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Monday 18 Feb 2013
Hot Water Beach, New Zealand

A very odd experience

Today I joined the gang on the big green Kiwi Experience bus.  For those unfamiliar with NZ, there are a few hop-on, hop-off style buses that travel various routes around both islands, catering for the backpackers market. Buy a pass for a certain route and you can take up to a year to complete it, though each pass has a minimum travel time needed. Either follow the minimum travel schedule or decide to stay longer somewhere and book on the next bus when you're ready to leave. Kiwi Experience tends to cater for a slightly younger crowd - the pre and post-uni gap year group mostly - and has a definite emphasis on having fun (ie extreme activities, drinking and silly forfeits). Stray Buis follows a similar pattern, but the age group is a bit higher and the emphasis is more about what New Zealand has to offer (still extreme activities, but also the National Parks and cultural activities. Oh, and a drink or two as well, let's not pretend..)

So having been up to the Bay of Islands with Stray and met some great people, I now find myself at another bus stop waiting for a big green coach full of 19-24yr olds. I met some more lovely people, a few of whom I recognised from the Cape Reinga trip on Saturday, but I definitely felt the 10-year age gap. Some were quite mature but I'm not sure others should have been allowed this far from home on their own. (sheesh, I sound old!)

The first day took us from Auckland to Hot Water Beach. We stopped off at Haihe beach and went kayaking around to Cathedral Cove in the marine reserve. New Zealand now has quite a few marine reserves, but people were quite unsure about them at first, wondering what the point was of protecting such a small area. However, now they are very popular with visitors and the fish populations in this one has grown by over 1000%. The kayaking was brilliant, although my shoulders did protest after yesterday's canoeing in Paihia. We had time for a swim at Cathedral Cove and saw a sting ray swimming happily in the shallows.

Back at the hostel, we took a short stroll around to the beach. The beach is positioned over a crack deep in the earth's core which releases geothermal activity. As a consequence, the rain and sea water which seeps down is heated up and returns to the surface as patches of very hot water - hence the name Hot Water Beach. Huge stretches of beach are empty on either side, while 200 people dig holes to make hot pools, or bury their feet in the sand, before leaping out and hopping about when they find the hot spots. The sand can be cold in one place, but move 2" to the side and your toes get scalded! Very very strange, but good fun to watch everyone else doing the same thing.

We were staying in a holiday park next to the beach. Our chalets had a private decking area where we all gathered for a cold beer after the hot beach. Someone produced a Danish Trivial Pursuit style trivia game and we spent the rest of the night answering random quiz questions or rejecting them for being 'too Danish'. Someone nicknamed me Google because of my brain for random facts. How is it I can know so much trivia but forget the important things on a regular basis?

Tomorrow it is off to Waitomo to see the glow worms!

 

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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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    Hot Water Beach

    New Zealand

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    Hot Water Beach

    New Zealand

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    Hot Water Beach

    New Zealand

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