To be honest, our first experience of the Kiwi bus had left us not hugely impressed as it didn't really seem to have the group experience we had expected. But we were open minded about it and thought there was a long was left to go, so thing may improve as we go south. And they most certainly did! Stop number #3 on the Kiwi tour was a place called Hot Water Beach, which we found out rather quickly definitely does live up to its name. We all checked into our rooms, at a rather nice holiday resort type place, and were then straight off down the beach to dig some hot pools! The reason Hot Water Beach is so named is due to that fact that if you dig a hole in the sand, the best time is between two hours either side of low tide, the water that fills it up from the ground is really hot due to the geo-thermal activity not too far below the surface. We were a bit dubious about this when we first arrived. There was not much beach as we have missed the main low tide window and there were lots of people digging but not many bathing in lovely warm waters
. However just after we arrived some people had found a rather good spot and in some places it was so hot we couldn’t even stand there! Later in the afternoon some people were going off to do some sea kayaking around a place called Cathedral Cove, and although we weren’t doing the kayaking (we are saving that activity for a national park in the south island where the bus driver promised me there would be baby seals!) we were going along on the bus as you could go and walk down to see the cove, and that was free! However, my afternoon activity was about to be rather different than what I had prepared for. How the activities on the kiwi bus work is that they send a clipboard around the bus each day and you just sign up for what you would like to do, and one of the activities on offer for this day was a glass bottom boat and snorkelling trip, which I was rather keen to do so signed up. But, unsurprisingly, on a bus of backpackers that was not a particularly popular activity and I was the only one who signed up! It also happened that no one else had signed up at the tour office either, so I couldn’t go on the trip as they can’t sail for just one person. So I was rather confused when from the bus I saw a man coming onto the bus wearing a 'glass bottom boat tours’ t-shirt. It happened that in the hour prior to that two people had signed up to trip so now they were going to sail and no one had told the tours that I had been told I couldn’t do the trip, so this guy was chasing the bus to get me
! All I had with me was a bottle of water and was wearing shorts and a vest with my bikini underneath, which luckily was all I needed for the trip. So I was off the bus, in to this guys car then onto the boat out to see Cathedral Cove and some marine life.Conor
: In the mean time, having been abandoned by my girlfriend on a bus full of relative strangers I did what I do best…made some friends! We drove on to the cove walk and I ended up being with Arron and Sarah, Emily and Jen, Noodles and Camille (apart from Arron and Sarah these guys aren’t grouped for any reason, I just think of them in pairs!), all of whom were awesome. Arron and I immediately bonded when he challenged me to a contest of rolling down a hill. We took the windy walk down to Cathedral cove, getting to know one another as we went. When we got to the cove we had a look around at the beautiful scenery, and I had a chat to the one older traveller on our bus (a retired university lecturer from Aberdeen), which was nice as she said nobody else had bothered to talk to her. After that I joined Bjorn (a German on our tour) on a rock that stood in the middle of cathedral cove’s bay, a short swim from the shore. We jumped off a few times, as you do in that situation! After that it was time to walk back to the bus and get a lift back to the campsite. I had a few drinks and waited for Annabel to return, full of tales of what she had been up too…Annabel:
And a tales I had
! The boat trip was really good, not exactly the tropical marine life I have become used to from being in Asia and Australia, but very interesting none the less. We went past Cathedral Cove and some other interesting cliff faces and caves and things which they told us about, watched some fish and saw some fish traps through the glass bottom and also did some snorkelling with the Snapper fish were we got to feed them as well. The water was so cold! But I just absolutely loved being in it. These were all the activities which were advertised in the brochure, so what I was expecting to happen. However, there was a further event that happened which was most definitely not in the brochure… After we had been out on the water for about 20 minutes the skipper got a call on his phone to say that there was an Orca whale caught in the rope of a fish trap, and that some guys were there trying to free it, but could do with a hand if we could get over there. We were all very excited about this, it felt a bit like an episode of an ‘Animal Rescue’ TV programme! So off we went, further out into the ocean where the waves were a lot bigger and at points the boat was literally jumping out of the water. We got to the location literally about 60 seconds before the guy managed to free, so I just go to see the fin and tail of it before it quickly swam away. I was really glad it was free as they said if it had been there for much longer it almost certainly would have died, but I was also a bit gutted as we sort of missed most of the action, it was a pretty excited event anyway though
After I had got back to the accommodation, and regaled everyone with my tales of the sea, we had some dinner and a few drinks before we embarked on the evening’s activity people had planned…Conor:
Basically someone had raised the very sensible point that there must be two low tides in every day, and that we had only so far visited the hot springs during one. We asked someone in the know who said that night low tide would in fact be at 1.30. We would be able to dig for springs around 2 hours before that, so a good group of us made plans to get a wee bit tipsy and get down there with spades! Luckily it was a full moon that night, so light was no great problem, but it was freezing! It’s certainly the coldest I’ve been in 3 months. So with swimming trunks and a coat on we left the campsite at 10.30pm (supposed quiet time) and made our way down to the beach. This took 5 minutes and unsurprisingly we got bored and started trying to dig almost straight away. We had about 8 people with us and initially the beach was empty. However as we dug and failed to find any suitable spots a few middle aged couples turned up to compete for space, in fact one pretty much defined out his ‘pitch’ that we were not to enter! Not being deterred by this, or the tide, we decided to build a small sea wall before digging down
. After 30 minutes of effort this worked a treat and soon we had steam rising from our pool. I noticed that the middle aged guy’s ‘pitch’ suddenly seemed to start at the edge of our pool, but we let him have it!
We’d hoped to be able to have a pretty comfortable spa experience in our hot pool, but unfortunately it was even hotter at night than in had been during the day. We had a sweet spot of about 30 minutes were cold sea water could get in a mix with the warm water making it comfortable, but as the tide went out the pool got warmer and warmer! By this point loads of other people had turned up and were making new wholes, and Annabel and I decided to call it a night! We had a load of fun making our whole, and although it wasn’t quite as comfortable as I’d hoped I’d definitely do it again! That marked the end of our time in Hot Water Beach, next stop; the caves at Waitimo!