New Zealand Part 5 – Whitianga Coast

We spent our last few days hanging around the Coromandel peninsula. This is lovely part of New Zealand, just northeast of Auckland. It’s a beach area, and has a friendly, hippy vibe.

The drive from Matamata to Whitianga was beautiful, but admittedly a bit nerve-wracking. At first we headed up the east coast, but we were told by some old-timers at a cafe stop that the way we were going would be too busy – we should cross over and head up the west coast to avoid all the traffic. Now, putting things in perspective, I don’t think those old folks have any idea what real traffic is like… we live in Jakarta. We see traffic every day that I think would give those dudes a heart attack. Anyway, we believed them and crossed to the other side. We saw about 100 cars over the course of the day.. and that was high season traffic!

As it turns out, we followed a coastal road that was about the width of 1.5 cars, which hugged the cliffside the whole way. And apparently NZ doesn’t believe in guard rails or fencing. And we were on the outside. I was pretty sure we were going to jump the edge and plummet to our firey deaths for most of the way. I gripped our map to death. But we stopped at all the beaches and lookouts, and saw some of the prettiest landscapes I think I’ve ever seen. So the risk to our lives was worth it!

In Whitianga proper, we rented a beach house and hung around the town for a few days. There were a few little shops and cafes, but in general the options a bit lower-quality than we were hoping for. The best store they had specialized in imported items from Indonesia – ironic. Especially because B and I have been trying to buy local art. So we didn’t get anything there! Luckily on our last day in town, we found a fantastic brew house with some local beers and delicious English-style dinners. Chalk up another “best meal ever” to our trip list!

One of the highlights of the Whitianga area is the hot water beach. This is a section of the coast where a hot spring feeds into the water, so you can go at low tide and dig yourself a little hole in the sand, which will fill up with hot spring water! When we arrived, there was a bit of a frenzy, and of course none of us really knew what we were doing. We dug two or three holes but only managed to get cold water. After a while, we managed to steal away another group’s existing hole when they left and had a quick soak. It wasn’t quite as relaxing as we had hoped, but at least we can say we did it! Unfortunately, on the same visit to the beach, B decided he wanted to film himself wave jumping, but the ocean decided to steal his glasses as payment. So he spent the rest of our trip squinting.

The days passed too quickly, and soon it was time to go. We only had one day left before our return home, and we had a long drive to do, with a stop at an underground glow worm cave! Coming up next…

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