10:35pm, Te Aroha YHAMan, I feel about ready to pass out again tonight, as I type this… This morning I woke up in the exact same position I went to sleep in. I must have slept hard. I figured it must be at least 8am, and got up to start some research. To my surprise it was still 6:50am! I researched lodging and Hobbiton tours while Wendy slept another 1.5hrs. After a light breakfast of yogurt, we loaded the car and hit the road ~10:15am, following our map of Auckland (provided by car rental company) to reach highway 1 south. Our destination today was Hot Water Beach, where hot springs are present under the sand during low tide, allowing one to dig their own hot pool. Low tide was 1:45pm today, and the sandy beach only exists 1.5hrs before and after. Google maps reported a 2 hr drive from Auckland, but the road was very windy for the 2nd half of the drive, climbing two "rainforest" covered passes up the Coromandel peninsula. It was a scenic drive. Fortunately we didn't have to wait long to cross both one-way bridges we encountered. Traffic was super heavy in the opposite direction, as crowds were returning from their big Xmas & New Year's vacations.
We reached the very crowded beach front ~1pm, and rented a shovel for $5NZD at the store. The beach was scenic, and the overcast skies were finally thinning, allowing the sun. It was certainly bathing suit weather out. We walked along the beach towards a mass of people gathered in front of a rocky outcropping, and observed the many pools in the sand.
It was pretty obvious where the hot spring was, based on the mass of people gathered into a small section of beach ahead...
Steaming hot water was pouring down a small channel, into the ocean. People had to keep distance, since it was too hot to stand in...
It took some time to realize exactly where the hot springs were coming up from the sand. Valuable real estate was hard to come by. The trick was to dig near the hot springs, and extend the pool to include a cold spring. The hot spring was scorching hot. It looked like this might be a bust, but then I found a good spot, and offered to help someone create their pool in the area. We built a huge pool in a PRIME spot, and had it to ourselves. The water was so hot in most of the pool, that no one else could join us. So we had lots of room to take in the views of the beach, and to watch people walk into the hot water and quickly jump away. It was amusing. We also saw a guy place mussels into the hot spring to cook.
Eventually, the tide started to rise, and breached our pool. I continued my workout, shoveling to rebuild, but eventually gave in, and enjoyed the cool water joining the hot pool. After 1.5hrs, we headed back to return the shovel, and wait in line to hose off our legs.
Hot Water Beach is quite popular, and certainly a unique experience. No doubt it would be more relaxing in the offseason or at night, to avoid the crowds.
On the drive back, we stopped at the beachtown of Tairua to use an ATM, and bought a bucket to stow our toiletries. With our cash, we bought some organic veggies from one of the many stands along the road during our drive back.We reached Te Aroha (name means "the love") ~5:30pm, and bought some groceries for dinner before stopping at our hostel, a cozy old house on the edge of town, below the monstrous, and lost-world-like rainforesty Mt Te Aroha. The attendants wouldn't be back till 8:30pm, so we visited the Te Aroha Dominion, which is a park featuring hot pools, spas, and a geyser that goes off every 40 minutes. There we stumbled upon a free pool for soaking your feet in. 4 other seasoned Kiwis were relaxing there, and we had a nice 15-20 minute visit with them. Kiwis are very friendly. One of the old ladies even gave us hugs when we left the pool. They said the south island is a whole different country. Apparently, people are slow and relaxed down there, unlike the north island (though we thought it felt slow and relaxed here).
Pics of "The Dominion", the public park in Te Aroha. Wendy was fascinated by the pipe cleaner trees we saw here, and on the road today...
We continued wandering up the park, and encountered the spa center. We were surprised it was open, and walked in. The lady at the counter said there was a private spa available for 30 minutes, starting right now, for $36NZD. It was the perfect amount of time before we needed to get back to the hostel, and felt like a great opportunity to try a spa with mineral/soda water. Wow, the water was so smooth, and the deep barrel-tub was very comfortable. The lady said NOT to shower after, since the minerals are good for your skin.
We returned to the hostel, met the owners, cooked dinner (eggs, bacon, onions, tomato, mushrooms), and chatted a long time with the only other person staying at the hostel tonight. His name was Michael (pronouned "Michelle"), from Yukon Territory, and he told us stories of living in the bush his whole life as a trapper, hunting for all his food. Now he has been traveling the south pacific on volunteer projects. The previous people left some beer in the fridge, so I tried a can of Speights (the most popular beer in NZ), but it was similar to Budweiser.
Flaky internet here (probably jumping on a signal from a house across the street). Trying to research Waitomo Cave tours.7:15am alarm tomorrow, so we can head to Hobbiton tomorrow for a 9:50am tour!
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