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Published: January 16th 2016
Near Rotarua there is another beach, also called Hot Water Beach. To get to this one you must either take a water taxi or tramp fifteen kilometres each way through woodlands and beside Lake Tarawara. We were keen to visit the beach and decided to spend two days doing the walk with an overnight stay at the Department of Conservation campsite at the beach.
It was a three hour drive from the Coromandel to the start of the walk and we arrived at about one o'clock. We were hungry but decided to start the trail immediately and had some home made gingerbread biscuits to keep us going. By the time we were walking the sun was high and it was a very hot day. We started walking down the partially overgrown gravel path over exposed country. The land was covered in grasses, thistles, foxgloves and ferns. It took about an hour and twenty minutes to walk the first five kilometres which started with a steep scrabble down a hill and then went up and down frequently. We were very hot and needing to drink lots of water to keep us going.
By the time we'd reached our first resting
area, the Hawaiki Bay Amenity Area, we were tired and hungry. We shunned the two picnic tables which were in the blazing sunshine and instead found a shrinking patch of shade to eat our sandwiches. After lunch the blue inviting lake was too much for us to resist and we went for a wonderful swim. We spent half an hour in the cooling waters before reluctantly continuing on our way in our wet clothes.
From there the path took us up a big hill. Half way up, I had to drop to my hands and knees to crawl under a branch which I couldn't climb over or go around. Above this the path became so steep it was replaced with steps. From the top, the view of Lake Tarawara gleaming in the sunshine was stunning. Fortunately the trees soon closed in around us giving us some respite from the sun. The path narrowed at the top and hugged a cliff face as it meandered around. We dropped down into a nice flat valley with a good path through the trees. Here we crossed the Twin Streams Cold Springs over several bridges. Again, the water looked inviting, but we were
still wet from our last swim and this time we had to resist.
From the cold springs, the path climbed sharply. We toiled upwards until the trees opened out slightly giving us a better view of the lake below. At this point we were walking in the sun again and the heat was oppressive. We continued on up and down hill after hill. The path was good so we made excellent time but we were getting tired under the weight of our packs. Part way down one of the hills we met an old couple who gave us a few words of encouragement and told us that the next rest place was in the valley below us but then the hill on the other side was really difficult. In the bottom of the valley we duly came to the Rest area and paused for a few minutes.
The old couple were absolutely correct about the next hill being really difficult. The path upwards went on and on, getting steeper as it went. We were breathless after just a couple of hundred metres and it went on for three kilometres. We struggled on until we reached the top, where
we found an almost completely obscured viewing point which was a big disappointment. If the climb up had been hard, the descent on the other side was even worse. The path was a steep gravelly bank which we skidded down. It felt like the last three kilometres, all down hill, went on for hours. After plodding for what felt like twice as many kilometres we were still a hundred metres above the lake but felt like we should be there by now. We turned the corner and found a steep staircase followed by another which dropped us down to the lake shore. A sign said we had five hundred metres to go but we couldn't see the site. We dragged our feet through the sand at the shore for a few hundred metres but still couldn't see any tents. A little bit further and someone jumped off a boat, greeted us and led us on to our site which even 100m out was completely invisible.
We dropped our bags and ravenously descended on the packet of Afghan biscuits we had carried with us. To recover, before we set the tent up, we went to have a swim in the
hot water. From a distance we could see steam rising from the surface of the lake. We went to investigate. There was an area of hot sand which felt quite pleasant under our aching feet. A stream of boiling water dropped a short way from a spring set in the cliff behind us into the lake. This led to a strange effect of the very top layer centimetre of the lake being very hot and the lower depths being much cooler. If the water was mixed it felt quite pleasant. Swimming through the lake gave some interesting sensations. We also spent some time in a shallow area which someone had set apart with rocks. Here it felt like we were sitting in bath water and was very enjoyable.
After a good swim we felt quite recovered and set about preparing dinner and pitching the tent. One challenge with Hot Water Beach is that none of the water there is suitable for drinking without being boiled or purified. As we had used every drop of the water we carried with us we had to set about boiling more for the next day. As the sun went down we were sitting
with pans trying to boil and then cool water to fill our bottles.
We got up in the morning and jumped straight into the lake for another wonderful swim. It was cooler than the night before so we went closer to the thermal sources and swam through the steaming lake. We were keen to get going early so that we could avoid doing the steep walk which awaited us at the beginning in the heat of the day. This time we found the ascent to be difficult but the other side was much easier.
We retraced our steps and found ourselves once again by the lake for lunch. We took another dip in the water but this time we shocked to find it much cooler than it had been the previous day. Once we were used to it though it was very nice.
The final five kilometres, which had seemed quite reasonable the day before, were a real struggle for us. It seemed that every time we went down a hill there was another one waiting or us. We hadn't noticed how steep it had been when we first went over it. The car park felt like
a long way and it was through great toil that we eventually got there. By that point we'd run out of the water we had boiled and were relieved to get to the car where a large bottle was waiting for us. We devoured it thirstily and found it extremely refreshing after our tiring day.
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