We waved goodbye to Claire and her lovely boys after breakfast and made our way towards the Coromandel Peninsula. It was another wet and horrible day in Auckland but the weather picked up as the day went on. We took the main highway to Thames and then travelled along the coastal road up the East Coast of the Peninsula to Coromandel Town, where we stopped briefly and stretched our legs. It was lovely driving alongside the water and we could see Auckland on the other side of the bay.
We spent the afternoon driving down the West Coast of the Peninsular to Whitianga, again, another beautiful stretch of road. As we left Coromandel Town the road climbed steeply through a series of windy bends, to a look out point at the top, where you could look down towards the town we had just visited on one side, and across the green countryside to the Pacific Ocean on the other.
Whitianga was a beautiful quaint little town, with a gorgeous beach, which must attract visitors in their hundreds in the summer. The town had some lovely little shops, including one that sold delicious ice creams! We would have spent a bit more time here but we were meeting the Archers in Whangamata for the weekend so onwards we drove.
About 20 kilometres South of Whitianga the road winded its way inland and we turned off and headed back out towards the coast to visit Cathedral Cove. The trail took visitors to three little beaches, Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay and Mares Leg Cove. We walked straight to Mares Leg Cove, which is the beach next door to Cathedral Cove and after twenty minutes (fifty according to the DOC) we arrived to find a gorgeous part of coastline, with a lovely little trickle of a waterfall flowing off the cliffs at the far end of the beach. On the opposite side was a huge natural bridge of rock, which was roped off, appearing not to be safe for the public to enter. Through this hole was Cathedral cove a very famous beautiful beach, which has been used in many movies, most recently the new Narnia film, Voyage of the Dawn Tredder. There was a big warning sign next to the hole stating that it was dangerous due to rocks falls and visitors must not enter. Naturally we walked through to the other side. We're still here to tell the tale strangely enough! We weren't the only ones and what was really funny is that canoe/kayak companies make a fortune offering tourists trips to Cathedral Cove by boat because you can't access Cathedral Cove by land. One such company had a group in Cathedral Cove when we were there, except everyone had crossed the barrier to walk through to Mares Leg Cove to have a look!! So it appears no one adheres to the sign, including the said tour guides.
We spent a very happy half an hour in the two coves before walking back along the path, diverting to walk down to Stingray Bay. The path down to the beach was very muddy and slippy despite wearing my walking boots but we soon reached the large rocks on the edge of the beach. We were navigating our way over the rocks to the sand when I slipped because my boots were muddy and couldn't get a grip on the slippery granite. I landed on my bad arm and waited for the snap or crunching sound to say I had broken it yet again, but nothing came, just tears as I had scraped my elbow and it was starting to sting and ache. A very lucky escape.
My husband wasn't happy with just seeing this small adorable bay and had spotted some caves on the far side, blocked by yet more rocks so off we went to explore. These rocks were even more slippery as the tide was now low and the rocks hadn't yet dried but I was prepared and spent a lot of time on all fours trying to grip anything that did't move. We made it safely to the caves, which were quite spectacular and after a few minutes we climbed back across the rocks to the beach and made our way back up the path to the car park.
A little further down the road we came to a hot water beach so we pulled up and went to investigate. We found about 30 people of all ages about half way along the beach in a cluster. Most of them were lounging in pools of water, which had steam rising out of them. We did't have any spade or shovel with us, nor had we brought our swimmers as it was late afternoon and we still had about an hour's drive to Whangamata. There was one little hole filled with water, which had been abandoned so we tested the water but it was cold. Dan stood in the middle of the puddle and started digging his feet into the sand and found a warm spot. He carried on digging until suddenly he nearly burnt his feet, the water bubbling was piping hot. I had spotted a little stream that seemed to be seeping out from under the sand down towards a couple of puddles which people were lying in so I walked over and found very hot water. It was absolutely astounding and very very weird. How can there be hot water (so hot a young child would scold themselves) right next to the freezing cold sea?? Geothermal spots are mind blowing and we would see quite a few over the next few weeks! Some of the people bathing had quite a set up with cool boxes filled with beer and munchies. We could have easily spent some time lazing in the hot water but we both did't want to get wet and sandy and decided just to continue on to Whangamata so back to the van we walked and onwards we drove.
We arrived at a little beach house, which Tracy knew had borrowed from someone she knew, at around 7:30pm and we only had to wait a few minutes for the Archer's to arrive. It was great to see them and after dumping our belongings into the bedrooms we headed out to the pub, where we had something to eat while we caught up with their news and where we had been. The pub started Kareoke, which was our cue to leave and go back to the house for more beer and cards before bed.
Saturday morning saw our lovely husbands cook Tracy and I a nice fry up for brekkie!! Mmmmm! This set us up for the day and off we went exploring., We found two pubs that sold beer and were showing Waikato winning in the rugby! After a leisurely couple of hours I drove (no, I wasn't drinking, don't worry!) to Opoutere where after a twenty minute walk we came to the beach, where an estuary flowed into the sea. The two boys and I changed into our swimmers and swam out across the estuary (which had a very fast current) to the rocks on the far side, where we found hundreds of mussels waiting to be picked. We plucked about seventy of them and put them in a little cool bag before swimming back to the other side where Tracy, who was nice and warm (and dry) was laughing at us and taking action shots. I got back first after quite a swim against the current and wasted no time getting out of my cold bikini. I was half dressed when Stu finally came ashore declaring he had lost all the mussels in the swim across. Naturally we all thought he was joking until he tipped the cool bag upside down and out poured a load of water and nothing else. Groaning I put my horrible cold, wet bikini back on and begrudgingly joined the boys back on the other side where we plucked more mussels. This time I wasn't taking any chances and decided I would take the bag and swim on my back. I scrambled over the rocks upstream a little so I could use the current to my advantage. My plan appeared to be working and I was half way across in no time. I swam hard for another five minutes and turned round to see how I was progressing to find I hadn't moved at all and I began to panic slightly as my legs were starting to tire due to a lack of serious swimming recently. The boys had just made it back to Tracy and were shouting suggestions to me. I tried swimming one handed crawl but that did't work either so I had no choice but to let the current carry me downstream towards the sea. Thankfully Dan was able to catch me and pull me in as I floated by. So in 24 hours I tried to break my arm and drown myself, not bad going hey?
We drove back to Whangamata after walking back to the car in the cold, and we stopped at a little supermarket to buy some cream and garlic for the mussels. We all showered and cooked the mussels, which were delicious but a little sandy and afterwards, at about 8:30pm we walked into town to try and find somewhere to eat. There was very little open and most of the restaurants had stopped serving. We walked all the way down the main street and thought we would have to eat at the same pub as last night, which we couldn't face as it was Kareoke night again but we tried one last restaurant. Hurrah! They would serve us if we sat down and ordered quickly so we did. The menu looked good but they messed up our order so Stu only got a starter and not a main but the food was good and the alcohol flowed.
We walked back to the house pausing along the way to gaze at the thousands of stars that were twinkerling above us. Back at the house the alcohol continued to flow and we played more cards before we staggered to bed.
Sunday morning saw some glum faces, not because we were hung over but because today was our last day together. We packed up our belongings and drove into town to find somewhere serving brunch. Whist waiting for our food to arrive we talked about what Stu was doing for his birthday and our plans for the following week and we came to realise that we would be in Taupo, which was only 150 ks from Hamilton. The Archers decided to celebrate Stu's birthday in style and we agreed to meet up next weekend, yippee!
Everyone, much more cheerful now and with food in our tummies drove to Whangamata beach where we played Frisbee (and we tried to teach Trace but not sure it did any good?) and lazed on the sand for a bit. The sun had returned and it was nice and warm but the wind made it chilly at times. Before too long it was time to drive back to the house and load the van and the car and wave goodbye for another five days.