Long Bay and Some Birds

Much like the eponymous Road, this blog has taken its share of twists and turns. One such twist is that many of my excursions in late 2017 were not so much adventure hikes as they were bird-watching expeditions. Which is a bit of a chancy proposition, really; adventure can be found most anywhere if you try hard enough. But no amount of effort can make rare and interesting birds appear where they are not (or even where they are but are feeling shy).

In a quest for some birds, I headed North to Long Bay. Although the purpose was not adventure or scenery, it did wind up being pretty and I did have a short brush with, if not adventure, at least a slight bit of discomfort.

I don’t quite know what an aggressive pukeko does, but fortunately I didn’t find out (that’s not an adventure I would much relish!)

Long Bay does provide quite nice views of the Hauraki Gulf, dominated of course by the iconic Rangitoto.

There are multiple opportunities to head down to the many beaches along the bay. This one is apparently Grannys Bay.

I took a brief break from stalking shorebirds to snap another shot of Rangitoto.

Also, a boat.

As well as another boat of somewhat smaller proportions.

The bay is certainly very pretty, and this would probably have been a very worthwhile trip even sans birds.

I was also amused to see the Sky Tower peeking up over this hill upon my return journey!

The Birds

I first wet my beak, as it were, on this common Eurasian blackbird.

I also captured many duck photos on this trip. The ducks in Long Bay Regional Park are quite sociable.

I also offer for your consideration a rather poor photo of a European goldfinch, taken with the medium lens. I really only include it because I don’t yet have a photo of one of these birds on this site.

This photo of a kingfisher is not quite as good as the ones I took at Kendall Bay, but I cropped it so it looks better :)

I quite like this shot of an Eastern rosella. Getting this shot also required being far closer to the cliff edge than I was comfortable with, but I feel that it turned out well. This was taken at 550mm on the big lens!

And finally, another new one for this blog: some variable oystercatchers. These birds are really cool looking, and I found two pairs and a singleton wandering around the bay.

I hope you enjoyed this quick and birdful trip up to Long Bay! I’ve got a few more of these short trips to post, and then something a bit longer :)

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Waiheke Island: Island Bay walk

Buckle up! This one’s a long one. I’m going to take you to one of my favorite places in the world!

Ahh, it’s Summer time in New Zealand! Warm weather, blue skies, and tourists flocking to the fair shores of Aotearoa in droves from North America, Asia, and Europe to escape the cold. ‘Tis the season for me to get lots of hits on my blog as people are searching for information on the sights they want to see and trails they want to walk.

How convenient, then, that I will be posting about the paradise in the Pacific known as Waiheke Island!

If New Zealand is part of your plans this year, make sure not to miss Waiheke! As a special thanks for getting your travel information from this blog and not the many much more popular and informative ones, I’ll tell you how you can, using only two legs, get away from the crowds and see parts of Waiheke most don’t get to see!

My first visit to Waiheke predates this blog by a good year or so. I did return on a bike in 2015, but although I’ve made a few trips out since, I have never managed to write about it…until now!

You get to Waiheke by taking a ferry from the city terminal. If you have an AT Hop card, you can use that for your fare! If not, you can buy a ticket at the terminal. Do not miss the chance to get a nice photo of Auckland as you’re heading out! (Note the massive cruise ship in the harbor!)

The ferry ride is a bit over half an hour, and while you’re going you’ll have a chance to see a lot of Auckland’s shore. Here’s some boaters enjoying the nice weather and, in the background, St. Heliers Bay and its weird water tower.

Upon your arrival, you will find a well-appointed terminal where you can rent bikes or cars, book tours, or just hop on a bus to go to the nearest town or winery. There’s also maps, including this one on a pillar (which is why it’s so weirdly curved).

You will note that Waiheke nomenclature is, if possible, even more relaxed than that of the main islands. Cable Bay is a re-used place name also present up North in Doubtless Bay, and of course Island Bay is not only in Wellington, but there’s a Bay of Islands also up North for even more confusion. This map even calls out the fact that Island Bay and W Bay aren’t even semi-official names, designated “locally known as”.

Why do I harp on this? Because that’s exactly where we’re going!

If you head out of the terminal and along the road, you will soon come to this junction. Turn off the road and you’ll be on the first bit of trail!

The signage around here is reasonably decent; with a couple of exceptions that I’ll get to in a bit. And please ignore the lens flare, courtesy of my 35mm lens.

(Most of the subsequent pictures were taken with the 55-200, which I put on because I was hoping to get some bird photos.)

I don’t think this path is very well-traveled. Certainly it gets more foot traffic in the Summer, but I spent much time stalking birds and didn’t see a single other person. I did however see this deeply impressive spider web!

The trail itself is a bit muddy in spots but is generally pretty well maintained. You can see some quite excellent stairs!

When you reach Delamore Drive, this is the part where the signage could be a little better.

The good news is, either direction will eventually take you where you want to go! If you turn left to head West, you will come across a trail on your right (as well as this WWII observation bunker). If you turn right to head East, you’ll come across a trail on your left.

I prefer to go West and walk along Owhanake Bay. However, this route is not without its challenges; this particular day, it was very muddy!

Before moving onward, however, I put the observation post to good use by observing the awesome views!

I love this shot, and this was such a gorgeous, clear day that I was able to see all the way to the city!

This is a shot out over the bay; I’ll actually be walking this way over the course of this trip!

I also got a shot of this tui. These birds are native and endemic, and their song is so distinctive that you don’t have to be in New Zealand for long before you can recognize it! I think they sound like a fax machine.

From the road, it’s downhill all the way to the coast. Yes, these stairs are going down (because of how I took the photo and how steep a climb it is, I at least fell victim to the optical illusion that the stairs are going up!).

Before too long, you will reach the rocky shore. The water around Waiheke, especially here on the Northwest part of the island, is really clear.

I think Waiheke Island can compete with anywhere else on earth, beauty-wise!

Once down closer to the shore, the path continues on. So far the trail has been pretty decent quality!

This yacht helps measure my progress, as it seems to be entirely stationary at the moment. It’s the same one from the previous photo.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see any penguins (this sign is a reminder to keep your pets on a leash, as even the most friendly of dogs do have the bad habit of destroying nests, either intentionally or unintentionally).

Also note the red marker on the side of the post; this trail is part of Te Ara Hura, a walking trail which very nearly encircles the island. As we will see, even the main trail of Waiheke is not without its problems.

Waiheke’s beaches are often pebble beaches. This doesn’t detract from their beauty but does make it difficult to navigate with bare feet. There are some lovely sandy beaches to the Southeast at Oneroa Bay and Huruhi Bay, but I didn’t come here to swim :)

This shot could admittedly be more artfully composed, but I still love it.

As we hike past Owhanake Bay and up toward the North shore of the island, we get this lovely rocky coastline and stunningly beautiful water. This to me is what Waiheke Island is all about.

Continuing along the trail (which at this point has gotten a bit muddy), we wind up at one of my favorite spots on Earth: the unofficially-named Island Bay.

The clear blue water, the stark rocky shoreline, and the beautiful views all serve to calm my soul. It seems I wind up here in times of trouble and somehow find healing.

I feel I should let the views talk for themselves.

If this last one seems like it’s been taken at a bit of a weird angle, it’s because I did some climbing.

I spent some time here at Island Bay, but alas we must move on. Not the way I normally would, though, because the trails are in quite a bad way. If you want to see W Bay (and you do), it’s possible to backtrack through the mud, head East on Korora Rd, and then head up the other side of the closed trail past the vineyards.

If you make the hike up the hill, you will arrive at a fantastic lookout. We’re now looking down at Island Bay from up high!

To the East lies W Bay, so named because this rocky outcropping makes the twin bays look like a W when viewed from the sky.

W Bay is a bit less secluded but no less beautiful than Island Bay.

The lookout also gives excellent views out into the Gulf.

You will even be awarded an achievement!

There are a number of interesting birds on Waiheke. This wasn’t a birdwatching trip, so the ones I have here are all endemic. These are some wood pigeons, or kereru.

A tui.

Tui 2e.

And a paradise shelduck. These are almost always seen in pairs so I’m sure this one’s mate is somewhere nearby.

And I just loved this bit of wall art.

Thank you for joining me on this trip. This part of Waiheke Island will always be very special to me.

Kauri Point and Kendall Bay

Let’s be honest: I’m not the easiest guy to go on a hike with.

Really, the problem comes down to birds. They just don’t do what you want most of the time. Sometimes I’ll stalk a bird for 15 minutes, only to have it fly away to some inaccessible treetop. Or sometimes a bird will be sitting on a branch and just won’t hop three centimeters to the left for a better shot. Any wildlife photographer fully understands these problems.

But people who just want to go for a nice walk tend to get frustrated when I plop down on a tree stump to wait for a bird to, hopefully, strike a photogenic pose.

I say all this to explain why I ended up doing basically the same walk twice, once with a friend and once on my own.

Kauri Point Centennial Park, as it is properly called, borders the Chelsea sugar refinery and contains a nice bit of forest which leads down to the shore. It’s located on the North Shore and is a good place to get views of the city as well as some nice bird shots.

The trail runs through the forest, but the tree density is thin enough to provide a number of excellent views after really quite a small amount of walking.

Looking out at the Te Atatu Peninsula, the Waitakere Ranges are visible in the background.

The water takes on many hues as the weather changes and the currents move. It’s almost like an aurora.

The trail does get properly muddy at places in the Winter, but the worst bits are ameliorated somewhat by the presence of boardwalks and wooden stairs.

It’s possible to take the boardwalk all the way out to some swampy land, which will occasionally be visited by marsh birds and other wetlands creatures. This was not the target of my endeavors though on either trip.

And after losing quite a bit of altitude, we wind up at Kendall Bay (the sign is a vestige of the time before nomenclature became standardized, I suppose).

This is the path we just came down. It wasn’t a very difficult descent, but the climb back up is a little more challenging.

My friend and I picked our way along the rocks to the West until passage became difficult. It was a fun little bit of exploring.

The close proximity of houses unfortunately means that sometimes residential waste winds up here in the bay. This chair base has seen better days, clearly.

I’m not sure what this is about, either. The sign is not entirely clear of what exactly we’re meant to keep clear of, but I assume this is a rare exploding tree. We of course gave it a wide berth.

Turning the camera Eastward, the bay offers some stunning views of the city.

There’s also a nice little tire swing and some driftwood to sit on, as I waited for avian arrivals.

(As you probably noticed, I’m conflating the two trips into one set of pictures. All the ensuing bird photos were taken on my solo visit).

This chunky tui was not particularly interested in having his photo taken. Perhaps he was feeling fat that day and didn’t want any pictures. Don’t worry, tui, I think you’re beautiful!

This kingfisher was much more open to being photographed, assuming some quite excellent poses.

He later flew out to a rock for a change in background. I’m not quite happy with this shot, though; it’s a bit too dark.

As I was dialing the aperture up, he switched rocks and a friend came to join him, munching on some food he’d found. The wider aperture lets in more light and provides a decent bokeh.

I got this unfortunately quite bad photo of a variable oystercatcher as well. Fortunately in an upcoming post I have some slightly more acceptable shots of these birds.

I also offer for your enjoyment this frankly embarrassing photo of what I assume is a California quail.

Thanks for joining me on this short trip out to Kendall Bay. Come back next time for a lovely trip out to one of my favorite spots!

Scandrett Regional Park

A friend of mine needed some heart healing, and I needed a place to go and take some photos. This seemed to me to be a two birds, one stone situation, so we set off North to Mahurangi, just South of Tawharanui, and drove to a place called Scandrett Regional Park.

Scandrett reminds me quite a bit of Duder Regional Park, with its cliff faces and beautiful views. Fortunately, this time I didn’t fall down a cliff.

Which is just as well, since the drop does not appear conducive to either remaining intact or climbing back up. No doubt Taylor would disagree and manage to somehow teleport to the bottom unharmed, but he was not with us so we remained at the top of the cliff.

Besides, while at the top we can fully enjoy the view down into the many small coves and rocky bays present along the shoreline!

The water here is so clear we can see the contours of the seabed from all the way up at the top of the cliff face!

The views out into the gulf are also quite good. This shot is North along the coastline looking at the base of Tawharanui.

Kawau Island, discussed in my Tawharanui post, is also quite visible from Scandrett Park.

Always being one for cheesy analogies, I told my friend to hang on even when it’s tough, just like this little tree. I don’t think he appreciated it as much as I had hoped, but was perhaps cheered slightly by the fact that I thought such a cliche would cheer him up. So I guess that’s a win?

That would be Takangaroa Island in the foreground and Kawau in the background.

If you do have a desire to go down closer to the water, there is a trail that will allow you to do so. Do be aware of the tides, as the difference can be quite dramatic!

Scandrett Regional Park is a truly beautiful place, and whether you are getting over a heartbreak or just wanting a nice place to take a bit of a walk, I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

In the Biblical story of the flood, God uses a rainbow to promise Noah that he will never again send a flood to destroy everything, which was mighty decent of him and probably reassured Noah significantly the next time he saw rain clouds moving in.

Regardless of whether a humanity-destroying flood is on your specific list of fears or not, whenever I see a rainbow it makes me think that everything’s going to be OK. Our Sun, which is amazing far away from the Earth but practically adjacent on a cosmic scale, is constantly undergoing fusion and sending radiation to our little blue planet. When our atmosphere has water at the right density in the right place, it breaks some of the radiation which we call visible light into a spectrum due to refraction. All these incredibly vast and powerful forces are acting together and the end result is something so beautiful and ethereal that the first humans to see one thought it must have come directly from the finger of God. It’s a helpful reminder of just how insignificant our problems really are.

The trip home yielded a second rainbow, to drive home the point.

I hope you enjoyed this trip out to Scandrett! Next time, more beaches! And maybe some birds as well!

A trip to Te Puia

As part of our overnight trip to Rotorua, my girlfriend and I stopped off at Te Puia. It’s a combination Maori cultural center and geothermal area, which makes more sense than it might first appear because the geothermal pools were a big part of the Maori culture around Rotorua!

We signed up for the cultural performance as well as the entrance fee, so we got to see some quite talented performers show us what it would be like to be welcomed into a Maori village as visitors.

It first involved a fight to the death…or not! We had to choose a chief, who was given some words to say. We were then led into the hut.

The performance was varied and quite long and entertaining. We’d seen a similar performance at the Auckland Museum, but this one was much more elaborate. It was cool to see a lot of traditional dances and songs!

We were encouraged to take photos before, during, and after the performance, and I took advantage of that! It was really quite enjoyable.

There were other structures and items around to look at as well. This is a waka, or canoe.

We got a chance to see a whole scale village. Despite being a largely primitive culture, pre-European Maori settlements were still quite elaborate. The Maori people had a rich and varied culture, which is thankfully still celebrated and taught in New Zealand today. It’s places like Te Puia which help preserve that culture, not just by putting it on display but by training people to do woodworking, weaving, and other craftwork just as it would have been done 300 years ago or more.

There is plenty of really cool sculpture and woodwork to see all over the area.

Much of Te Puia is a site of heavy geothermal activity. Walking around the back part of the park really felt like we were in another world!

It almost feels sinister to see holes in the ground belching steam and sulfurous smells!

This mud is actually boiling! Rotorua mud is sold as a cosmetic product; the high mineral and sulfur content is supposedly good for the skin!

Te Puia is also home to the Pohuta Geyser, which erupts nearly every hour. We were there for much of the day so we got to watch several eruptions! Near the geyser are hot stone steps that are like naturally heated seats. As it was Winter, that was one of our favorite attractions!

The minerals and high sulfur content turn the pools into a really neat shade of blue-green. I think this is a really nice color!

The sulfury, yellowish tinge around the outside of the pool is somewhat less attractive, but you gotta work with what you got.

I hope you enjoyed coming to Te Puia with us! If you find yourself in the Rotorua area, it’s definitely worth the price of admission. Not only are you seeing some really cool stuff, you’re also supporting the continuation of the Maori culture and arts so future generations can continue to see this cool stuff.

Sadly, this is the last post from my girlfriend’s trip here to New Zealand. It’s also one of the last posts I’ll make from New Zealand myself! I’ll be returning to the US soon, but because I’ve been so dilatory at actually writing up my adventures, there’s still a couple of months’ worth of New Zealand content at least!

Stay tuned for more adventures :)

A quick look at Rotorua

After our stop in Hobbiton, my girlfriend and I continued on to the town of Rotorua. We would be spending the night here, staying with a couple of families from our church.

Rotorua’s main claim to fame is all the geothermal activity going on in and around the city — steam vents, hot pools, and even geysers! As you can see from these photos, the town is full of steam.

Rotorua borders a lake of the same name which is in actuality the caldera of a quite large volcano (though dwarfed by the supervolcano whose caldera forms the massive Lake Taupo). The last significant supervolcano eruption in New Zealand occurred before it was settled by humans, so we have reasonable confidence that the whole place isn’t going to get blown to smithereens, at least not while we’re here for our one-night trip.

(The volcanic history of New Zealand is fascinating reading, and not at all something one should share with one’s significant other if she happens to be visiting. A word to the wise, chaps.)

I happened to get the time wrong that we were meeting one of the families, the one my girlfriend would be staying with. This wound up being fortuitous because it gave us a chance to tour Rotorua a bit.

As we were driving in, I noticed that Rotorua Hospital was situated on quite a large hill, overlooking the city and the lake. I immediately thought “I want to take photos from there”. Although it was bitterly cold that particular evening, she graciously agreed to come up with me while I took some pictures, which are the ones I’m showing you now.

We happened to arrive as the sun was setting, leading to some quite pleasant vistas overlooking this small town.

The steam you see is coming up from any opening possible: hot pools and cracks in the earth, sure, but also manhole covers and storm drains! It’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used to it!

My very first time in Rotorua, some three years ago now, I ate brunch in this very Lake Road Tavern before starting my drive to Taupo and, ultimately, Wellington!

After night fell, we drove around the town for a bit. I took her on a drive through the gardens, though we didn’t get out of the car because by that point it had become quite chilly!

These bushes spoiled an otherwise magnificent shot, but it was too cold for me to do my usual awkward clambering around to get good framing :). Rotorua does have some pretty cool architecture though.

Some nice views, too!

The sky was getting darker, so it was time to leave the hospital carpark and head back down the hill to the town.

Rotorua has a lovely pedestrian street, colloquially called Eat Street because many fine dining establishments line the pavement on either side. We went to a quite good Indian place there with the family we were meeting up with, then she went home with them and I went to meet the family I’d be staying with. We’re incredibly grateful for the hospitality we were shown here in Rotorua, and although our time in the town is bookended by much more touristy and more exciting activities, the time we were able to spend with these friends remains a highlight of our trip.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at Rotorua! Next time, not just the final stop on our trip to Rotorua but also the final post from her visit! It’s a fun one, so do make sure to come back for it :) Til then!

Hobbiton

This is it! We’re making a journey Southeast to Rotorua. On the way, we stopped by Hobbiton!

I’ve been to Hobbiton before, pre-blog, but I was glad to have the chance to go again. My girlfriend is not a big Tolkien fan (or really a Tolkien fan at all), but she still wanted to go see it. She didn’t have to ask me twice!

(She asked very astute questions about some of Tolkien’s writings and geography so I thought for a moment she might actually be showing an interest in the Legendarium, but unfortunately no dice. She’s quite content to have me tell her what she wants to know and remain blissfully ignorant of the rest!)

I was worried that traveling further South would mean it would be colder (because that’s how it works in the Southern Hemisphere), but thankfully we got a warm and occasionally sunny day for our Hobbiton exploration. (I hear my girlfriend’s voice in my head correcting me that it was not a warm day, just not as cold as it might have been. I happen to like the cold more than she does.)

Hobbiton is many things. A tourist center, certainly. But it’s also a movie set, as well as part of a functioning farm! As a side note, the last time I came to New Zealand a few bits of Hobbiton were closed off by New Line Cinemas because they were finishing up work on some of the Hobbit trilogy (this was late 2014 so I’m assuming it was either photography or reshoots by that point).

Coming in Winter means fewer people, but it also means there’s renovations and upkeep going on. Bag End is covered in scaffolding and there’s a definitively non-hobbit-sized stepladder intruding on the shot.

There are two different sizes of hobbit holes: big ones, for the hobbit actors to stand by so they look small, and small ones for the non-hobbit actors to stand by so they look big.

There are also ones like this, small enough to be (pardon the expression) dwarfed by any of the adult actors. I’m assuming that these are just used as part of the background and are sized in such a way as to promote some sort of size illusion or another.

I briefly thought about trying to use forced perspective to make the ducks seem enormous relative to the hobbit hole behind them, but the tour guide was bustling us along and the ducks weren’t cooperating anyway.

This is the Party Tree, which you will recognize if you’ve read the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring or seen the movie. Apparently the presence of a suitable tree was one of the criteria for choosing the location for Hobbiton, and this one fit the bill.

For all their flaws, the Hobbit movies definitely excelled in the set design department. Tourist area or no, Tolkien fan or no, it’s just fun to walk around the set and see how much thought and imagination went into turning Hobbiton into what feels very much like a real community of sorts.

This is my favorite shot of the day, though less because of my skill as a photographer and more because the light actually cooperated and the subject lends itself to great shots.

That’s the Green Dragon there across the lake, home of the finest brew for the brave and true, etc. :)

On the first photo, I love the lighting but don’t love the scaffolding. On the second, the opposite. The struggle is real. Maybe you can combine them in your head into one well-framed and also well-lit photograph :)

Anybody home?!

Hobbiton is full of signs like this pointing the way to various fictional Shire locations. I suspect Tolkien’s Shire was fairly light on such signs, for the same reason that pre-industrial agrarian villages tended not to have them: the presence of people who didn’t know their way around was so rare that making them would be a waste of wood and paint.

A fun piece of set dressing.

Delving & Oatlock is entirely fabricated. There are a few places in the shire with Delving in their name (Michel Delving being the most prominent), so presumably these are place names and not hobbit names. Oatlock is, to be fair, an entirely reasonable-sounding name for a place in the Shire, so clever work on someone’s part to make something plausible-sounding yet original.

I don’t know if this water wheel is connected to anything, but I would not put it past Peter Jackson to have his set designers build a fully-functional barley mill so it can look authentic when it appears in a shot for three seconds.

This cat is called Pickles and has the honor of keeping the Green Dragon free from four-legged pests. Cats are canonically present in Middle Earth, but Tolkien was not a cat person (he admits as much in letter 219 of The Letters of JRR Tolkien) and thus, were Pickles canon, Tolkien would likely have had him belong to the Sackville-Bagginses.

Leaving the Green Dragon, we can see that some hobbits managed to score lakefront property.

Q: How did Bilbo keep in touch with his friends and relatives?
A: He sent them wee-mail!

I’ll see myself out now.

I hope you enjoyed our trip to Hobbiton as much as we did!

Next time, get ready…things are going to get a little explosive!

A Trip Up the Sky Tower

Ahh, Auckland’s Sky Tower. The most distinctive part of our skyline and the tallest freestanding building in the Southern Hemisphere. Taller than the Eiffel Tower, Sydney Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle, Germany’s Olympiaturm, and many other iconic landmarks.

The Sky Tower is celebrating its 20th birthday this year! I’ve lived essentially (and sometimes literally) in its shadow for long enough. I used my girlfriend’s visit as an excuse to take a trip up to the observation deck.

The Sky Tower is, and this is going to seem pretty obvious but I feel the need to say it anyway, quite tall. This view is facing East from the city. You can effortlessly see Mission Bay, as though it were right there and not a 20-minute drive away. But you can see beyond that, beyond Achilles Point, to Brown’s Island and Bucklands Beach.

Ho hum. Looking beyond that, you can see Waiheke Island and then in the distance the hills of the Coromandel.

Looking out over the city, the pink walking path next to the motorway provides a nice splash of color. Looking out over land it’s a bit more obvious just how amazingly far you can see from up here!

There are some glass floors along the observation deck. Mentally I know that they’re quite stable and safe, but it still takes a quick mental effort to walk across them.

Looking Northeast, Devonport and North Head seem like you could just reach out and grab them. Rangitoto looks uncharacteristically small (as a testament to how far we’re seeing, Rangitoto is actually taller than the Sky Tower), and in the distance is Great Barrier Island.

But there’s something else visible too…what’s that in the lower left-hand corner of the shot?

Why, it would be a massive cruise ship!

I live on Prince’s Wharf, the two buildings on the pier to the left of the cruise ship, and that ship is actually bigger than the apartment building I live in. Crazy.

(And yes, that means “I can see my house from here” is an entirely accurate statement for me in the Sky Tower).

All good things must come to an end, and so eventually did our trip up the Sky Tower. I’m glad I waited a bit to do it because being able to see things I recognized and had visited and knew made the views much more personal and enjoyable.

Come back next time for the biggest trip of her visit!

A Cathedral Cove Sunset

As you recall from last time, despite some setbacks (notably the motorway being closed) we managed to make it to Hot Water Beach before the tide came in.

My goal was to make it to Cathedral Cove before sunset and then view the sunset from the cove. Did we manage that? Those accomplished at reading post titles already know that the answer is yes :)

In fact, we arrived at the carpark just as the sun was starting to dip down below the mountains.

(This post will mostly be sunset and scenery photos; be forewarned).

As you can see, the clouds are just starting to be tinged with a bit of pink!

Cathedral Cove is a great place to take photos, because pretty much everywhere you point your camera is gorgeous!

But it’s a 30-minute walk down to the beach and I estimated that we had about an hour of daylight, so it was time to get moving.

Walking down the trail, the sun kept hiding behind mountain tops and cliff faces, then re-emerging as the trail wrapped around. I really like this shot, lens flare and all.

It’s possible to walk all the way out to the end of this promontory, and in fact if you do so you can look down onto the beach. We didn’t, though. Once you get here, you’re getting pretty close!

I also really like this shot. Green, rolling hills can be just as pretty as water and cliffs!

Finally, down on the beach! And from the look of the sky, just in time!

The eponymous cathedral arch.

The sun gets lower, the sky gets redder!

Cathedral Cove is on the Eastern shore of the Coromandel Peninsula, so from the beach you can’t really see the sun set directly. You do get to see the lovely colors in the sky though!

And now I must leave you, for the last minutes of the sun setting were not spent taking pictures.

Hope you enjoyed our short trip out to Cathedral Cove!

Next time, I use my girlfriend as an excuse to do something I’ve wanted to do for a while! See you then :)

Hot Water Beach

One of the two big trips my girlfriend and I took while she was here was to the Coromandel Peninsula. I’ve been out to the Coromandel before, and it was a pretty epic trip.

Many of the places we went are places I’ve been before. But this particular place took us somewhere that was new for both of us: Hot Water Beach.

Hot Water Beach is a neat geothermal spot on the East coast of the Coromandel where underground hot springs meet the Pacific Ocean.

Visitors bring shovels to dig holes in the sand at low tide, which fill up with hot water from the underground springs. Basically, you make your own spa pool to relax in, and if things get too toasty you can run into the cold ocean surf to cool off.

We were lucky in that low tide was at a convenient time, early afternoon. We stopped in Thames (on the West coast of the Coromandel) for a nice lunch and a look at their local museum. We then had an unexpected and harrowing drive over the mountains on a dirt road since Highway 25A was out due to landslides. We made good enough time that we arrived at Hot Water Beach just within the two hour window of low tide. This gave us the really fun experience of putting our feet in the hot sand and letting the cold water come in over our legs, creating a really weird hot / cold sensation.

I thought I got some photos of my own feet in the hot pools, but it appears I was too preoccupied trying to take photos of my girlfriend as she played in the surf. So that means you get generic photos of the beach as I describe these things, which isn’t too bad because even without the geothermal oddities, Hot Water Beach is fantastic scenery.

Also, unlike Cathedral Cove, which I visited last time and (spoiler alert) we will visit again next post, you can drive basically right up to the beach. The hot spring area is about 200m from the carpark.

Like Piha and most of the West coast beaches, there are lots of breakers quite near the shore, and the tides and waves can be quite intense. Come for the hot springs, not for the swimming.

I took a really long time waiting for just the right wave to crash over this rock and make a good shot. And then when it happened I didn’t get the shot I wanted. C’est la vie; enjoy this one instead :)

There’s some rocks to climb around on, and at low tide you can walk a fair ways along the beach. But the big draw of Hot Water Beach is digging yourself a nice pool, relaxing in the hot springs, and enjoying the view.

Unfortunately my girlfriend didn’t bring any swim gear, but we still enjoyed the view and putting our feet in. It may have been for the best, though, since we had an appointment and the sun waits for no one.

As we were leaving, though, we did get a parting gift: the late afternoon sun reflecting off the wet sand was absolutely stunning.

Hot Water Beach unquestionably lived up to its reputation as a great tourist spot! So glad we made the time to come here.

Join us next time as we travel just a few kms North :)