A Travellerspoint blog

The Coramandel

semi-overcast

After an interesting night back in Auckland which involved watching a very weird independent Kiwi film and then looking on as two grown men snorted Tabasco and Jack Daniels through their noses and having lemon squeezed into their eyes all in aid of winning a $100 tattoo, we headed off out of town towards Hot Water Beach. Stopping off at the Kiwi Experience office to finalise the rest of our trip, our little group of friends made sure that we had the same itinerary so that we could stay together as long as possible.

Heading south towards the Coromandel we travelled through some stunning scenery. With the rolling green hills and sheep and cows in the fields you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the English countryside. Arriving in Hot Water Beach in the afternoon we had little time to check into our 5 star cabins for the night before going down to the beach to kayak round to Cathedral Cove. In our pairs we were pushed off from the shore and out into the ocean navigating some large waves whilst trying to get to grips with the paddling techniques. Once we had mastered this we rowed parallel to the shoreline taking in white sandy beaches and magnificent rock formations. As we arrived at Cathedral Cove and headed towards the beach a huge wave carried Beth and I in towards dry land and we disembarked a little more wet than when we had set out, partly from the waves and partly from splashing ourselves with our oars. Setting up on the beach our guides set about making up some much needed hot chocolate as we wandered along the beach and through the caves. Having warmed up we then set off out to sea again towards an outcrop where we snaked through the sea caves. Lining up our kayaks in a row our guides erected a sail and we drifted back to shore as they told us stories of how New Zealand was discovered by the Maori people.

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Next stop was Hot Water Beach, rated by the Lonely Planet as one of the world’s top 10. Here, at low tide, you can dig your own hot water pool in the sand. As you dig down, water seeps through which has been heated up by warm geothermal springs under the sand. You had to be careful where you decided to dig your hole though, as the water temperature varies greatly across the beach and can get very very hot.

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Posted by slking 23:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

The Bay of Islands

October 29th-November 1st

sunny 18 °C
View New Zealand Oct/Nov 2012 on slking's travel map.

The start of our trip up to the Bay of Islands took us to Paihia. The Northlands of New Zealand is rich in Mori culture and history, and the Bay of Islands is a popular holiday destination with clear water beaches scattered along the coastline. As soon as we arrived in Paihia, there was no time to book into the hostel before some of us headed out on an afternoon trip around some of the many islands the area has to offer. During this trip we were able to enter the freezing cold waters and actually get the chance to swim with the dolphins in the wild. I was a bit apprehensive at first as I hadn’t got on particularly well with snorkelling in the past, but I was determined to give it a go and conquer my fears (especially as I am hoping to try a bit of scuba diving when I get to Perth!) Donning the wetsuit, flippers and mask, I sat on the side of the boat practising breathing through my mouth for when I was in the water. We were all lined up along the back of the boat ready to slip into the water once the dolphins were in sight. Once I had got over the initial shock of the cold water and managed to calm my breathing down a bit, I stuck my head under the water and swam away from the boat in the hope of spotting something. However, all I could see was the murky dark water which had been caused by recent rains. I swam on, following the lead of some of the other more confident snorkelers and kept popping my head back up to get my orientation and check the direction that the skipper of the boat was pointing in for the dolphins. Suddenly out of nowhere, a bottlenose dolphin swam directly beneath me about 6 foot below. The feeling was amazing, to be swimming with these graceful creatures in their natural environment. It was hard not to reach out and touch them, but we had been told not to as their skin is very sensitive and doing so would also interfere with them and possibly scare them away.
Back on the boat we headed further out around the islands to a spot just between Waewaetorea and Urupukapuka, where we waited patiently for the skipper to call “go, go go” before we all scrambled off the back of the boat again. This time just as I was swimming away from the boat a school of 5 dolphins swam under me. I couldn’t believe there were so many of them so willing to come close to us. Just as soon as they had appeared, they were gone again. Despite my best efforts of swimming round and round I couldn’t find them again. It didn’t matter though, that last encounter was enough to make the trip worthwhile. I came back to dry land very happy.

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Up early the next day and we were off further up the coast to Cape Reinga. Standing at Cape Reinga lighthouse, the most Northern point of New Zealand, you really do get a sense of being somewhere special. The Maori people consider Cape Reinga to be the point at which souls depart this land on their journey to their spiritual homeland, Hawaiki. Here stands an 800 year old kahika tree, names Te Arohe, where the spirits are believed to enter the underworld by descending to the water on steps formed by the tree’s roots. Cape Reinga is also the point at which the Tasman Sea and Pacific Oceans meet. The waves break together causing a swelling of the sea and a noticeable line in the ocean.

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The drive back to Paihia took us via Te Paki stream and New Zealand’s largest sand dunes where we were able to scale the dunes and sandboard back down again. The exhilarating ride was all worth the effort to get to the top. Next stop was 90 Mile Beach (which was more like 90 km when they actually got round to measuring it!) The only state highway in the world which is actually a beach, you get to drive along in the sand and surf. We stopped off enroute to try fishing for some Tua Tua, a mussel-like shellfish which we ate raw straight out of their shell. They were actually quite meaty and so tasty that I had three! On the drive back to Paihia we stopped off at the ‘World Famous’ Mangonui Fish Shop for some Snapper straight from the boat and chips.

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Posted by slking 15:39 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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