Kayaking Cathedral Cove

Trip Start Jan 15, 2009
Trip End Mar 07, 2009

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Where I stayed

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I got up at about 6:00 am and got showered and shaved.  I called at 8:00 am to find out if the kayaking trip was still on.  I spoke to Mike, and he said it was beautiful weather and the trip was a go (no x or check boxes involved!).  I went down to the lobby and asked the concierge for directions.

Let me say a word about directions from concierges...I have dealt with  a number of concierge services since I left on this trip.  Not all of them give good, concise, understandable directions.  However, the guys at this hotel are good.  They gave me great directions that got me headed in the right direction and onto the right road to get out of the city and head toward the Coromandel Peninusula.  So as they say here in New Zealand, "Good on you" Crowne Plaza Concierge Services!

It is a good 2 1/2 hour drive from Auckland to Hahei, where the kayak tour leaves from.  The first bit is all on major highways, then small, two lane highways, then winding mountain roads and finally 1 lane bridges with "Give Way" signs at each end (this is NZ for yeild). Eventually, I got to a small town called Taitua.  I stopped there and had a mid-morning snack and some tea at an internet cafe there called Taitura Landing.  After tea, I went for a walk in the park next door and stretched my legs.  While I was in the park, I met an older gentleman and his wife from Australia.  When he found out that I was an American, we had an interesting discussion about Obama and the current world financial slowdown.  After my chat with the Australian couple, I went down to the local hardware store and bought a small shovel for my planned late afternoon activity.  More on that later.

After this break, I got back in the silver Mazda and headed towards Hahei again.  Once again, there were more winding mountain roads with dense growths of cycad palms and evergreen trees. Eventually, I came out of the mountains and into the coastal town of Hahei, which is not mush of a town, but more of a collection of a few cafes and a general store.  I stopped at the General Store and bought a sandwich and a drink and took them down to Hahei Beach around the corner. I sat on the hill looking out a the beach and ate my lunch.  It was a warm, beautiful afternoon and the water was aqua colored.  The sand here is unusual--it sparkles!  There are little metallic flakes in the sand that catch the sunlight and make the sand sparkle.  It is quite magical.

At 1:45 pm, my group of kayakers had all arrived and the guide gave each of us our life preservers and kayaking gear.  We all got a short lesson on paddling a sea kayak.  Fortunately, I had done this before, so it was a review.  The kayaks they have are two-person kayaks, so he paired each of us with a partner.  I got paired with a young woman from Stockholm, Sweden named Nina.

We shoved off and gathered just off shore and then began kayaking towards Cathedral Cove.  The water was quite clear, and as we kayaked into Wanganui A Hei Marine Reserve, we could see a school of blue maomao fish swimming along underneath the kayaks.  This marine reserve was established in 1992.  No fishing is allowed here.  Since its inception, the number of fish both inside the reserve and in the bordering waters around the reserve have shown dramatic increases in fish and lobster numbers, which had been severely depleted.  The reserve now has the support of over 90% of the local people (including many fisherman).

As we kayaked alongk, our guide told us about the geology of this area.  He said that it has been shaped by volcanic activity and millions of years of erosion to produce the current coastline we see today.  We took a short detour into a cave in one of the cliffs, and then before long we arrived at Cathedral Cove.  We beached our kayaks and our guide took orders for coffee.  One of the bonuses of this tour is they make coffee for everyone at Cathedral Cove.  After putting in my order, Nina and I went for a swim.  The water was quite cool from my perspective, but Nina said it was warm by Sweden standards :)  After our swim, we took some photos of each other in the Cathedral Arch and then walked through the arch to the adjoining cove to check out a waterfall and some interesting rock formations there.  When we returned, our guide had the coffee ready.  We had coffee and biscuits (cookies).  A word about Cathedral Cove.  If these photos look familiar to you, it is not an accident.  This beach has been the site of scenes from several Hollywood movies.  The most recent of which was the second Narnia film. 

After our coffee, we got back in our kayaks and headed to one of the outer islands off the coast.  We paddled out to a pair of islands off shore and then paddled through a tunnel going through the middle of one of them.  We saw lots of commorants nesting along the cliffs on these islands.  We also saw a gannet in the water as we came out of the tunnel.  There were trees growing on the cliffs of these islands as well as along the cliffs on the mainland.  Our guide said that they are called New Zealand Christmas Trees.

As we headed back towards Hahei Beach, our guide started to tell us a story about how the first Mauri discovered New Zealand.  As he was telling us the story, a Little Blue Penguin swam by in front of our kayaks.  The Little Blue Penguin and the Yellow Eyed Penguin are the two species of penguins that are found in New Zealand waters.

Soon, we arrived back at Hahei Beach.  We turned in our kayaks and gear and our guide was kind enought to take a photo of Nina and I.  Then I walked back to the car and headed down the road to my next stop--Hot Water Beach.   Hot Water Beach is a place just about 10 minutes down the road where hot water from geothermal activity bubbles up through the sand on the beach.  Normally, you don't notice the hot water, as the ocean water is quite cool and dilutes it.  However, an hour on either side of low tide, you can did a hole in the sand and it will fill up with hot water producing your own personal hot tub right there on the beach!  This is a popular activity for tourists.  I parked in the car park for Hotwater Beach, grabbed my shovel and walked down to where I saw a bunch of people.  I dug a nice hole in the beach and nothing happened.  I dug another hole a few feet away and hot water started to bubble up and fill the hole.  I climbed in and sat and relaxed for about 30 minutes.  When I was ready to leave, I gave my shovel to a young guy that had showed up without anything to dig with and began walking down the beach to the carpark.  As I was walking along, I saw a couple of women bent over looking at something on the beach. I wandered over to see what they were looking at, and discovered as Little Blue Penguin laying on the beach looking quite weak and ill. I am not sure what was wrong with him, but the women said that another woman had pulled him out of the surf because he looked like he was struggling. Being as I am not well educated on treating sick penguins, I left him to nature and went on to the car.

I drove back through the mountain roads to Taitua and changed clothes at a facility at their waterfront park.  Then I had a cheeseburger at the internet cafe I had been at this morning.  Then I was back on the road headed for Auckland.  I wanted to get through the mountains before dark.  The sun was just setting as I came through the last of the mountain passes and crossed the one lane bridge leading from the Coromandel Penninsula back towards the highway.  I made it back to Aukland at about 9:30 pm and hit the sack.  Tomorrow I have a lot of driving to do.
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Ronny N. on

I just read your blog and I am excited. My friends and I are going in a month and this is on my list of things to do as well as Rotorua (zorbing) and Waitomo (glow worms). We have opted to rent a car instead of using a bus. I am a little nervous about driving on the opposite side, but think it will be better in the long run. We are also staying at the Crowne Plaza. Any pointers? Was there a parking fee at the hotel? Thanks! Ronny (redquest@austin.rr.com)

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