Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sunshine and seascapes

After settling in for a day and visiting with Mum, we decided to spend a day exploring up the coast. We were following our whimsy and some narrow, serpentine roads.
The sign said "Hahei Beach" and it sounded intriguing, so off we went.
It was almost deserted.

Except for the tractors, which the locals use to pull their boats onto the beach.

When we parked, we noticed a sign for boat tours of Mercury Bay, and one of the tractors had another sign on it. It was only half an hour till the next tour, so we decided to wait on the off-chance that there was room on the boat. 
We sat on some steps and admired the crazy spider web.

And got dizzy from watching the sun reflecting on the ocean.

And when the boat landed in the surf, we were ecstatic to hear that there were exactly three seats left on the next one.
Within minutes, we had paid our fee and donned our life jackets and nimbly climbed aboard.
Well, the first two, anyway.
Anne and I got to sit in the front, because we are short, we supposed.

Poor John had to sit with his all of his six-foot-four-ness in the back.
We waved at him a lot!

The Coromandel Peninsula was once a hub of volcanic activity, and the islands and cliffs are composed of volcanic rock. It is a mixture of ash and pumice called ignimbrite, and the ash is comprised of glass shards and crystal fragments. It erodes easily and the designs on the cliffs surrounding the bay are fascinating and beautiful.

We covered a lot of ground in an hour and sometimes the boat went really fast! It was a trick, let me tell you, to be gripping the handle with one hand and trying to get a flattering photo of the two of us (with our ears flattened to our heads and our hair slicked back in the wind) and not bouncing out of the boat when we hit a wave at full speed.
It was thrilling. We laughed and shrieked and embarrassed old JD to death. Just as well he wasn't sitting next to us.

We loved the look of Cathedral Cove, where bits if the Narnia movies were filmed. This is where the children arrive in Narnia.

The Cove can only be reached by hiking or by boat. If you hike in, you must run through this archway, dodging the waves if you are lucky, in order to get to the beach.

Sail Rock sits out slightly in the surf.

There are numerous sea caves and arches along the coast, and we went into many of them. 

Inside the biggest cave we entered.

And out we go.

It was an outrageously fun experience and we were very pleased with ourselves for splurging on it.
As we left the town, we saw this funny sight. 
Apparently, sometimes we don't bother with a boat when we go to the beach, we just take the wifey and darling child on the back of the tractor.

We checked out Hot Water Beach, where you can dig yourself a hot-water pool at low tide and bask to your heart's content. Another residual benefit of the thermal activity. We didn't avail ourselves of the moment, but we did make the most of some photo ops.
I made John cover the "s", 'cause he's singular, don't you know?


The frangipani, or plumeria, which often adorns leis in Hawaii. The smell is heavenly.

Moko Art Gallery is the best we found. We even went back to it a couple of days later. There was lots of great New Zealand art and, you know me, I could have bought the store!

We strolled along the beach in Whitianga and I loved this tree wrapped around a tree.

On the way home we stopped at the twin kauri trail. We did the short hike, thinking the kauris were along the trail, and got slightly lost, only to find that these trees, which were at the entrance, are the eponymous twins. 
It was getting late and it was a bit spooky in the forest. 

It was a satisfying day and we arrived home tired but happy.

And now, just because I can, some photos of my favourite succulents.

This one was at the Moko Gallery and is a most unusual plant. The spikes are sharp and leave their imprint from when the leaves were tightly folded, so that the leaves look like a patchwork. We asked about buying a start, because there were lots of babies, and the cashier told us to take all we wanted, as it throws babies all the time.
So we did.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Hobbit loves to walk

My old high school friend, John, picked me up from the airport at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Faithful soul that he is. I had requested a stop at one of Auckland's famous weekend markets before we landed anywhere else. 
We rolled into the Mangere Market just as the sun was coming up, and the place was humming with activity. We wandered around and I picked up some fresh fruit and veggies to take to my sister, because she and John love them so much!

About two thirds of the market was like a giant garage sale, with all kinds of used clothes, household and garden items for sale. It was not, quite honestly, inspiring. I had been hoping for some quality souvenirs to take home, but no such luck.

We headed back to John's abode for a little rest before our lunch date with my flatmate of almost forty years ago. John wasn't up for anything in the way of exertion (probably remembering the very long hike I led him on last time I visited) so while he went out to place a bet (he's bad like that) I took a little jaunt across the Orakei Basin. First, I had to do a steep climb up and down the hill, which left me breathless after a day and night with little sleep.

It's a beautiful area, a tidal lagoon in what is left of a volcano. The banks are covered in bush and the air is filled with the song of native birds. There are trails all around it and a walkway that connects them.

Last time I was in town, the walkway's completion had been delayed over some kind of land-use argument. 

I just realised that I never posted any photos of our walk around the basin in 2011. They are too good to ignore. At least, I think so.

Some of the trail goes through neighbourhoods. John liked the look of this bench in someone's front garden and parked himself on it for a rest. And yes, he really did walk the whole thing in his flip-flops!

The trail down to the walkway was blocked off in 2011, but we ignored it and climbed the fence and down the hill, only to be thwarted by The Gap.
Yes, I did think about leaping over it, but doubted my leaping skills.

Me, at the bottom, looking up at John, who didn't brave the steps.

Looking at the other side of the basin. We walked all the way around it. I don't think John has ever walked that far in his life!

The sluice gates, which are opened periodically to regulate water levels in the basin.

There are some rather gorgeous photos of the basin on this blog, if you want to see more.

Anyway, back to 2013.
We went to Derek and Leah's for lunch. You can see my last visit with them here. Leah and I flatted together in 1976 and for some obscure reason, she still likes me. I stayed the night at their house, and spent several hours reminiscing with my friend. John picked me up the next morning and we drove down to Paeroa to meet Anne and John at church.
Side note: they drive for an hour, over horribly winding roads, every Sunday to get to church. I'm afraid that that would test my faithfulness. Yes it would.
On the way, John insisted that we stop at this little cafe. It is strangely named, and looks like a bit of a dive from the road, but it recently won "Cafe of the Year". Inside, it is packed with British royalty paraphernalia and their date scones are heavenly.
The motorbike you see on the left is a BSA bike, the same make my dad owned in his early twenties.

I didn't think about photos until the scone was just a sweet memory. Sad.

My ice-cold water was served in this lovely bottle, which I wanted to steal but didn't.

So, John handed me off to Anne and Big John, and we went our separate ways.
Driving on the Coromandel Peninsula is one unrelenting, unbelievable vista.

After a stomach-churning drive, we arrived at the Love Shack on the beach. It was built almost entirely with their two pairs of hands.
The house.
Not the beach.

Imagine that feat of engineering.
It boggles my brain every time I think of it.

Stay tuned for Hobbity adventures on the Coromandel Peninsula.