In-land on North Island

Itinerary:

  • Auckland – Hot Water Beach
  • Hot Water Beach – Waitomo

Awaking and feeling like a fresh, new woman from the 12-hour sleep, I headed back to the Auckland Kiwi Bustop to pick up my bus heading down South, and meeting a whole host of new people, again! The bus was completely full this time, and two new guys (Greg from Switzerland and Fergal from Ireland) sat with us girls at the back. We now had some guy friends!

We stopped off first at a town called Thames, named so by James Cook who believed the river looked like London’s Thames. A little bit of home in New Zealand :). We stocked up on food and alcohol; Greg and I buying dinner together to split costs.

The journey then took us to Cathedral Cove, one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 places to visit in the world and the location for one of Macklemore’s music videos. There was a gorgeous viewpoint from the top of the cliffs but the cove itself, a 45-minute walk down the coastal path, was the real stunner of this visit.


There was a gorgeous little waterfall one end of the beach and then the cove, which linked the two sides of the beach during low tide. The sea was freezing but some of the guys were brave enough to go for a dip whilst we watched on.
The “hike” back up (I say this because it was completely uphill and bloody knackering!) was hard work but also marked the end of the stop-offs for that bus journey, which took us onwards to the evenings accommodation at Hot Water Beach. The five of us girls got a little lodge together, where I also managed to blag the double bed for a much needed night of starfishing.

We had to wait until low tide to allow Hot Water Beach to live up to its name so until then, the lodge kitchen became our little social spot. We met some other guys from our bus – Joe, Jack, Tom and Rory – who coincidentally came from Chelmsford and Ealing. Hoenstly, travel all the way to the other side of the world to meet people from within an hour of where you call home!

Come 7pm, we ventured out to the beach in our swimwear with the promise of hot water, despite the very blustery winds. There is a concentrated area of this beach which sits above a tectonic fissure, heating the water below so that once the sand is dug up, a hot pool is created for you to bathe in.

We let the boys with their shovel toys dig the holes and create the wall barricades against the sea. At first, we were just digging to more cold water and thought it was all a hoax. But lo and behold, about 10m along the beach from us, the volcanic sands delivered us boiling water. In fact, so hot that you couldn’t (and I couldn’t with my sunburnt legs) stand in it at all! We ended up joining our cold pool with their steamy one so that the overall temperatures were tolerable and in we got, bikinis on, wine in hand, as the sun set.

It did eventually get a bit (literally) nippy with the breeze, so we headed back to the warm showers and another night of wine and beer in the kitchen, making new friends.

With sore heads, our 6.45am wake-up call was very much not wanted but we had a long drive ahead down to Waitomo. Sam, our driver (not so obscure, sadly), did give us a quick hangover recovery stop where we could walk through the ruins of an old gold mine in the forest of Waihi. Although, the rope bridges were NOT welcomed by our spinning heads!

I also sorted out my onwards bus travel here, deciding where to hop off for longer now that I knew what was on offer and what the plans of my other travel companions were. My updated itinerary as below:

Arriving in Waitomo, I checked to ‘Kiwi Paka’ hostel but didn’t have long before my booked excision: Black Water Rafting Labyrinth  (essentially, 3 hours of tubing in the dark beneath the world’s largest cave system).

We were wet-suited up (a horrible experience when they were freezing cold and wet from previous groups!), given boots and helmets and driven out to the caves. Our group quickly became the jokers and the guides were happy to play along with the banter.

I was first up to test out the waterfall jump technique and flipped straight over the back of my tube! Almost dying of embarassment, I swam out the other end and realised my bum deserved a larger tube (I hate to think the size of tube Lenny’s black girls bum would need!!).

Then it was time to enter the “Labyrinth”. At first, the caves were pretty chlostrophobic and absolutely frozen but then we carried on through the rapids, jumping down waterfalls and scrambling across the rocks. Once we reached the middle of the caves, where most of the glow worms could be found, we all linked up, turned off our lights, rested our heads back and were pulled along the water, so that we could just relax and take in the unbelievably pretty lights and patterns made by the glow worms on the cave ceiling, 65m above our heads.

The caving ended with us all turning out our torches and using the glow worms to find the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ leading out of the cave. But once we were out, we became very aware of our blue lips, claw hands and the fact we couldn’t unfasten our helmets. It was like we had paralysed hands!

Once back at the base, warmed up under the scolding showers and fed up on tomato soup and toasted bagels (heaven), we got to see the classically awful group pictures, including me tipping over at the start.

The getting warm process continued back at the hostel, where Monique and I whacked our radiators up full blast, put on our comfiest trackies and warm up over dinner and a cup of tea. Us girls did head down the the world famous ‘Curly’s Bar’ but it closed fairly early and we were back in bed by 11.30pm, with a nice lie-in of 8am to look forward to in the morning.

My round up of Inner North Island is that Waitomo caves are absolutely fantastic and the secluded spots are an excellent way to get closer to your new travelling companions.

One week now in to ‘life from a bag’ and so far, so hot and cold!

Gabby x


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