08 February 2010

waihi beach

Our entertainment this weekend (Feb 5-7) consisted of a beautiful drive to the north, to a town called Waihi which is right at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula, and on the northern end of the Bay of Plenty. Aren't those all lovely sounding names? The drive was about 5 hours, at least half of which were on crazy windy roads that only race car drivers would appreciate. Josh can't handle being in the passenger seat (cause I drive too slow), and I'm ok as long as I'm either reading or gazing upon scenery. Or yelling 'too fast, too fast!!!' But I digress.

Just north of New Plymouth is a cool spot where you're driving along the sea, looking at the cool cliffs and water and prettiness. There's a hiking spot here near the White Cliffs that we need to make it to eventually, and a few rock formation things called the Three Sisters--we're going to make it there too.

So then we drive, and drive some more, and stop when I see pretty things to take pictures of. And sometimes we can't stop so I have to take mental pictures (click!) of the funny things we saw, like a lone cow out in the filed with a bird sitting on it's hindquarters, or the sheep that was grazing under the big ole statue of the kiwi (the bird). Fun.

Lots of the crazy curvy driving was in this big ole gorge with a fun river. I think that this picture was even taken from the car...
Then we got to Waihi Beach, and found our accommodation, the lovely Athenree Holiday Park, where we set up our tent for the next few nights. The holiday park was a great big campground with bathrooms and a kitchen area and games room AND a hot springs pool and hot tub. This is the part of the country with lots of geothermal activity. Turns out that they actually empty the pools every night and clean out them out. No need for chlorine!

Saturday morning we hung out in our nice toasty thermal pools, then headed to Waihi beach. My friend Lydia (funny enough, until Sat morning we hadn't actually met--Lydia is the daughter of Cot, whom I met at the Duluth Art Institute during a clay class, and Lydia has been living in New Zealand for the past three-ish years, so I've been emailing her since probably Nov with all sorts of silly questions.) is part of a surf boat team, and they had a big ole competition that weekend at Waihi beach. Surf boats used to be used for actual surf rescue--it wasn't exactly safe then, and so now it's a sport. Look up surf boat carnage on You Tube--it's crazy!
Anyway, we were excited to see the surf boats, and Josh had his surfboard too.

Each boat has four rowers and one sweep in the back, who has a big steering oar. So there are a bunch of ways to run the race, for this one, everyone starts in the water outside of the boat, then at the gun everyone jumps in and heads off to bouys about 500m, flies around them, and then tries to catch waves to get back to the shore the fastest. Even more fun is when one person starts from flags on the beach, has to sprint to the boat, then the boat goes, and when it gets close enough to shore, another person jumps out and sprints to the flag to finish.

Here's Lydia's boat headed out. The boat is 'the great white!'

The absolute most interesting bit about the surf boats is the speedos. Oh, yes, speedos. Everywhere! And, because skin slides better than cloth, when they are actually getting ready to jump into the boat, they pull up their togs (swimsuits) right up their gluteal clefts. See young man on the right in the below picture for example. Eeeeks!

After hanging out on the beach, we headed back to the car for a little tour of the coromandel peninsula. The coromandel is only about 2 hours from Auckland, and can get really busy during the summer with all the Kiwis on holidays. It's a beautiful place with tons of beaches. We drove over to the town of Thames, drove up the gorgeous coast (lots more windy roads, takes much longer than you think, of course), and then cut across to go see a huge 1200 year old Kauri tree. The north island used to be full of these huge awesome trees till the logging days in the late 1800s. Now they're all cataloged--the tree we saw is the 15th biggest. Or the 15th oldest. I can't remember.

Tree hugger! I've not seen the redwoods in CA, but really want to--just imagine what this would have looked like when there were forests of these HUGE trees. Super cool.

Sunday we hopped in the thermal pools again, then headed to the beach for Josh to surf and to watch more of the surf boats. Then we headed back to Hawera so we could drive those windy roads while it was still light! We stopped and had lunch on the river in the gorge. Yummy sandwiches with french bread and hummus and veggies...

More pretty gorge/river pictures.

On the way back, we stopped that the kiwi house in Otorohanga. Kiwis (the birds) are nocturnal, so the chance of seeing one in the wild is slim to none. So we checked them out in the native bird park! They were cute. Pictures, of course, didn't turn out cause it was dark (obviously), and no flashes allowed!!

Josh also made some new friends, namely the duck (which was named Joe) and the kaka, which is a parrot that we might get to see while we're doing the Milford hike trail. At least that's what they tell us.

Couple more pretty pictures on our way home. The tree above is called the Christmas tree--it blooms with the red flowers right around Christmas time. Ready made decorations!

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