After putting our clocks back an hour ready for winter, we woke up bright and early to clear blue skies and the sun just poking its head over the horizon but, wow, was it cold!
Nevertheless, we donned our swimming cozies and, with hired spade in hand we parked the van on the front at the Hot Water Beach and headed off across the beach feeling pretty chilly and thinking how daft all this seems. Low tide was at 10:15am and, as the hot spring rises up into the sand somewhere between high and low tides, we were told the best time to get there was between 1 and 2 hours either side of low tide, so our 8:15am trudge across the beach was a bit early. Fierce this Pacific surf can be as well!
We were accompanied by plenty of other equally daft people, all carrying their spades and all heading for the same small stretch of beach, including an older couple from Toronto who felt as ridiculous as us! When we got there there were already quite a few others digging holes, so we selected an area nearby just in front of the surf and started to dig. Didn’t seem very warm we thought – and we were right, an American guy came by and said we were digging in the wrong place, the hot water only comes up in certain areas, the other people were in one, but there was another about 8 feet in front of some rocks that was about 65 C temperature. Unfortunately the surf intermittently revealed maybe 8 or 10 feet of beach, but then swept in up to the rocks.
Over we went with the couple from Toronto and started to dig, saw it swept away by a big wave, dug again, had it swept away and so on for some time. People walked past saying ‘is it hot?’, I replied ‘well, I’m hot!’. But it was, in certain places it almost burned our feet and we were glad of the cooling Pacific waters! After half hour or so the Toronto couple began to make progress so we joined forces with them to try to build a wall strong enough to hold back the tide.
Eventually we made a pool big enough for us, but it was only on the edge of the rising hot water so was tepid in temperature, not quite the steaming bath we expected, but warm nonetheless. A good time was had by all, except for the blister I grew, and we left after about half an hour of soaking and chatting with our new found friends.
After a quick cold shower at the edge of the beach (it was now quite a bit warmer as the sun was up and the sky still blue), we changed and headed off to Cathedral Cove, another thing that is best seen around low tide. A brisk 45 minute walk from the car park took us down on to a very tropical looking beach with beautifully sculptured rocks and a magnificent arch through to another beach with more superb scenery. The coastline round here is very picturesque with lots of small islands and rocky outcrops making it very beautiful and certainly living up to the peninsula’s reputation.
Having dodged the small red cones positioned along the beach, we noticed a number of people in wetsuits running along the beach, through the cathedral arch and then throwing themselves into the sea and swimming off round the headland to the cheers of onlookers. It turned out to be a swimming and running competition, starting from Hahei beach, competitors had to swim round to the far end of cathedral beach, run along the beach and then swim back to Hahei beach, a total of 4km.
It was also possible to just do the run and swim back, a distance of only 2km. It was all very impressive, particularly to me as a length of a swimming pool is enough for me!
After visiting Cooks Beach, which is in Mercury Bay, named by Captain Cook in 1769 after he recorded a transit of the planet Mercury past the Sun, we ended up at a very pleasant campsite with almost no-one else here (it really is very quiet everywhere now – except Hot Water Beach!). We visited two other campsites on the way, paying over $30 at one then finding it to be horrible, we asked for our money back, which the owner did very amicably saying ‘No problem, we want people to be happy in New Zealand, even if they aren’t here. Have a great holiday!’ How good is that? (would have been better if his campsite was better though!)