Coromandel Peninsula

March 9, 2013

Even though the concert was a total bust last night, we still struggled to wake and get out as early as we planned. We met around 8am, all 18 of us, and walked towards the Jucy Rental Car lot. At 9:15am we were on the road in route to Coromandel Peninsula. My car consisted of Ryan who was our wonderful driver, Lyssa, and Grant.

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The ride was very enjoyable because we devised the “topics” game, during which we went around each picking a topic and then everyone in the car had to share their story. The four of us really got to know one another much better and it made time pass. The drive was about three hours from Auckland and the last hour was very windy. The drive was incredibly scenic and beautiful but I had to close my eyes for most of it because we were in a four car caravan winding around mountain after mountain. Around 11:30am we arrived at our first destination: The Hot Water Beach and just in time for low tide. We were all starving so we quickly unloaded our cars and set off towards the water. The beach was fairly windy and when the wind picked up the sand violently flew making us all duck our heads into our arms for protection. After lunch it was time for us to experience the hot water. This beach is a geothermal attraction and the name comes from the underground hot springs which come up through the sand and is strongly felt during low tide; temperatures get as hot as 147°F. I did not fully believe it was true until I felt it for myself. Our group walked towards where the mass of people were standing on the beach and as soon as we got close we felt our feet start to burn. A rush of water came towards us and our feet fell deeper into the sand and the intensity of the heat grew. We all jumped out in a rush at the unfamiliar and strange burning feeling. But intrigued, we continued to wander around the beach finding new locations with varying degrees.

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Photo Taken by Gemma

There were families all around digging their own Hot Water Pools but instead we decided to lay on the sand over a warmed area and we slid around each time a wave came over us. The combination of the burning sand and freezing ocean water turned into a very comfortable mix. After a couple of hours of splashing around we all decided to dry off and relax before we needed to move onto our next destination, Cathedral Cove.429747_4743834602019_454415934_n

When we got to the car park we all were very excited to have the whole rest of the day ahead of us; the weather was perfect and the beach we were going is supposed to be one of the most beautiful ones on the Peninsula.

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Photo Taken by Gemma

All three cars were started and ready to go, but when Dan went to start his there was no response. I must give credit when credit was due, and we all did a very great job of not panicking. We were almost out of cell phone range, and there were not many people around. We asked everyone in the lot for jumper cables and when we had no luck Lyssa and Ryan set off for town to find some. Marjie whipped out her ukulele and played for us as Jessica and Joe shared their oranges with everyone. In no time Lyssa and Ryan were back, jumper cables in hand, we jumped the car and were off: crisis adverted.

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Photo Taken by Pierce

At Cathedral Cove there were no spots in the carpark so we hopped up on a curb, unloaded our packs and we ready to hike. It was a 30 minute hike from the top to the beach area and the scenery on the hike changed from looking like the wasteland in the Lion King, to a field of farm animals (sheep, cows and horses everywhere) to rainforest and that ultimately led us down to the beach.

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 Photo Taken by Pierce

Cathedral Cove is named after a cave that separates the two beaches from one another. Meg and I were feeling adventurous and we were the first to make the run from one beach to the other as we hugged the rock wall and trying to go as fast as we could in the water without a wave coming and knocking us down. We were a little off in our timing and ended up getting soaking wet but that aided in the fun.

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Photo Taken by Gemma

When we got to the other side we took a couple of pictures and then realized high tide was coming and it would be smart to put our things down and relax on the other side to avoid getting trapped there for the night. We made the run back and met up with the rest of the crew. I relaxed and took in the beautiful scenery while others swam, ventured off and took naps. Around 5:30pm the sun got stuck behind the big rock that was surrounding us, and we decided that we should head back to try to find a place to stay the night. Somehow on the short walk we managed to lose a couple, all of the people holding the car keys, so to kill time as we waited for them we reverted back to the “topics” game. It was very funny to hear about everyone’s most embarrassing moments, their favorite movie, and where they hope to spend their old age.

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We were then off to the Thames area, which is the home of eight neighboring campsites. We were all crossing our fingers that one had room for 18 more people. After driving for an hour, we finally reached the remote destination we had been looking for. The first campsite we tried was filled with families and young children so we believed that it would be best to try another. We passed a couple more and finally we found one that seemed pretty empty. We pulled in, parked our cars, fully unloaded and got comfortable for the night. The vast land quickly filled up with tents, tarps, sleeping bags, and flashlights. We all cozied up, opened our supper and enjoyed the long awaited meal. Sadly, New Zealand is in a country-wide drought and there are no fire permits so we were not able to make a campfire but we still circled up and shared stories, memories and laughs. Throughout the night the group dwindled down to smaller and smaller numbers as individuals went off to bed, but I tried as hard to stay up for as long as I could.

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Photo Taken by Jessica

As I glanced up at the mesmerizing stars, exhaustion overcame me and I dosed off into a silent sleep. My sleep was interrupted many times by the feeling of bugs, the noise from the wind, and ultimately as the ground got cold, my body absorbed the dew from the grass and I felt myself shivering. I tried to warm myself up by scrunching into a smaller ball, but that did not work and I just had to force my eyes closed and wait until the sun came up.

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March 10, 2013

In the morning we packed, cleaned our area and set off for The Pinnacles. It was less than a ten minute drive until we reached the base of the trail. The first 20 minutes of walking is very misleading, and made me think the hike was going to be a breeze. We reached a river with a rock path or a one person bridge that crossed it. For the sake of a picture, we decided that five of us could cross at a time; I was very nervous.

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Photo Taken by Pierce

Soon enough the climb started getting very steep and we were forced to navigate up rock piles. Each step had to be taken with careful consideration and with an understanding of what the next five steps after it would be. At points there were rock stair cases so big that my knee had to bend 90° to get up to the next one. My arthritic body was not happy about this challenging task and I could have never done it without my friend Dan. I was a little slower than the pack but Dan stayed behind with me and encouraged and motivated me after every step. For three hours until we reached the top he was supporting me and told me we were almost there, even when we were not even close. We finally reached the Pinnacle Hut, where we sat and refilled our bottles with “water not suitable for drinking,” but no one seemed to care, and had lunch.

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Photo Taken by Gemma

Once everyone felt refueled, we continued on another 45 minutes until we reached the top. To get to the top we needed to climb up a series of very steep ladders, and I believed my fatigued muscles would not be able to support me. Shockingly enough I pushed myself and when I made it to the top I could not believe that I was going to ever give up. The view was truly majestic and I felt like I was in the clouds. At 759m (2,490 ft) in the sky, I could see all of Coromandel, but the most remarkable view was of all of the mountains that we climbed to get to this point. The Pinnacles were developed because of a series of volcanic eruptions which created this beautiful condensed mountain area. If I had to do the trek again, I would have enjoyed to stay overnight at the 80 person Pinnacle Hut in order to witness the sunrise and sunset.

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Me taking a break before the final climb

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At the highest Point of the Pinnacles

We stayed at the peak for a while enjoying the silence and peaceful serenity. A group headed down earlier than us because they wanted to do the longer hike back and when we were ready, Dan, Caroline, Meghan and I started our descent. Another three hours and we all met back up at the bottom and shoved in the cars to head back to Auckland. Before returning, we made a quick pitstop in Thames for dinner. Most of us ate at Town and Country Food, a very good burger place, a hardy meal is exactly what we all needed. It only took us an hour to get back to Auckland and it was very sad to say goodbye to such an enjoyable weekend. Overall, this weekend was a huge success and brought our very large group closer together. I am looking forward to doing more excursions as a group and each place we visited this weekend was unique, beautiful and a must if you are visiting New Zealand!

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Group Shot at the Top of the Pinnacles

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One thought on “Coromandel Peninsula

  1. Good work getting to the top of the pinnacles. It’s a bit of a crazy drive to get out to the Coromandel, but well worth it. Last time we went though our car conked out completely just outside of Thames (no cellphone coverage either so we had to go door knocking) and in the end the car had to be towed back to Auckland because it couldn’t be fixed.

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