Following our Auckland extravaganza, off we jolly well went to Whitianga on the bus.
We arrived to a tiny seaside town and checked into the YHA. The hostel was lovely, and we managed to maintain a 4 man dorm to ourselves for two nights. Result! The town had little to hold except a fish and chip shop offering a $10 special… 2x fish 2x chips 2x squid rings and 2x sausages for the equivalent of 5 quid! It’d be rude not to really wouldn’t it! Sat and devoured it by the sea. Freezing. Went back and watched the last instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The following morning we decided we wanted to visit the local tourist attractions – Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, the latter coming recommended by Maggie’s crew. Unfortunately it turned out that they weren’t as local as we’d at first thought, and the ways to get there were a coach tour for $50 a head or to hire a car for $65… We considered hiring a car and risking the insurance business but decided it wouldn’t be worth it. I wasn’t impressed by the thought of paying the equivalent of 50 squids for a bus to a beach. A beach should be free should it not?! So we went to ask the hostel owner for advice, and she said “I strongly recommend you hitch hike.” We were like “huh?” – when does anyone ever suggest hitch hiking?? But she reassured us that it’s perfectly safe and we’d have no trouble getting picked up. We decided in the words of mummy Deane that we were “big enough and ugly enough” to cope. Yikes!
After a comedy ferry crossing of about 50m we started walking in the right direction. Not a car to be seen. We wanted to go to the Hot Water Beach for low tide so we were in somewhat of a hurry. The traffic began to pick up to about one car every 5 minutes (did I mention that New Zealand is quiet?) we began nudging each other every time a car went past saying “you do it!” “No, you do it!” And so on and so forth.
We finally plucked up the courage to stick our thumbs in the air and the first car that passed us stopped and picked us up. How crazy is that?! The two blokes who picked us up were pulling their boat and were perfectly lovely, and even altered their route to get us closer to the beach.
When we got to the beach there were about 100+ people rammed into a small spot digging holes. The geothermal activity under the sand means that you get hot water when you start digging. Should you have brought a spade with you that is! We didn’t have a sodding spade did we?! Also, we kept trying to try out other people’s holes who weren’t very impressed. Too many people everywhere so we gave up having only managed to scald our feet haha!
After sharing a coffee in the cafe (desperate times and all that) we got back on the road to Cathedral Cove. We didn’t even need to put our thumbs up before someone pulled over and offered us a lift. So far in New Zealand we’ve been treated with nothing but kindness. It’s been lovely! The chap who gave us a ride even showed us where the beach was and then took us to the start of the trail. A 45 minute walk took us up and down steps all the way to along the coast to Cathedral Cove. When we got there it felt like hidden treasure. We’d hitchhiked to paradise!
We headed back to the main road via stingray beach (no stingrays just a strong poo smell) and then got our hands on an ice cream. 🙂 we then thumbed a final lift back to the ferry. What a day!
The next day saw us back on the bus, this time going to Tauranga. We decided to stop here as it was on the way to Rotorua, and we’d heard good things about the nearby Mount Monganui. Again it was another town with not much going on. We got the bus to the mountain (a lot less than $100 this time) and walked up the mountain. Monganui is another inactive volcano. It was a nice walk, with good views from the top.
To be honest the best thing about that day was the ice cream parlour we found! Copenhagen Ices make their own waffle cones and I tried a new flavour – orange chip which is actually like a scoop of heaven. Pot noodle tea and then a sleepless night in a dorm. I. Hate. Dorm. Rooms.
Woke up knackered but excited to be heading back on the bus to Rotorua!