Day 27. Saturday 2 December.
Yesterday it was Hobbit holes; today it was beach spa holes. We came to Whitianga (north Coromandel Peninsula) to visit Hot Water Beach. 2 hours either side of low tide sees hundreds of folk with shovels in hand, digging holes in the shoreline, creating personal spas, as the geothermal activity beneath delivers VERY, VERY HOT water. Today, low tide was at 1240, so we arrived at about midday, purchased the $8 parking ticket and the $5 shovel hire (donation to lifeguards) and set off across the sand. D was barefoot and spoke of burning feet. Of course T was shod and apart from having to take shoes on and off to cross a stream, was reasonably comfortable. The sight was bizarre. The hundreds of bathers had dug spas on modest and grand scales. Some were lolling with steam rising. Bathers had obviously vacated their spas to cool off in the surf, or to leave, so we didn’t have to dig at all. We just muscled in like cuckoos and found a vacant spa at a seriously hot temperature. D immersed himself, T was more hesitant, starting with feet and gradually sitting. The water was so hot! The tide crept toward us and when cool water threatened our bulwark, it was time to go and we were able to pass on our ‘nest’ to the next cuckoo group. We were entertained by a group of young Japanese women next to us: shrieks whenever they came into contact with cold water, that crept up from behind with the incoming tide as they lay on the sand facing the shore. And it happened again….and again….
T then suggested we check out the Cathedral Cove boat trip, so we found ourselves booked on an RIB one-hour tour of the marvelous marine reserve off Cathedral Cove. It was a calm, perfectly blue Saturday summer afternoon and along with 8 other passengers we skimmed across the aquamarine waters, taking in the coastal views of volcanic cliffs, coves, caves and fish. The lowlight for D was the captain feeding all those happy Snappers (the fish, not the passengers) apparently aware that they were protected. The highlight was cruising with a pod of 12 bottle-nose dolphins for a good 15 mins. The dolphins were alongside, underneath and in front of the boat…just magic as they dived and snorted.
The road back to Whitianga was no less winding than it had been yesterday and will be tomorrow as we head for Auckland and further north. Fish dinner at Squid’s rounded off a beautiful day and D has managed to chill with cricket and thr RL World Cup on the TV, distancing himself from the angst of non-availability issues with data and wi-fi and the ongoing and very frustrating non-service from Telstra. Guess who’s changing his service provider on return to Australia?