After a fairly boozy evening in Auckland we had to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus heading southbound. It was an absolutely beautiful morning so we sat out on the hostels roof terrace with our coffees – how civilised!
We soon packed up our room and headed to Queen Street where the bus was picking us up – this time around the bus was full so it was nice to get to know some of the other travellers. Our driver Murray also seemed like a good laugh!
Once we were all on the bus we hit the road and started making our way to our destination for the evening; Hot Water Beach. It was roughly a four hour drive so we stopped off in the town of Thames midway for a supermarket stop where we got all our food for the evening (and beers for the beach!). The town of Thames is an old gold mining town and was named by Captain Cook on account of the town’s huge river which reminded him of London.
Having bought all our ingredients and basking out in the sun for a little while we got back on board the bus and headed to our hostel accommodation.
We were staying in the Hot Water Beach Holiday Park which really isn’t a hostel – it was so lovely! We had our own little cabins which made such a nice change from the hostel in Auckland the night before.
We all dumped our stuff before grabbing our bikinis and shovels and making our way down to the beach.
Hot Water Beach is located right on a spot where there are cracks in the earth’s surface. As a result hot water bubbles up through the cracks below and collects underneath the sand. You have to dig holes in the sand to release the hot water which creates your own little hot tubs right on the beach! It’s amazing. I can’t even explain how hot the water was – it was literally scolding! You had to mix the hot water with some cold water from the sea to get your hole to a comfortable temperature. We spent a couple of hours here just lying in our holes before having a wander up the beach and making our way back up to the hostel.
It was the most beautiful evening so we sat out on the terrace with a few beers and got chatting to a few other travellers. After making dinner (a pretty impressive vegetable/pesto/pasta creation) the night escalated quickly into bottles of wine and drinking games. I literally felt like I was back at uni…ha!
I won’t lie – I slept pretty well that night.
The next morning we woke up bright and early and made our way to the bus. We had to be there for 7am which was a bit of a struggle after the night before…
We all felt pretty rough on the bus but this was soon knocked out of us by our first stop of; a 40 minute walk at the Karangahake Gorge. Situated at the base of the Coromandel Range, the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway follows the old railway line between Paeroa and Waihi, giving access to impressive remains from the mining and railway eras. The walk was so beautiful (!), even if the wobbly rope bridges were a little terrifying!
After returning to the bus after our walk we drove to the old gold mining town of Otorohanga for a quick supermarket sweep and a spot of lunch. After we’d bought our reserves for the evening we drove across to our accommodation for the night; the Kiwi Paka in Waitomo. In a similar way to last night, this hostel isn’t really a hostel, we’re in lodges that remind me of a ski chalet and we have comfy (non bunk) beds which is so lovely and cosy.
After dumping our stuff and grabbing our beds, the girls in my room and I all had a group nap before grabbing our swimming bits and heading to the reception where we were picked up by one of the guys from the Black Water Rafting Co.
After a short drive we arrived at the base before being herded into the back to be given our wetsuits. After grabbing our suits, wet socks, gum boots and jackets we all flocked to the changing rooms before beginning the hellish job of getting the wetsuits on. I’m not sure why this sort of thing always happens to me but I stood in the middle of everyone before noticing that my wetsuit was on inside out. So not only did I have to struggle to get it on once – I had to pull it off and squeeze into it for a second time, I was exhausted! Fully suited and booted we went back outside where we were given our helmets and torches before getting back into the van and heading to the caves. Once we arrived at the mouth of the caves we grabbed our rings and were taught a few manoeuvres which we practised off a jetty into the river. Basically inside the caves there’s a number of waterfalls and you have to jump backwards off holding your ring – it’s apparently safer as you get as far away from the rock face as possible quickly. I won’t lie though it was terrifying – so all the practice out in the sunshine was appreciated before descending underground.
Weirdly enough I got talking to some German girls from my bus who said they were from Hannover. I said that I’d been to Hannover nearly 10 years ago on an exchange with school and that I had been to Neustadt am Reubenherberg. Their faces dropped and they said ‘are you from Redhill’?! Funnily enough they did the exchange a couple of years ago so have spent time at St Bedes! So so so weird!
Having practised all our moves we turned on our torches and headed through the caves. We were in the caves for a total of three hours – it was amazing. We swam down the rivers, jumped off waterfalls, climbed down ascents and, if you’re me, fell over CONSTANTLY. I don’t understand how everyone did it so slickly! The best part of the trip was when we jumped off one of the waterfalls into what can only be described as a massive lazy river. We all aligned our rings and held onto the feet of the person behind us to make a chain. Once connected we all turned off our torches and floated down the pitch black river with only the glow worms floating above our heads – I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. It was like looking up at the sky.
Once we reached the end of the lazy river we did some more climbing and floating before the instructors told us that we were going to play a game called ‘find your way out of the caves in the dark’ – it was hilarious! We were all pretty terrified, although I was way more terrified of the thought of one of the fresh water crayfish finding its way up my wetsuit leg!
We eventually found our way out of the cave before being driven back to base and being treated to bagels and tomato soup – I honestly don’t think anything has ever tasted better after hours in the damp caves.
After being driven back to the hostel we all headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Brie (one of the Canadian girls I’ve met) and I made a satay Stirfry before basically falling asleep on our plates – we were completely exhausted. I headed for a shower before climbing into bed and literally falling straight to sleep at around 9pm – so hardcore. We were all just so knackered!
Tomorrow we are heading to Rotorua where we will be spending the day at Hobbiton (the movie set from Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit) before spending the evening with the Maori people at the Tamaki Village.