Our first full free day in New Zealand--after a couple days helping our wwoof host start an enormous vegetable patch--we turned our rental car up the winding, fern-lined mountain roads to the Coromandel peninsula. As with most New Zealand roads it seems, the way was lush, beautiful, and skirted tranquil, idyllic bays. Even in winter.
We made it to Hahei (meaning the breath of Hei) and phoned a sea kayaking place and scheduled an afternoon tour, then headed out for some hiking to Cathedral Cove, a pink sand beach dominated by a large white arch diving into the deep green sea. It was lovely, but we didn't dally too long as we had to rush on back to make the same basic trip by kayak.
Which was awesome. It was only us on the tour. Our guide was great. He told us about Hei, who founded Hahei, and who became chieftain of the land because of his nose. See, there was an island in the bay which looked--if you were told to see it--like a nose. Seen from below. Kind of. A battered nose for sure, but forcing people to realize the island really looked like his nose could have become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But for the Maori, if a geographical feature looked like someone's body part, then they could claim the gods had made it for them. In fact, everything you can see from the top of that anthropomorphic bit of land is yours too. Kind of a nice alternative to the homestead act.
We paddled between island, over shoals, through arches and finally back to Cathedral Cove where we went exploring some caves for a bit while our guide made us some nice hot chocolate.
And then we headed back through a bay full of sting rays in time to get back in the car and leg it to Hot Water Beach. Now this place was awesome. So awesome. At low tide, you can rent a trowel and head out to this strip of beach between some cliffs and the ocean and dig out a natural hot spring. Even walking along the beach if you force your feet down much, you can reach the sometimes scalding water.
We hiked out in the darkening shade even as the sky stayed light blue until we got there. Not that it quite got dark before the colors intensified into a deep blue green. We chatted with a couple from Manchester who let us borrow their trowel while digging out our pool while waves crashed behind us and the lights all went out. Lying on our backs, a cloud of stars and the night wind came out: chilling and gorgeous.
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