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Published: October 20th 2011
Liza bathing in one of the many spa pools.
We awoke on Wednesday morning (October 5th) to unexpected clear skies. In an attempt to make the most of our day and the weather, we set out early for our first stop which was a museum and active excavation site called The Buried Village. In the late 1800s the Maori in this small village initiated tourism in New Zealand. Roughly 15 km from the village there was a geological phenomenon known as the Pink and White Terraces. The village was located on a geothermal fault. The terraces were created by the minerals expelled from a geyser as a series of descending rock pools. The hot water erupting from the geyser filled the top pool and as the water trickled down into the other pools the water cooled leaving pools of varying temperatures. Europeans traveling to this area would pay the Maori living there to take them on tours to the hot pools. In 1883 the eruption of a nearby volcano destroyed the Terraces and buried the village in 6 feet of ash over a period of 5 hours. We briefly walked through the Buried Village museum which described the event itself, the integral people in the village at the time, the
Mount Maunganui track
The beautiful tree-lined path around the base of the mountain.
survivors, and those that helped salvage what was left of the village. On exiting the museum we were guided around the area where the village once stood and through the buildings that have since been excavated. It was fascinating to learn about how the village grew following the introduction of tourism and European inhabitancy, and through pictures, descriptions and our own eyes see how the village was transformed following the volcanic disaster.
After working our brains hard we decided to relax for the afternoon with a visit to the Polynesian Spa. The Spa consisted of a number of hot bathing pools that looked out over Lake Rotorua. The pools drew heated water from a local geothermal spring and ranged from 39 to 42 degrees Celsius. Half of the eight pools contained neutral water, whereas the other four were filled with acidic water that is believed to have special healing properties. The beautiful morning sunshine departed and left us with dreary skies, however it was impossible to let the rain ruin an afternoon spent soaking in hot tubs, staring out over the lake. We spent a couple of hours moving from pool to pool, enjoying the scenery and attempting to
View from the summit
Looking east along the coast from the top of the mountain.
rejuvenate our bodies and power up for the rest of our trip. Later in the afternoon we made the hour-and-a-half drive north to Mount Maunganui/Tauranga situated on the Bay of Plenty. Before sundown we managed to fit in a peaceful half-hour walk around the base of Mount Maunganui on a beautiful tree-lined path that looked down onto the rocky coastal waters of the bay, which bordered almost the entire circumference of the mountain.
The following morning we rose early to tackle the summit walk up the mountain. Although it looked daunting the day before, we managed to reach the top in approximately forty minutes of moderately difficult hiking. The expansive summit offered views of beaches stretching along the coast to the horizon in both directions, as well a nice view of the harbour and the inlet islands. With the time we had to spare before setting out on our coastal drive we decided to put in some time at the beach. Once again we were provided with an unexpected sunshiny day and figured it was a good opportunity to work on our base tans before the trip to Tahiti. We spent an hour on the beach and then packed
Just another picturesque stopping point on our drive along the Firth of Thames.
into the car for the ride to the Coromandel peninsula. Our drive took us north along the Bay of Plenty before crossing through the mountains to Thames and then up the east coast of the Firth of Thames. As appears to be customary in New Zealand, the roads both through the mountains and along the coast were winding with treacherous drops and speed limits of 100 km/h. Our driving skills improved during this trip to the point that we now feel ready to handle the F1 circuit next season. We stopped at many stunning lookouts and took our time on what was a fairly relaxing day and arrived in Whenuakite at around 6 pm. We set up our campsite and then made the 10 minute drive to Hot Water Beach, arriving the customary two hours prior to low tide. Hot Water Beach is situated directly above a geothermal hot spot. Near low tide, the water recedes sufficiently to expose the hot sand above these geothermal hot spots. Tourists dig themselves small pools, exposing sand which reaches temperatures that exceed 60 degrees Celsius. The ocean water gets heated by the sand, creating personalized hot tubs on the beach. It all sounded
Enjoying the heat
Liza enjoying our personalized hot tub alongside the many other tourists.
very simple, however on arrival we quickly realized that digging a hole that is continuously bombarded by crashing waves is far from simple. We persevered and adjusted our strategy. An hour-and-a-half later we had ourselves a lovely pool to enjoy the stars and the beach. We basked in our geothermal pool for about an hour until a cold wave destroyed our protective wall, indicating to us that it was time to go home.
As our flight out of New Zealand was not scheduled to leave Auckland until 5 pm, we had the next morning to explore the area before setting out on the two-hour drive. Unplanned prior to our adventures, we decided to use our newfound time to explore Cathedral Cove. Only a short drive north of Hot Water Beach, we set out on a forty minute hike up and down the coastal hills to a secluded beach nestled in a cove abutting the Bay of Plenty. At the north end of this cove was a hollowed out rock formation which formed a gateway to the adjacent beach. This formation was in the shape of an archway, giving the cove its cathedral name, and was approximately 70 feet deep
We didn't read the sign, so we have no idea how this giant hole managed to form.
by 25 feet wide and 30 feet high. It was extremely quaint and peaceful and had we brought towels and an mechanism to stop time, we easily could have stayed there much longer. But alas we had a plane to catch and other beaches to visit. We made the hike back to the car and began the final leg of our journey to Auckland.
We managed to avoid car trouble through our week-long travels and timed our trip perfectly. We arrived in Auckland with time to spare, had no airport problems and before we knew it we were on the plane, watching the Hangover II and looking forward to a week in Tahiti with Brian and Kit Shelley.
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