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Archive for the ‘Coromandel’ Category

Glass bottom

As promised, a sunny Sunday morning with clear blue skies. I phoned the Glass Bottom Boat people to check that the trip was on, and they guessed it was Mr Price, leading me to suspect that no-one else had booked…

So after breakfast we drove off towards Whitianga. Yesterday’s flood at the bridge had subsided (but only just, judging by the water level in the adjacent fields) and we got to the wharf with a good twenty minutes to spare. Time for the girls to explore the playground by the waterfront (complete with its own pirate ship).
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We could see what might be our craft waiting by the wharf, and it looked tiny. When the time came, we walked out and confirmed that this was indeed our boat. We thought we’d be the only passengers, but then a Spanish couple joined us at the last moment.

We had been expecting a sedate vessel on which to float around the nearby shores while observing all manner of unusual sealife through a glass panel in the floor, a la Tahiti. However, it didn’t quite turn out like that. We were in a speedboat that bumped stomach-churningly over the heaving swell as we raced down and back up the shoreline. During the two-hour trip, a metal panel was raised for perhaps five minutes permitting us to see two angled glass windows below us, revealing – well, a couple of glimpses of indeterminate fish shapes in the murky sea. (Low visibility because of the recent rain, we were told – after we had all paid.) Red snapper and blue cod, apparently, and we might have seen crayfish as well on a good day.

No dolphins, no seals, despite teasing not-quite-promises in the brochure. (The ‘magical dolphins’ are masters of invisibility, presumably.) A blue penguin’s head appeared briefly in the mid-distance (could have been a Giant Otter for all we knew). But we explained to the girls that we’d get a far better view of dolphins, seals, penguins and whales later on in the trip (probably on the South Island).

So the bulk of the trip consisted of a tour of the local rocks, cliffs and caves.
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Cathedral Cove was where they filmed for three months for the latest Narnia film (which none of us have seen), but the location only featured for ten minutes in the end. This is what we call ‘Rabbit Arch’ because we once saw a rabbit fall off the top into the water; we tried to rescue it but it swam ashore. (Is this clutching at straws to fill a two-hour trip?) Here is the Marine Conservation Zone, teeming with sea creatures – except for the exclusion zone permanently surrounding our boat.

Shakespeare’s cliff.
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Pohutukawa tree.
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As we returned to Whitianga, would the girls like a balloon? (I.e. would we allow our girls to provide free advertising for the Glass Bottom Boat?)
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A lot of money ($270) for the pleasure of being made to feel vaguely nauseous – the four of us flew from La Paz to Sucre for not much more…

We took a while to settle our stomachs once back on shore, then returned to Subway for lunch – refreshingly, not much is open on a Sunday. We then filled up with petrol and returned to Hot Water Beach with a detour along the ‘309’ road to visit a Kauri grove and Waiau Falls. This involved negotiating a long and winding gravel track with numerous blind bends, but it was worth it for the tranquillity of the remote destinations. (Though it’s easy to get away from it all in New Zealand – there isn’t much to get away from in the first place…)

The Kauri trees are not as numerous here as in the forests north of Auckland, but they’re still majestic, dwarfing all their neighbours and impressive in their girth and their mast-straight perfection.
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Waiau Falls provide a pleasant bathing spot for the brave, but we were happy just to sit on the rocks at the base and relish the solitude among the lush bush.
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Hot Water Beach – again…
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Back home just in time for tea, followed by a much-needed haircut for T outside on the decking. Sausages, sweet potato mash and spinach with cream for supper, then some packing – we’re on the move again tomorrow. We’ve been in NZ for a week now, and we can see that our time will slip rapidly away; we have only one more five-night stay on the North Island, and then it’s Christmas, a birthday, New Year and half of our entire trip will be behind us. There is a danger of overload, of simply not being ready to take in yet more new experiences; I sensed something of this on the boat trip when I felt that I should be more alert to my surroundings than I was. (But perhaps mal de mer makes you less aware.)

We’ll miss Coromandel FM, though. The adverts for local businesses – the garden centre that ‘grows on you, grows on you’ (unlike the jingle), ‘Hard, smooth, I want to get laid’ – promoting paving concrete. It’s a backwater of a backwater up here, where the failure of a Coca Cola lorry to get through to a seaside village makes headline news on the radio.

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Flooded in

Quite a heavy storm during the night, but only a few grey clouds left when we woke up today.

Our plan for the day was to drive to Tairua to see the arrival of Father Christmas, but as we drove down towards the SH25 we were stopped by a huge puddle across the road.  Two cars dared go ahead only to return when they reached the flooded bridge.  There was simply no way we could carry on in that direction.  A local man told us to leave it for a couple of hours and then the road would probably be clear, but Father Christmas would have left by then …
The flood also made the local news, it was obvious that no-one could leave the Hahei area, but the news reader also explained that local shops were running low on Coca Cola and the lorry could not reach our area due to the flood.

Change of plan – we turned around and visited Cook’s Beach, which we thought would be a proper beach with sea and sand, instead it was a small town by this name but we still got out and wandered around near the water.  The most fascinating feature was the group of small black birds standing on one leg and their heads with long orange beaks turned backwards.

After this we drove to Cathedral Cove, parked the car in the car park and went for a pretty long walk.  We headed down and followed a path among green fern and bushes towards Cathedral Cove, a stretch of beach with very wild waves, a hole in the rocks and a steep waterfall.  Altogether it took us well over an hour to get back to the car, but the girls just love exploring and were even running on ahead (still loads of energy, I’m thinking at this rate the walk to school will be a doddle when we’re back home!).

Hahei panorama.
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Cathedral Cove walk.
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Back home in time for a sandwich lunch followed by fruit and when looking out of our window we could spot a few people on the beach beginning to dig holes filled with hot water.
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We thought because of the flooded road there might not be too many tourists, but by the time we were ready to head down, the beach was getting busier.  We still found a good spot and managed to dig our own hole.  Tim and Hannah loved sitting in the hot water whereas Ellen prefered building sandheaps in the shade.  Although I was dressed for the occasion, after helping Tim dig the hole my feet and lower legs felt pretty cold and I simply did not want to go in order to feel freezing cold when coming out (I know, it’s a very feeble excuse, maybe tomorrow …).  Ellen and I went to the shop to fetch some drinks and twice had to wade through a very cold stream with rocks and a strong current in places – it’s a miracle that none of us lost their balance or got seriously hurt on the rocks.

When the tide turned we got ourselves ready to leave the beach and when Tim and Hannah were drying themselves off we heard some screams from the beach as the cold sea started to fill in some of the holes (still with bathers in!), it looked like we left just in time!  A well deserved ice cream on the way home and then time to get supper ready.

Tim cooked a lovely chicken korma and we ended our meal with yoghurt for dessert.

The girls are getting used to writing their daily diaries, although Ellen needs more encouraging than Hannah.  Hannah very easily wrote over 100 words and once Ellen got into it she ended up writing 27 words.  Next the girls were given some wind down time and did some lovely dancing.  All too soon it was time for bed and blog.

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A cunning wheeze – let the children write about the day and give the grown-up people a night off from the blog… Well, not quite – I’ll fill in the odd gap, while – a la G. Perec – avoiding the letter conventionally interpolated between R and T in the alphabet (to counterbalance the alliterative text of our children).

Anyway, we had a day of near-unbroken heavy rain. In the morning we drove to Whitianga (pronounced ‘Fitianga’) to get a New Zealand chip for our mobile phone – to reduce the price of calling or texting John and Angela (and Belgium). We then got ‘foot underwear’ for Ellen and briefly connected our laptop at an internet cafe. The weather looked good for our final full day here (the day before Monday) and hence we decided to book a two-hour trip on a boat with a bottom through which you can look at – and photograph – the marine wildlife (particularly abundant in the protected area near Cathedral Cove).

A filled bread roll for everyone for lunch at a rapid food outlet named after an American underground rail network. Next we called in at a large food emporium to buy a treat or two for tea. Then a careful drive back to our bach at Hot Water Beach through the continuing precipitation.

But did the rain put a damper on our adventure? No – indeed we enjoyed a lot of rewarding family time together, playing Monopoly for much of the afternoon while it poured, followed by hoki (a bit like cod) and fried potato for dinner. Hannah and Ellen enjoyed watching a lone man braving the chilly water, repeatedly paddling horizontally out through the ocean and then returning vertically on a board (wave-aided) with great aplomb. The children then got to work on their daily diary, a copy of which I have placed on our blog.

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The Ssssss Day

Today loads of things that happened started with the letter S: Subway, supermarket, socks, sandwiches (from Subway), showers, soaking, surfer. First we went to Subway and I had a sandwich with ham, cheese, cucumber and mayonnaise. Then I had a packet of crisps and a bottle of chocolate milk.

After that we went to the supermarket and bought snacks, sweets and socks. One pair of socks is white, another one had a bit of pink on it and another one had a bit of purple on it. I got one pack of three pairs of socks and they are called trainer socks.

Whilst we were having dinner we saw a super solo surfer in the sea, getting soaking wet in the showers of rain.

By Hannah

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I got socks and then we went to Subway. In the supermarket we bought snacks.

We saw a surfer in the sea.

By Ellen

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In hot water

We woke up to a dry (if grey) start of the day and a beautiful view across to Hot Water Beach. Breakfast consisted of toast with jam, chocolate spread, honey and condensed milk, fresh coffee and juice and fruity buns.

After reading up on local attractions we decided to head down into Tairua (about 20km) to visit the nearest information centre and collect more brochures/leaflets.

Tairua beach.
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Before returning to Hot Water Beach for lunch we stopped at the local playground and also visited Twin Kauri Scenic Reserve where we walked through regenerating Kauri forest and saw two almost intertwined ancient trees. As the last few days had been wet the scent of the trees and soil was almost overpowering but refreshing.
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Pohutukawa flower.
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At lunchtime we could already spot a huge number of people on the beach, so we packed our stuff and headed down to the local shop to buy our spade. We joined the others and Tim and the girls eventually managed to take over someone else’s hole, dig it out a bit more and relax in the hot water. An hour later and the weather had turned; low hanging clouds and a fine drizzle made us get out of the water and head back up to our bach, feeling all cold and wet.

Hannah in a hole.
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Keep digging…
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Hot Water Beach.
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We warmed up with a cup of tea and some biscuits. I went to lie down to recover from a really bad headache while Tim introduced the girls to a very long game of Monopoly. It was the girls’ first game together and Tim made sure he squeezed in a bit of Maths tuition.  The girls absolutely loved being in charge of money and buying streets and houses; we’ll definitely play it again on another rainy day…
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We ended the day with jacket potatoes with tuna/mayonnaise, cheese and salad and strawberries for supper. Then the girls wrote their diaries which took much longer than anticipated and then it was time for bed. As I’m writing this the weather has turned a lot worse and it is absolutely chucking it down now – hopefully we’ll get all the rain out of the way tonight and have a nice, sunny day tomorrow!

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Heavy rain during the night; time to move on… We were packed and in the car by about 8.30am, perhaps a bit later after John had finished enthusing about our trip and about our subsequent ‘champion’ destinations in New Zealand. For the New Zealanders we have met are ever so positive and obliging; John returned our payment for our two cancelled nights without any prompting, then offered us his wi-fi code; an ice-cream seller volunteered to replace a dropped cone for free (in fact, only the spoon had fallen); a lady behind us in the supermarket queue explained how to get my debit card to work (you have to select ‘credit card’ as the account option). None of the USA’s insistence on deposits and legally binding contracts, none of French Polynesia’s long lists of house rules, none of Chile’s income-maximising ethos. It’s more ‘we’ll play fair with you because we reckon you’ll play fair with us’.

Lady TomTom indicated a 5 1/2 hour journey to Hot Water Beach, quicker than we had feared. So we allowed ourselves the odd stop, the oddest being the Kawakawa public toilets. For these were Hundertwasser’s last creation, and over a decade later they are still in good shape. I can’t help suspecting that in the UK any public convenience window made of glass bottles embedded in concrete would have been smashed or defaced by now, but the inside and outside of these facilities were in excellent condition. Sadly, the girls had been too well drilled to go before they went but I managed to spend a penny in the Gents.

Hundertwasser loos.
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After this, a long stop-start journey south, thanks to various roadworks on the way (and to Auckland, City of Snails). A fully cloudy sky with the odd rain shower and no prospect of improvement. We stopped for petrol and the toilet just before the toll road and then for lunch after the toll.

Auckland skyline.
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Scenery en route.
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We then headed east and north towards Hot Water Beach, arriving just before 4pm. Our bach is basic (as they tend to be) with wood-chip flooring and a small kitchen; all the bedroom storage is already taken up with the owners’ belongings so we are a bit pushed for space. Anyway, we unloaded in the rain and took a while to work out how to turn on the electricity – there are also warnings about saving water (three-minute showers, only one load of washing a week – sorry, Kirsten).

We put on our raincoats and walked down to the beachside store to get something for supper. Closed. So back into the car to find a nearby town; this turned out to be Whitianga, a good 70km round trip away down some windy roads, but at least there was a large ‘New World’ supermarket once we got there. So we took the opportunity to stock up for our five days here and returned with a bootful of provisions. An 8pm supper of spaghetti carbonara and then B&B (bed & blog).

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