20.03.2011 - 22.03.2011 25 °C
How you go'in? This is the NZ way of asking - how are you doing? Julie and I love the kiwi lingo and some of it is hard NOT to pick up, such as the word “rubbish”. We pack up our belongings and hit the road heading north from New Plymouth along the west coast. Our first stop is Mike's Organic Brewery for an early morning taste test and to purchase of some beverages for myself.
The plan for the day is to explore the massive cave system in the Waitomo area but due to crazy amounts of tourists with the same idea, our primo option is sold out. Instead we decide to stop at a couple of free caves along the way to Raglan. First stop is Mangapohoe Natural Arch, a giant limestone arch, accessible by a short stroll off the highway. We walk through the deep gorge that once was a long cave formed by the river until the roof fell in. We reach the arch, all that is left of the cave ceiling, as light streams in onto the dark floors. Further along the loop giant fossilized oysters cover the rocks which are scattered throughout the fields. Our second stop is at Piripiri Cave and we disappear into the darkness – literally. Our torches are in dire need of new batteries and we can't see a thing.
Onwards to Kawhia and the Te Puia Hot Springs that are located perfectly on a secluded stretch of sandy beach. I ask the owner of a gas station about the hot springs and he gives me the lowdown on how to find the hottest springs. He enquires to where we are camping for the night and of course we haven't planned for that just yet. He mentions that they have a free camping spot behind the gas bar and suggests that we pop back around after soaking in the springs to stay the night. It sounds like a great plan, a little bit of back tracking, but we like the sounds of “free”.
We hit Te Puia Hot Springs just right, as the tide is low and there is plenty of hot water peculating to the surface. There are a few people conveniently leaving, so we scope our there abandoned dug holes for the hottest pool. After a bit of hand digging, our beach hot tub is ready, and we slide in to a little bit of heaven.
Julie and I decide to take up the free camping offer at the Oparau Roadhouse, which turns out to be a great decision. Bill and Brenda are the generous owners that have been taking in weary travellers for twenty years. They also run a backpackers accommodation which is empty for the night, so he persuades us to stay there for the night. We get the entire place to ourselves and we get to sleep in a comfy bed instead of pitching our tent. Not even a half hour since Bill left is he back around with leftover meat pies (a NZ staple food) from their restaurant that will be tossed if we don't eat them, so I score a free meal as well! Julie can't eat the pies since she isn't eating wheat and dairy and after a few minutes there is another knock on the door by Bill with a plate of food perfect for Julie. Unreal! Kiwi's are such welcoming and generous people, a trait that is rubbing off on us as we make our way through the country.
In the morning we thank Bill and Brenda about hundred times, sign their guest book, and hit the road to Raglan where we are hoping to get a surfing lesson. Along the way, Bridal Veil Falls sounds stunning, so we hit the short trail to the picture perfect display. By 10am we reach Raglan and start contacting different surf schools to find the best rate. We end up with Steve that runs Surf Safe, which is an awesome deal for great lessons from a killer surfer. After about an hour of onshore instruction at Ngarunui Beach, it is time to hop on a board and ride the rolling surf. The breaks are consistent which makes it easy to catch the waves. Julie catches on too fast for my liking and looks like a pro compared to me. We both have a totally tubular time with Steve and get a great handle on surfing. Rad.
We're both wiped after dominating the waves all afternoon, so we make the call to stay around Raglan for the night. Solscape Eco-Retreat over-looks town and the misty coastline and seems like the perfect place for the night. Julie is instantly amazed at the unique facilities and eco-structures around the property. There are a couple of outdoor kitchens with cobb ovens, cool teepees to rent and stay in, cabins made from old rail cars, an earth-dome, veggie patches to use, and educational signage everywhere. It's an amazing place to stay and it would be a great idea to start up in Ontario.
Hamilton is our first stop of the day after packing up at Solscape. The Hamilton Gardens are a great place to wander through this morning to get new gardening ideas. Julie is particularly fascinated with the herb garden section and we jot down some new herbs to plant for medicinal and cosmetic uses.
Continuing across the North Island we end our day near Te Mata on the Coromandel Peninsula. We are starting another wwoofing job at Richard and Linden's little piece of paradise high on a hillside over-looking native bush and the Firth of Thames. They prepare a great fish dinner before we watch the sun set over the ocean. We talk about their property and how they are sustainably managing it for native timber. Linden is a very hard working and determined lady, that is quickly transforming their property from paddocks and invasive gorse to native bush. Should be a great wwoofing time, with various forest restoration work planned for the week.