After a rollercoaster of a bus ride from Auckland to Thames, I managed to settle into the Sunkist hostel near the seashore. The building is the oldest in Thames, and had a lot of charm. It was eco-friendly too with buckets for kitchen scraps to feed to the pigs, recycling bins, electricity and water saving features, and free-range eggs for sale.
Thames is the gateway to the Pinnacles, which is the mountain range that runs along the middle of the Coromandel Peninsula – obviously I was there for the hiking. I met another Canadian girl and I guy from Germany at the hostel, and we all headed up to the Pinnacles together for a day hike.
There were plenty of swing bridges, ladders, and steep climbs, but the view from the top was quite spectacular.
While I was wrapping up at Rainbow Valley Farm, I got an email from a couple living in Whitianga that I had contacted about WWOOFing. They needed help in the garden on their organic cattle ranch. Whitianga (Fit-EEE-anga) is on the other side of the peninsula from Thames. The drive around was beautiful, but a little scary at times. Again, the roads were narrow, windy, and right along the seashore.
I couldn’t have felt more at home at Jaqui & Rod’s place; they were incredible hosts, and I hope that they come visit Vancouver someday. I spent most of my time at their place working in the garden, but I also got a chance to feed the pigs and chooks, and pick plums in the orchard. January here is like July at home in the garden, so the zucchinis were growing like crazy! Jaqui and I made a really delicious courgette chutney that I can’t wait to make again this summer! Yummy!
One of the reasons I was so excited to spend some time in Whitianga was because it is quite close to Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach – two places I wanted to visit. I worked ‘double time’ in the garden for a day, so I could have the next day off to explore the area and check out the beach. Luckily they had an extra bicycle that I could use for the day to get around.
How is hot water beach hot? There are two springs, Maori and Orua, under the beach heated by hot volcanic intrusions from 5-9million years ago. Release of carbon dioxide causes the springs to bubble up through fractures in the underlying rock. If you dig a hole deep enough at low tide, you can reach this hot water (60-65C), and have a lovely soak.
After about 60Km of riding, I had to stop at the river for a swim on the way home! Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach were both cool, but I think my favourite swim spot was the river of HWY 309. The water was clear and refreshing, and it was nice to relax in the water without being pushed around in the big surf. People say there are killer eels that lurk in the depths of the swimming hole – I wouldn’t be surprised if there are, but I luckily didn’t have an encounter.