Thanks to the University of Auckland's forgiving exam schedule, I had a full week free before the start of my exams this month. I used this time to go explore the Coromandel Peninsula, and embark on what was likely to be the last major tramping trip I'd be able to take in New Zealand. So, on a Wednesday morning I picked up my rental car and headed South, towards what would prove to be a thrilling week of adventure.
My first day kicked off with a trip to Hot Water Beach, a beach formed over a bed of hot lava. Because of this phenomenon, if you wait until low tide at the beach and dig a large hole, it will fill with hot water from the lava-heated springs below. I knew this in advance, but somehow didn't expect the water to be quite as hot as it was. The water, I later found out, was about 65 degrees Celsius, or around 150 Fahrenheit. In comparison, when I had visited Rotorua I had found any of the hot springs above 42C to be too warm for me, so this was definitely off the table. Still, the beach was beautiful, with turquoise waters and none of the sulfuric stench I had grown to associate with geothermal activity. Back at the hostel I was staying at, I was lucky enough to meet a wide array of other solo travellers, from countries ranging from Austria to fellow Americans, who were eager to join up for some adventuring. This became my group for the next day, when we headed off to visit Cathedral Cove.
After seeing almost the entirety of the North Island, I can conclusively say that Cathedral Cove is my newfound favorite spot. To get to the Cove requires a 90 minute hike, weeding out some of the prospective tourists, and includes detours to several other smaller beaches and lookout points. It was one of those first lookout points that we we hiked up to, atop one of the many cliffs overlooking the Cove, from which I saw a large ray swimming languidly through the waters below. The water in the Cove is so clear that, even from the top of this cliff, it was easy to make out the ray swimming amongst the waves, getting covered by sand then shaking it off again. After this sighting, we hiked down into the cove itself, which is full of waterfalls and caves and huge rocky formations, pieces of the cliffs now part of the ocean. We continued exploring the cove until sunset, which rewarded us with a startlingly pink sky over the Pacific. I headed back to the hostel more than satisfied, and went to bed early in anticipation of the next couple days.