off on a road trip. First stop: Hot Water Beach.
When people talked about Hot Water Beach, I nodded my head thinking it was neat, but probably just a little warm at best. I never expected it to be as hot as it was. I almost burned my feet at one point as I was looking for a spot to plunk down and dig my sitting hole- Turns out I had walked into the spring water which can be as hot as 64 degrees Celsius (147 F.). Audrey, myself and a friend of Audreys, Bruce, tested different spots around the spring as if we were all Goldie Locks. Some spots were too hot. Others were too cold. It took a bit, but we eventually found a spot that was just right. Now, the funny thing about this beach is that there aren’t many people swimming, or sunbathing. Everyone digs big pits in the sand to sit in. The warm water from the spring rises up through the sand creating your own little hot tub. The deeper you dig, the hotter the water gets. It was a little tricky to teach myself not to dig my toes into the sand, they kept getting burned.
After spending the better part of the evening getting wrinkled like prunes Audrey, Bruce, and I climbed out of our sandy spa to go dry off and head for Narnia. It was only a ten minute drive, then a forty minute walk through the woods before we were in Narnia. We didn’t even go through the wardrobe! No, no, we were at Cathedral Cove, a scene from the second Narnia movie. It was a beautiful beach, so amazing and breathtaking it felt as magical as a magical world would.
We spent the night at the holiday park by the beach. We had a few drinks with some backpackers from the tour bus, and all exchanged tales of our journeys to date. We all crashed out one by one, but as always, I was the last one up. I finally hit the hay at 4:30 AM as the other backpacker I had been chatting with was just as wiped as I was. we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. He had it rougher than I did though. He had to be back up and on the bus for 7:30. I didn’t have to be gone until 10:00.
Much to my dismay, I ended up kicking my day off at 7:30 anyway. The majority of backpackers in the hostel dorm were from the tour bus, so I was woken up as they all packed out to hop aboard the bus. Audrey was also up, and there was no chance at falling back asleep, so we loaded up the car and headed off. Not sure where we were going, or where we would end up.
Well we drove for hours, sticking to the east coast as much as possible. We stopped in one town to buy some meat pies, then hung out at a sandy beach to make sandwiches for lunch. We Oohed and Ahhed at every hill we crested and every lookout we came across. As much as I loved my trip up north in November, it sure was nice having someone to chat with and share the experience with. Photos of New Zealand make the country look beautiful, no doubt, but even so they don’t compare at all to the real beauty of the country.
We continued out drive up the peninsula heading North the whole time. Winding our way up and down mountains and along rivers and streams to Coromandel Town. We thought about stopping there, but no, there was still farther north we could go. To the tip of the peninsula we went. It was a 30 kilometre drive on a windy, narrow, dirt road. We were constantly in awe as we drove, taking an hour to complete the drive. We went slowly as the road was a steep hill on one side, and a plummet to the ocean on the other. We wound around hill after hill, careful to make sure no cars were coming around the corner in the other direction. The road was not quite two lanes so every time we met someone we had to slowly creep past each other, cautious not to pull over too far and fall to our doom. We almost decided to turn around and head back at one point when the road had a pull off spot. I’m sure glad we didn’t. Just as we came around the next corner, below us was a beautiful sandy beach. We figured there may be more so we continued to pick our way along further, seeing if there was a place we could camp.
We made it to Port Jackson, mission accomplished. There was even a camp site too. We paid the nine dollar fee and set up our tent right along the beach. It was the perfect camp site, and the hot sun was there to make up for it’s absence over my Christmas camping trip. Audrey and I wandered down the beach, taking it all in, then went for a nap as we were both exhausted. We had found a little piece of paradise.
We had a great day in Port Jackson and we didn’t get rained on that night either. Once more when morning rolled around we loaded up the car and were off again. The drive back down that dirt road went a lot quicker than it had the previous day, we were back on paved roads before we knew it. I quite enjoy those dirt roads, I’m not sure how much my car loves me for it though.
Highway 309 was a road I had read about and thought would be a fun drive. Audrey and I headed out of Coromandel Town after grabbing some breakfast and we went to find this road. We found the turn off for Highway 309 as we headed South. There was a sign hanging pointing us in the right direction. It was just an old rickety wooden sign, but the painted on “HIGHWAY 309” were unmistakeable. We took the left and continued on our way.
We passed some cars pulled over by a bunch of wild pigs, wondering why there were so many, but we kept driving to The Waterworks park. It’s a park that is full of little structures built for your water amusement. It’s a lot of artsy stuff, but we thought it would be fun. Audrey and I are both a bit cheap though, so neither of us were willing to pay the 20$ admission fee for it. We did however grab a pamphlet on the highway, reading through to see that the wild pigs are one of the attractions along the way. We decided to turn back and check it out.
We parked up the car and walked over to check out the squealy little creatures and have a chat with the man running the show. The man had a lot of land that he had turned into a wild pig reserve. He doesn’t eat them or sell them, he simply said “They’re my mates”. We got to hold some of the three week old piglets that were running around, and pet some of the big fatties who were bathing in the sun. It was quite a show that was happening. As we chatted with the farmer I couldn’t help but compare him to the chicken farmer from Napoleon Dynamite. He was walking around the pigs in his bare feet, which were black and filthy. It really didn’t help with my phobia of feet. We slipped away when another car load of people arrived and we headed for Castle Rock.
Castle Rock was the next stop along the way. The pamphlet made it sound like a really common hike, one that would have a well marked track and lots of people on it. Nope. Audrey and I weren’t even sure if we had found the right spot. We followed the directions the pig farmer had given us, which led us up a bumpy logging road. We went as far as we could up the road then pulled as far off the road as we could. There were deep ditched on either side of the narrow, dirt road, not so much as a spot to park to hike. But we went with it anyway, threw on our hiking shoes and made the trek up the mountain.
It wasn’t a long hike, but the trail was extremely muddy, not very well defined, and steep. It was fun though. We ripped up the trail, only meeting one German couple along the way, hitting the top in under an hour. It was a beautiful view and a good spot to relax, not another soul around for ages.
(If you look REALLY closely you can see my car parked on the dirt road!)
Once we made it back down to the car we decided to go for something a little more refreshing. Why not hit the Waiau Falls. We drove up and parked, went to test the water, and made ourselves some lunch. There were a couple kids jumping from the top of the waterfall, they tried to convince us to join in, but we opted out.
We made it back to Hot Water Beach that night for another quick soak in the spring after making our last stop at Cooks Beach. It was a beautiful, long, sandy beach. The sun was low in the sky and there weren’t too many people left around. We walked the length before heading back to the car. We still needed to find a place to crash for the night.
Audrey and I stayed in our little dug out spa until the sun had set. We then made the walk back out to the car to head off in search of a bed. My car was the only one left in the lot by the time we made it out. As we climbed in a figure crossed the road and made his way over to the car. The man introduced himself and offered us a place to stay. “My friend and I own all that land over there, you can just stay here for free if you like”, the smell of alcohol just wafted towards us as he talked. “We just saw that you were the only car left and we wanted to make sure you didn’t have any problems getting it started.” He told us before he walked away. We closed the car doors and locked them as soon as he turned around. Some people just give off creepy vibes, he was one of them. I shoved the key into the ignition and turned. Nothing. I tried my other key, still nothing. Audrey and I exchanged, looks, the same thought running through our minds, had he done something so our car wouldn’t start? We didn’t want that to be the case so I tried once more. Breath held, fingers crossed, the car started. We both let out a sigh of relief as we drove off down the road.
We hadn’t taken into consideration that most camp grounds close up their offices by 9pm. So we we hit the 10pm mark we were quickly losing hope. We drove and drove, hoping to find somewhere. Finally we reached the town of Tairua, and with it we found a hostel. The town was dead, not a car or human life form in site. We followed signs down to a hostel, we parked the car and went to see if it was open.
The kitchen door was open, so we let ourselves in. Audrey went upstairs where she found some backpackers who pointed us in the direction of reception. We wandered down the hallway, slowly, creeping, hairs standing on end. There was no one in the office. We rung the bell, no answer. We picked up the phone and dialled the number listed. We heard the phone ring, it was the phone in the office. We were both a little on edge so we hung up quickly and were prepared to scurry off when finally a lady approached from across the property.
We booked into a room and brought all our stuff in, still a bit nervous. I’m not sure what exactly it was about the hostel. Maybe the fact we arrived so late, maybe the lack of activity happening in the hostel, maybe the spooky moans of the old house settling. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but we were both glad we survived the night. No one was murdered, no bloody messages scrawled on the walls, everything was fine, and the sun shone bright the next morning.
Relieved to make it out alive, we headed off for our next and final stop before making our way back to Auckland. Whangamata has another one of those beautiful, sand, New Zealand beaches. We spent some time there soaking up the sun and contemplating swimming (which neither of us did in the end).
All in all it was a great trip. Many fun adventures and wonderful experiences. I was sad it had to end, but Audrey and I have plans to explore more together and surely find some more shenanigans to get into.