Coromandel Region….Twists, Turns, & Low Tide

Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
Trip End Jun 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Mercury Bay Motor Camp

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jill's Words in Italics

October 19 - Day 3

Exciting day today! Checking out of our hostel in Auckland and heading out to pick up our new home for the next 3+ weeks….a mini-campervan! Campervan guys offer free pick-up from airport, so we took a super-shuttle to the airport and after realizing we were in the wrong terminal, we trudged off to the correct terminal, both pretty quiet and starving. Grump-induced disaster averted, we headed straight for the food court and chowed down on some Indian curries…filled our bellies decently but otherwise unimpressed….definitely no House of India in Bermuda!

Campervan guy picks us up and takes us to our home-on-wheels. I was feeling pretty anxious, as this was going to be my first experience driving on the left-hand side of the road. Visualizing myself behind the wheel the entire drive back to the rental office the only thought going through my mind was "please let it be an automatic, please let it be an automatic…" A ha, an automatic it was! A gutless, four cylinder, Toyota minivan that had been converted into a sleepervan - Perfect!

 After all the rental formalities and a lowdown of how everything works, we jump in and head off. Jill is pretty nervous about the left-hand side thing (though not really showing it) and I was in the imminent crash position…kidding kidding. [A bit of background here…since I only drove a scooter in Bermuda for 10 years and my Quebec driver's license had expired, I don’t currently have a license to drive a car…so Jill is our designated driver for this trip.] Unaccustomed to the tiny space I had in the passenger seat (I learned that it didn’t recline at all), I smacked my head on the handgrip above the window & sustained head wound #2 of the trip…again, no blood…just a bite of skin missing.

So we’re off on a 4-hour drive to the Coromandel region of NZ. The wind was blowing hard, making Jill’s navigation of the clumsy vehicle pretty difficult. I’m pretty certain though that she appreciated my constant, helpful tips about being a bit a bit “too far left” on our lane. Making my discomfort even greater was the fact that we were driving in the mountains through windy roads in the rain with a sheer drop on my side of the van! While Joe kept reassuring me that he had confidence in my driving, I am pretty sure he thought that every twist and turn was going to be his last - I suppose his fear of heights wasn’t helping the situation!  Despite the harrowing driving experience though, I have to say that the views we saw were absolutely stunning…breathtaking…jaw-dropping. We had to stop at one point to take pictures of (in Jill’s words) “one of the most amazing views looking back over the ocean…a picturesque valley with the sun shining perfectly through a break in the clouds. The scene in my rear-view mirror was stunning.”

So by about 7:30, we hadn’t quite reached our destination, but given the impending darkness, we decided to stop at a camp site in a small town called Whitianga. By that point, it was cold, windy and still raining lightly. Now our van is fully equipped to sleep in at night…there’s a bench/couch in the back that folds out into a bed. We couldn’t help but notice, however, these tiny stand-alone cottages…just basic bed, sink, stovetop, and a small table….but more importantly…..WARM. We asked how much they were…about $25 more per night than a camp site. We looked at each other…shrugged our shoulders…and thought about the prospect of figuring out how to sleep in the van for the first time. Decision made…we’re staying in the cottage. What a couple of spoiled-brat, fake backpackers we are…but whatever.

We cooked up some pasta with chicken for dinner…warm and happy with the choice we made. The whole time there was a cat begging at our door. Jill felt bad for him, but given that we had seen him scoffing a full sausage on the ground an hour earlier, we didn’t feel bad enough to feed him. Having had enough of the constant mewling, I scared him away and we settled in for the night.

October 20 - Day 4

Waking up after a nice, warm sleep and looking at the still-cold weather outside, it didn’t take very long for us to decide that we’d be springing the extra $25 for the mini-cottage again tonight. Yes, spoiled brats I know, but whatever.

Exploring the area today and first stop is Hot Water Beach. This was crazy…during low tide, due to some hot springs running just below the surface of the sand, if you dig a hole, hot water oozes up and you have your own spa pool on the beach! When we got there, it was quite cold, windy, & drizzling. Jill was off to the side huddled beside a rock formation trying to stay warm. After a couple of minutes huddled with her, I decided to “dive in” so stripped down to my bathing suit and scoped out the area. Really, while Joe was digging, I just thought it would be best to have someone stay back to take pictures ;) I borrowed a shovel from a guy and started digging in the cold & rain. First hole…dig, dig, dig…no hot water. Second hole…almost sweating at this point…no hot water. Third hole….EUREKA!! Hot water on my feet….and no joke…it was REALLY hot…sometimes scalding. I excitedly call Jill over & she comes over to look, sceptically, & dip her foot in. Now convinced of my hot water divining abilities, she goes back behind the rock to get into her bikini and we settle into our hole. Was pretty surreal…sitting on a beach in a natural hot water pool in the sand…crazy.

Next we moved onto Cathedral Cove…a series of really nice, short hikes that included Gemstone Bay, Stingray Bay, and the cove itself, a gigantic limestone arch. We were told not to cross the arch though due to falling rocks, and it was also cordoned off + had a sign there indicating as much, but that didn’t stop hordes of tourists from ignoring it and walking right through. Highlights included a bit of cave-exploring…scrambling over some rocks and through water (shoes and socks off of course) and timing our walk to avoid other loud and annoying tourists (who were NOT American for any of you thinking that!). What struck us as we left this place was the array of other campervans in the parking lot….Jucy, Happy, Hippie, Wicked, Backpackers….you name it…the campervan companies were all represented there. Was a great opportunity to check out other people’s digs…possibly the most common way to travel  around NZ. Anyway, tired and sunburnt from our afternoon hikes, we stopped off at the grocery store before heading back to our “roughing it” mini-cottage to cook up some fajitas….a rough life indeed.

Oh and just so you know, when cooking in a self -contained room where your kitchen, bed and clothes are all in one little space, maybe stay away from making fajitas... unless you want to smell like a Mexican restaurant for the following week – Arrrrriba!

Checking out tomorrow morning and on our way to Rotorua…until then…
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Kiri on

Keep it up! Loving the updates.

I lost my glasses at Cathedral Cove when I was backpacking. Glad you fared better than I. Hope to hear you go zorbing in Rotorua.

Kiann on

Hi - ummm I'm waiting for the post where you've had a wicked fight over something like poor navigation and you don't speak to each other for three hours... Now that's the vacation I'm familiar with. Besides, it would make me less jealous.

Reid on

No shite, we're planning our trip there RIGHT NOW!! Of course it'll be 2012 BUT, this is giving us good ideas!! Sooooo can't wait to camp out in a caravan! Miss you guys, soooshay is just not the same :-(

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