November 6th, 2006

full steam ahead

Getting into hot water

Armed with a spade from the nice man at the Peninsula motel (if you're in Whitianga stay with Jos and Gerrard at www.peninsulamotel.co.nz and say hi from us) and some tips about how to keep it from getting too hot, we drove off the Hot Water beach. For a couple of hours either side of low tide you can dig a hole in the sand and get hot water. The tide splashes up so you can't dig too soon and you look for bubbles in the sand for the hot and you watch out because a lot of it is too hot to stand on, and then you dig! And dig and dig as the tide washes things away, and then shore up your hole and wallow in your water. It's paddle and wallow rather than soak but it's lovely. My plan was to have a cold reservoir and a hot pool but it all came together. We had two or three hot sources and one cold to keep it balanced and the sea washed up from time to time. This is what I've been wanting to get to the Coromandel for since I first came to New Zealand and it was lovely.

It does get crowded, especially if a coach arrives and the pools build up next to another like honeycombs. We soaked and wallowed for a while then dragged our sand encrusted selves back to the cafe for bacon apricot chicken pie and bacon and egg quiche with at least five veggies lurking in it. There's a nice 'art' place with shell and stone art, strings of beads and shells, green Indonesian river rock set ito concrete pots and so on - lots of inspiration.

Then we drove past Hahei and walked to Cathedral Cove. It's the full half hour and a little more, up slopes, down slopes, through kissing gates and finally down several sets of steps but it's well worth it (and I was more tired than usual after the digging). There are a series of headlands in white stone, with emerald grass on top: the beach is nearly pink with tiny shell fragments. And the sea is blue and green, cutting the cave out into a cathdral nave and scouring round a stack, with the cliffs worn into honeycomb at the top.

On the way back we saw tui mobbed by starlings and mobbing back. The tui has two voices. Tweet tweet it starts out, tweet. But tweet tweet is followed by a rasping honk squark honk skwark.

We drove on round to ferry landing. It's a passenger ferry and it's a stones throuw across to Whitianga - you could almost wade it. But with the car we had to drive all the way back round!

Dinner at Salt. Apparantly this used to be the local pub but there's little trace of it except maybe the air freshener in the loo which is Moroccan Sunset. We had rack of veal with risotto, snapper with carrot puree (an icon of new zealand the waitress said, delicious but sometimes overpriced), a creme de cacao baba with banana sauce and macadamias, nectarine compote with sour cream and manuka honey ice cream, a rather delicious Gravity sauv blanc, an ozzie viognier and a good night's sleep.
full steam ahead

Dolphins! We saw dolphins

A morning of packing and talking to Jos and Gerrard and a late breakfast and we set off on the main road to Coromandel town which winds and swoops up and down and round, pausing at a scenic lookout on the spine of the ridge. The road past Coromandel follows the coast, at beach lelvel then climbing up for a wonderful view of the beach and the sea - and a pod of dolphins swimming along in pairs and threes, curving through the water dark and sleek, following each other round and up and down and every now and then leaping out in a high curve or a flip. So wonderful.

On up the coast and onto dirt track (dust!), past bays and inlets and estuaries and mangrove swamps and islands with the tide so far out you could walk across to them.

Pukaklets (or is it pukupkakes) are very dark and very fluffly. As far as Fantail Bay where we walked on the shingle and ate chocolate on the rocks and found ants in the food bag and abandoned the nougat accordingly.

The four foot high model fish mailbox was fun, the dustbin was endearing, the outboard motor was good but the winner today was the fire engine - the mailbox for the fire station!
Then back and back and back, all along the coast and off the Coromandel peninsula entire.

We didn't give up the coast - across the bottom and up the other side of the Firth of Thames. Just out of Thames we saw a stretch limo: not so far from Auckland I thought. Then we saw it was a stretch Ford Granada! Along shingle beaches, a touch desolate in the evening light, past the dragon pottery, along as much coast as we could find and then inland. The road to the airport makes you think you're lost when you're not. The Shanghai flight starts tonight so lots of red lamps and chinese buffet food - and a free 20 minute massage. So tired - onto the plane, a bite to eat and then off into the starry dark. Goodbye New Zealand!