New Zealand

OUR KIWI CHRISTMAS – DAY 3


Howdy from Hahei!

Today’s weather was marginally better than yesterday’s so we took the opportunity to go exploring along the beaches of the Coromandel Peninsula. In particular we focussed our attentions on the beaches of Mercury Bay, using the tiny seaside village of Hahei as our base. We got to see lots of green rolling hills, beautiful beaches and typically stunning New Zealand scenery…     

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Hahei (population 300) consists of a few houses, a general store, a beautiful beach and not much else. It’s also the access point for one of the the Coromandel’s most famous attractions: Cathedral Rock.

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Cathedral Rock is a naturally-formed cavern, created over the centuries by the waves, rain and winds. The archway, hollowed out of the soft ignimbrite* rock that forms the cliffs in this region, made for an impressive sight (though it would no doubt be all the more impressive on a clear, sunny day).

*Ignimbrite is a soft rock made from pyroclastic flows that cool rapidly. There are lots of fascinating rock formations like that all over this country – New Zealand sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire and is a hub of volcanic and earthquake activity.

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Cathedral Rock is situated within the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve*, on a sandy white strip of beach framed by white cliffs and pohutukawa trees. The pohutukawa trees were HUGE and really cool. These crimson-flowered perennials are iconically New Zealand and, as they bloom in summer around Christmas time, are often referred to as “Kiwi Christmas trees”. They grow pretty slowly so, given their size, the ones on the beach near Cathedral Rock must be at least a few hundred years old. Very cool.

*Most of the ocean around the Coromandel Peninsula is protected – New Zealand has protected much of its marine territories, controlling recreational fishing and banning commercial fishing in these reserves. This has helped protect fish breeding zones and has increased fish stocks in and around New Zealand dramatically.

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We did the hike from Hahei to Cathedral Rock and back again, stopping along the way to admire the views of Mahurangi Island and Mercury Bay.

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After exploring the area around Hahei we also went down to see Hot Water Beach. As the name implies, there are hot water springs that bubble up to the surface on this beach creating hot pools you can soak in. Not that we tried it – it was waaaaaay too cold today to even contemplate getting into our swimmers! It barely reached 19C today and the wind is seriously cold – cold enough that we’re almost missing the heat and humidity of Brisbane’s summer. Almost.

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After all that exploration and trekking through the Kiwi bush we’re happy ensconced back to our apartment in Whitianga, warming up and looking forward to tomorrow’s exploration.

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