The Coromandel Peninsula

We finally made it away from the flooded Northlands.  The area is apparently known as “the Winterless North” but it was being pretty autumnal at least while we were there.  Our next stop was the Coromandel Peninsula and a place called Hot Water Beach.  As you may have guessed, Hot Water Beach has hot water.  At low tide, you dig yourself a little hole in the sand, it fills up with warm water and voila, your own private spa pool.  The guidebook helpfully informs me that this phenomenon is due to “geothermal activity” which is pretty vague as explanations go, but helpful in case you thought it was magic.  It’s a pretty grey day, but we borrow some spades and head off to the beach anyway.

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The hot spots are not everywhere on the beach, so you have to push your feet around in the sand until you find a warm place, and that’s where you dig.  You need to be careful because in some places the water is about 80 degrees, which would mean tourist soup if you made yourself a pool there.  Soon, the little area on the beach with all the warm spots was a hive of activity.

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The tide is going out as we dig; our first few efforts are destroyed by big waves, but soon the tide is far enough out for us to construct a little pool for long enough for it to fill with warm water.  I hopped in and enjoyed a soak.  Mr Beet just kept on digging.  He was having more fun digging the holes than anything else.  He was reinforcing our pool, helping other people with theirs, and he even built a secondary pool in front of ours to act as a barrier.  People kept coming along the beach and thinking – aha, free pool, I will nab that – but more fool them as the secondary pool was full of scorching water.  After just a couple of hours, the tide started to turn back and we had to abandon our little spa.

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After another horrendously stormy night, we woke up to a beautiful morning, perfect for a stroll along to the scenic Cathedral Cove.

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More photos on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

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The Northlands

From Auckland we head, you guessed it, North. Our first stop is at Sheepworld, one of many NZ tourist attractions based on sheep. We get a demonstration of the sheepdogs in action, then Mr Beet volunteers to actually have a go at some shearing (some people have been commenting that he could do with a bit of a shear himself!), and finally we get to feed the babies. Everyone else got a lamb, but the kid goat headed straight for me, obviously recognising a kindred spirit.

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We then continue up the East Coast to our first campsite in Tutukaka.  Our first night in the van is marked by sausages and mash cooked in the campsite kitchen and an episode of Doctor Who on our campervan dvd player. I could get used to campervanning.

The next morning we head off on a cruise to the Poor Knights Islands.  We pop in for a snorkel, as the Islands are in a marine reserve and the waters are teeming with fish.  It is pretty chilly, so I only last about three minutes.  Mr Beet braves it for a bit longer.  Then we have a nice lunch on the boat, cruise round the islands looking at big caves and rock arches, and finally head back to shore soaking up the sun that has belatedly decided to put in an appearance.

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The next day we further up the coast. The weather is good so we stop off along the way at anywhere that looks nice, including some gorgeous beaches at Matapouri Bay and Whale Bay.

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Our ultimate destination is Waitangi.  This is where the treaties between the Maori and the British settlers were signed.  We took a tour of the museum and the treaty grounds, and we also see a Maori cultural performance.  Unfortunately, this involves audience participation.  I try my hand at a poi dance and Colin gets to do the haka.  The first thing he has to master is the “big-eyes-tongue-sticking-out” expression that is used to intimidate the enemy.  Of course, being a child of the 80s, he is already well-practised in this thanks to Wacaday and Mallet’s Mallet (look at each other and go “bleurrrrgh!“).

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The following day we are undecided whether to go for Plan A: kayaking in the Bay of Islands or Plan B: sandboarding.  However, after a night spent being buffeted in the back of our van by strong winds and heavy rain we decide that we need a Plan C.  Plan C is to drive up to the Northernmost tip of NZ at Cape Reinga, where we can see the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean.  It is by all accounts a pretty wuthering sort of place anyway, so bas weather shouldn’t make too much difference.  We head off north through torrential rain, only to be stopped in our tracks after about an hour’s drive by flooded roads. Plan C duly scrapped, we decide that Plan D will be to head south to get as far as we can in the direction of our next destination, the Coromandel Peninsula. We head back to Waitangi, and about an hour south of there, we get stopped by flooded roads again. Plan E is to return to the campsite that we just left, eat some fish and chips, watch another Doctor Who and try again tomorrow.

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More photos can be found on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

Auckland

After two weeks in Sydney, we do a quick hop over to New Zealand.  We arrive in Auckland, where we have a couple of nights before we pick up our campervan and start exploring.

First stop was the national museum.  New Zealand doesn’t have a lot of history, but it does have a lot of natural history and the natural history floor was definitely the best.  They had a huge skeleton of a moa – an extinct ostrich-like bird that was 3m tall, and also some pretty big model penguins.

There was also a good exhibition about volcanos, because NZ is all volcanic.  There is a simulator you go in where you are supposed to be in a house in Auckland harbour and you can see a volcano erupting.  The house starts shaking and on the screen you see the whole city being completely levelled.  Then a man comes on TV and tells you to be prepared for volcanos.  The whole city has just been annihilated – I don’t think that having plenty of spare batteries and drinking water would have helped in this instance.

Across the park from the museum there is also a very pretty winter garden.

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It’s a nice walk through parks into the city and we pop into the art gallery.

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On our second day we get a ferry across Auckland harbour to the small volcanic island of Rangitoto. It’s a one hour climb up to the crater, for great views back over the city. It’s funny to see people who have obviously come to NZ for a walking holiday tackle the one-hour climb with walking boots and poles, being overtaken by small children in flip-flops.

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We decide to take the long route back down and around the island. My map says this takes three hours, which means we will get back for the last ferry of the day in plenty of time. However, on the way back the signposts we pass suggest that the walk will actually take four hours – which means missing the ferry and spending the night on the uninhabited (apart from a few campers) island. Not knowing whether my map or the signpost is right, we proceed at top speed. Fortunately, my map was right and our brisk pace means we actually arrive back at the harbour with an hour to spare. Good exercise though!

After checking out of our hostel we pick up our campervan to start exploring the islands. The van is called Ivor (the Engine) because of the noise it makes going up hills.

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More pictures of Auckland on Mr Beet’s flickr page.

Mr Beet’s Beer Chronicles – Australia

Mr Beet made the most of Australia’a amber nectar.

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Quayle Ale in the Lord Nelson Brewery

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Boag’s Draught – from Tasmania

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Cooper’s Pale Ale

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Vale Pale Ale

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Scharer’s – this did not go down well

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Pure Blonde

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Mr Beet and Mark enjoying pints of Dark Knight.

And the winner is Quayle Ale from what claims to be the oldest pub in Sydney.