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Published: April 26th 2014
Here I am with my second blog from New Zealand.
After 5 days in Auckland I took a bus and went to Coromandel Peninsula. My mate Johnny, who I met in Australia in 2008, contacted his family and I was invited to go and stay for a few days there. The Peninsula lies to the east of Auckland but you need to drive around to get there, since the Hauraki Gulf and the Firth of Thames divide the peninsula from the Auckland region. The bus drive took about 4 hours, including one stop-over.
I arrived in a small town with no more than 4000 people called Whitianga
. There is nothing particular about the town, but in the summer it's crowded with tourists. Not only Whitianga gets a lot of tourism, but the whole peninsula in general. I found the Coromandel Peninsula to be stunning and beautiful, also very peaceful. I truly enjoyed being around here for a couple of days!
In Whitianga, Jhonny's aunt (Sandy) and her husband picked me up. We first went for a small lunch in town. Then we went to the kina factory they run. Kina's are known as "sea-apples" back home
(zee-appel). Sandy's husband and a few employees go and dive for the kina's. It's open diving, just with flippers, mask and snorkel. They bring all the kina's to the factory and the next day a crew will scoop the eatable part out of the kina's. It's a very small part (mostly yellowish) that you can eat. The rest of the kina's are thrown away. The day I arrived we had to go to the factory to pick up all the bags with the kina remnants, bring them to a farm where a farmer uses them on his land. Here we offloaded all the bags (some heavy) and threw the remnants on a pile. Another day I went to actually work at the factory for one day, scooping out the kina's. It was a very interesting and fun experience and it's officially the first day I worked in New Zealand! The kina's are sold in the supermarkets for about NZ$20 for 200 grams! Toby, one of Sandy's son's, also worked that day. We went together and after work, he dropped me off at Hot Water Beach
. At low-tide, you can dig a hole on the beach which creates a warm, thermal
pool in which you can sit and relax. It was something very remarkable and unique! Toby had to go to Auckland after he dropped me off and there is virtually no public transport in the area. Sandy and Toby all told me that hitch-hiking is something very common in the area because of the lack of public transport and because it's a sparsely populated area where many people know each other. The distance from the beach back home was about 14km. I had never hitchhiked before and I felt very uncomfortable in the beginning. Many cars drove past and I didn't raise my thumb...I felt like I couldn't do it. Then I saw a camper-van coming, then I had the courage to do it. Many backpackers rent a camper-van and travel around the country, so I knew I had a big chance to get a ride. And yes, they were two French girls. They were not going where I needed to go, but they left me at an intersection where I'd need to find another ride. I started walking while every now and then a car was passing. I didn't raise my thumb for every single car that passed though.
Two or three cars ignored me and then a mid-aged woman stopped for me. I found out that she knew Sandy and her family which was not a surprise since the area is sparsely populated. That was my very first hitchhiking experience ever. I won't hitchhike anymore unless I'm in a similar situation in which I really "need" to.
Sandy, her husband (Herb), Toby and Kara (their daughter that came a few days later) were all very, very friendly, warm and hospitable. They are used to have foreign guests staying around so it was nothing new for them. I was very grateful to them and also to Johnny. One night I went with Kara and Toby to Whitianga to a pub. To get there, you either need to drive around the bay (25 minutes) or take a ferry (5 minutes). We took a ferry and had a few beers there and went back home. The other days I mostly relaxed, do an everyday job-hunting through the internet, relax at the beach at Flaxmill Bay which is just across the road from the house. It was still summer and warm enough (end February). I hiked the Shakespeare's Cliff and from
the top you enjoy gorgeous views of the Matapaua Bay, Te Rakatai (Lonely Bay) and Cooks Beach. Then I also went down to Lonely Bay for a while. I also walked a short track to the "Scenic & Historic Reserve" from where you can clearly see Whitianga on the other side of the bay. Toby took me to Hahei, which is one of the popular tourist towns on the peninsula. We walked along the beach towards the start of a hiking trail that leads to Cathedral Cove. The Hahei Beach is beautiful, especially when seen from above...very scenic with its white sand and blue waters. The walk took about 40 minutes. Cathedral Cove
was just "wow"...stunning!!! It's a big rock on the beach with the form of an arch, formed by nature! After Cathedral Cove we went to another smaller bay where we snorkeled a little bit. Toby said you're able to see many fish at this particular bay. First I didn't go in the water because it was quite cold (for Curaçao standards)...but then I slowly entered the water and once I was in, my body got used to the temperature quickly. We did see a few fish, but
not that many.
The Coromandel Peninsula was definitely worth it and a "must" for those travelling around the country. I loved the landscape more than anything else: green, beautiful, clean and unspoiled. Johnny and his family all say that it's the best and most beautiful part of New Zealand. I haven't seen much of New Zealand yet, but yes...it is a very beautiful region!! The last day I went to Tauranga with Kara. She lives there at another house her parents own. I slept there to catch a bus to Rotorua the next day.
That's all for this blog. Next blog will be about Rotorua and Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
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