Monday, March 29, 2010

Little Train and Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove

We left Auckland and headed down and around into the Coromandel Peninsula towards the famous Hot Water Beach. The beach is quite a bit north up this peninsula and in order to justify the drive all the way up to it I wanted us to stop and do some of the other random tourist destinations along the way. We decided on going to Driving Creek Railway which is a tourist attraction for trainspotters and fans of pottery alike.

The scenery alone on the drive up the peninsula proved to make the trip worth it.

We noticed some odd looking black rows of something in the lake as we drove by. I correctly guessed they were mussel farms. Neither of us had seen those before.

We arrived at Driving Creek Railway in time for the 2pm train ride. The man behind this attraction was a potter by trade and bought this tract of land on the hillside for its abundance of clay. He then built a train track up the hillside to retrieve the clay and bring it down to his studio.

Below is this inside of a kiln, completely glazed over from years and years of use.

After a few years of barely making his payments to the bank for the land, the banker demanded that he start charging a small fee to take passengers on his train and turn it into a tourist attraction.

It proved to be sound advice as last year they took 40,000 passengers at roughly $20-$25 per person (around $600,000USD!!) Despite this success the owner still only draws an income from his pottery and uses the railroad profits to pay the staff and to expand it. He's been building and expanding it for the last 32 years!

The train ride was entertaining in a Disney trainride kind of way. No super thrills but a nice enjoyable ride to a nice lookout point.

Here are what the little cars looked like. This was another car passing below us.

Getting in my workout when and wherever I can.

The studio regularly has guest artists and potters stop by and stay with them and they all inevitably add their artistic touch to the area around the tracks. This was one impressive part of the track done by an American artist. I ended up buying a $40 coffee mug from an Ugandan artist who comes over to NZ every now and then to sell his goods. I can only imagine how much the money he makes in NZ makes a difference to his life in Uganda.

Mao parked down at the end of a track leading to nowhere.

We then drove over to the east coast of the Peninsula to Otama Beach and found a little field near the beach to park Mao. Down a staircase to the beach I found a swing hanging down from a tree.

This beach was absolutely stunning. White sand, sun shining and not one other person around as far as we could see.

I took about 50 pics of my favorite muse swinging into the sun. Here are a few of my favorites.

Gemma dancing and skipping about. It was so pretty there it put us in a great mood. Reading back through Gemma's journal she wrote it was "idylic" and "loving life, I'm very happy."

I couldn't decide which of the pictures I took of this tree I liked the best so here are my two favorite.

We then busted out one of our mini charcoal grills, chefed up some incredible hamburgers and watched the sunset.

Here is where Mao was parked. The beach was just behind me taking this picture.

The next morning we ran along the white sand beach before we started driving south towards Hot Water Beach. When we got there we saw the most tourists we'd seen throughout the entire trip combined. Luckily for us they had already done all the hard work of digging holes for us to relax in. The sign below says it best:

Here is what the scene looks like, a bunch of people in shallow hot water pools with the ocean waves coming right up towards you.

It wasn't quite as much like a hottub as I would have liked, but considering the fact that you were on a beach near the ocean sitting in really hot water, it was pretty dope. The water was so hot in some spots that it would burn you immediately once you stepped into it. It was kinda funny seeing people step into it despite your warning not to and immediately scream and run off.

Here is a diagram further explaining the phenomenon.

Or if you've got really good eyes you can read it as Gemma poses next to it.

About a five minute drive away is Cathedral Cove. The guidebook says a reasonably fit person could do the hike down to Cathedral Cove in 25 minutes making it sound easy although the sign says 45. Well we took a side path that was labeled as a five minute walk down to another beach along the way. What the sign didn't mention is that its five minutes straight down stairs, not much to look at once you're down there and then about 10 minutes back up the steps. We then continued on the path down to Cathedral Cove which is a naturally formed tunnel through a huge rock formation.

Inside the tunnel looking through to the other side.

Looking back on the tunnel from the other side now.

This huge slab of rock was interesting. It almost looked like a huge sculpture done by Mother Nature.

Side view

After sitting along the beach and admiring the view for a few minutes we started the hike back to the car. I don't know if it was the morning run, the relaxing on hot water beach or the unnecessary hike down to the first beach I mentioned, but the hike back to the car nearly killed me. I was winded and felt betrayed and lied to by the Lonely Planet. Here is the view from the top, I'm surprised I had enough energy by this point to lift the camera. Cathedral Cove is down in the bottom left corner.

Tomorrow we are off to L&P town. A pilgrimage to where our favorite New Zealand beverage was started! Kind of like a road trip to see the worlds largest ball of twine or something, but what the hell!

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