Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hahei and Whitianga

Yesterday we were somewhat sad to leave Coromandel Town. It's a great little town - complete with some nice art galleries, cafes, and most importantly, a bakery and a butcher. Even in New Zealand it seems rare to have both of these speciality shops in a small town, and we made sure to use them both while we were in town.

In our first visit to the bakery, Dana noticed they had 'Chelsea Buns'. We've seen them in a couple of places but finally took the time to take a photo for Chelsea's sake:

With that complete, and a pair of excellent take-away latte's from Cafe Umu next door, we were ready to head to Hahei, a tiny beach community on the east coast of the Coromandel. The current (winter) population of Hahei is around 400 residents, but in their summer it swells to 7,000.

The drive should have taken a little less than one and a half hours, but we stretched it out since we couldn't check in to our next accommodation until 2 pm. The first pit-stop was a lookout of Coromandel Town:

Next was a nice beach:

Right before getting to Hahel we passed through the relatively larger town of Whitianga, which has a beach popular with the locals in the summer, Buffalo Beach:

One of the main attractions of the Hahei area is 'Hot Water Beach', a strip of coast that has two hot springs under the sand. You can bring shovels to the beach and dig a hole two hours on either side of low tide which will fill up with hot water from the springs (60 degrees C). We stopped there on our way to Hahei to have a look around:

Note the sheep grazing in the hills behind the beach:

After arriving in Hahei and getting settled in our B&B, we borrowed some spades and headed back to Hot Water Beach. Low tide was scheduled for 4:45 pm, and we arrived at the beach around 3:15. After digging about 20 holes in the beach, we couldn't find the hot water springs. We were not alone; there were about 15 other people from all over the world trying to dig for the springs, and communicating the best they could with each other. Every 10 minutes or so someone would cry out that they thought their toes were a little warm, and people would rush over and start to dig, but then the source would turn cold. We left around 5pm, unsuccessful and hoping to learn more on the internet before trying again.

Back in Hahel, we learned that all the (three) restaurants in the town were closed for dinner, so we drove to the shortest ferry I've ever taken - one which connects Cooks Beach to Whitianga in a travel time of about three minutes:

There were a few options to choose from in Whitianga, and we eventually settled on a Thai place which turned out to be excellent. We both had Tom Yum and then split a veggie and pork dish. The waiter had given us four different 'hot' options: mild, medium, hot, and 'thai hot'. Dana and I deliberated between hot and thai hot for a moment then picked hot. When they brought out the dish they also brought a small dish of peppers in case it wasn't hot enough for us - I went a little overboard with them and had the staff running over to refill my water constantly:

Looking around the town, it seems that Monday is even more dead than Sunday, but our hosts at our B&B have invited us to eat dinner with them, to be followed by a game of Scrabble.

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