Captain Cook and the Coromandel – Monday 30th January 2012


The Coromandel Peninsula was made famous (to Europeans) by Captain James Cook, when he pulled up the Endeavor on a patch of this newly discovered land, to observe the transit of Mercury across the sun. By doing this he helped work out an exact position on his charts for the longitude of New Zealand so that others might find it in his wake.

(for those just dropping into this blog for the first time, John has been reading Cook’s diaries. He can tell you lots, I paraphrase!)

The important bit is that we are now near Cook’s Beach on Mercury Bay and all the road names have reference to Cook’s crew or their mission. Surely there must be a monument? Well, yes, there is. But a very inauspicious one: no more than a slab of concrete to mark the occasion, close to the beach and a small wooden board which gives the bare bones of the story. John is clearly disappointed!

But all is not lost! Up on Shakespeare’s Cliff (Cook named this too, thinking it looked like the Bard!) a slightly better stone slab affair refers to the navigational milestone and offers excellent views.

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There are also gannets, hurling themselves into the sea, spearing fish. They fold their wings at a particular angle to enable them to plunge, maybe even to swim deep into the sea. Their aerobatic display is remarkable. You can see the bubble trail as they dive, and watch them eat their catch as they sit on the water before taking off to dive again. You can also see the shoals of fish move across the bay, desperate to get out of their way. But the gannets’ arial view beats the fish every time.

We walk down from Hahei after finding parking rather a problem, to Cathedral Cove, made famous, I believe from clips of the Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe series of films. Perhaps this was the Caspian Sea?
It’s an easy walk but I wouldn’t want to be pushing three young children in a buggy as one brave man does. It takes us nearly an hour from start to destination.
And it is stunning! The arch so wide! A waterfall cascades at the far end of one of the beaches. No wonder so many people have made the effort.

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Back up the stair, we divert to visit Gemstone Bay, a small rocky bay which is, nevertheless, picturesque. And Stingray Bay, although we see no stingrays. There are some lovely red crabs some 10 cm across which amuse us.

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But all this time, even though we have had a fantastic time, with good walking and lots to see, we have actually been waiting: for the tide to turn! We have our shovel, and our old towels, so kindly provided by our host at the Aotearoa Lodge, but the time has to be just right.
And now it is!

We head off for the biggest event in the area.
Hot Water Beach as the tide becomes low.

It’s not difficult to find the correct spot on the long beach, everyone is there. They all seem to know where two hot water springs bubble constantly up through the sand and can be found at low tide. If you get too closets the source, it’s too hot to stay. Your feet burn! So we gather together to create our very own spa pools.

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Even the sea has hot spots! The frustration when a final wave batters our dam down. The fascination to see the hot water bubble through the sand at one or two points. The surprise when you stand on a hotspot! The sense of unity amongst all these strangers from so many far flung places around the globe! They should do something like this for world peace!

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