We left Auckland behind and hoped the rest of our North Island adventures would make up for its reputation. As we left the big city and its suburbs behind, we were greeted, once again with beautiful scenery as we drove towards our first exciting destination, the Kawhia Beach, where we hoped to find the popularly talked about Te Puia hot springs!
By the time we arrived in Kawhia it was lunch time, and this very small town didn't offer too many options for lunch. We ended up picking Annie's Cafe, which had good food and a cozy atmosphere.
We arrived at the Kawhia Beach not really knowing what to expect. We had read that there was a changing room available, which was true, and that we should bring a shovel with us for digging ourselves some hot springs. We didn't have any shovels, but we had brought our arms and hands which were quite capable of digging!
Not that it would have made a difference in our plans to visit this neat spot, but it would have been nice to know about the steep hill of warm sand that we had to climb and descend before actually getting to the beach. The climb was tough at times because we kept losing our flip flops in the sand, which made us laugh, which in turn made it even harder for us to climb!! Going down the hill was a blast, Hannah even fell a few times because she was going too fast, but falling on soft, warm sand couldn't offend anyone.
The beach seems to go on forever, and asides from one other family that left shortly after we arrived we were the only ones there! We went right to work trying to find the hot springs. We had read on one of the reviews that you can just look at where the heat was rising and could just start digging. We could see heat rising pretty much everywhere on the beach! We began digging....then as we kept hitting cold water, we got a little bored and played a little instead! It was a bit of a "not everything that shimmers is gold" situation.
As you might be able to tell from the above pictures, the sand at this beach is unusually black, making it look more like mud than sand. We finally managed to dig a lukewarm pool and fortified it with walls to make sure the waves would not level it.
As the day went by, the sun started getting hotter and the tide began to come in. At one point when we looked up at the sky we noticed a cool rainbow halo around the sun, which we later learned is called a 22 degree halo. What I am confused about is the fact that it was actually quite warm that day, so I am still unsure if we saw the 22 degree halo (which is supposed to be reflections of ice crystals in the air), or if it was a corona. What do you think?
We began heading back to the giant hill we knew we had to ascend before we could seek refuge in the shade. On our way, our walk turned into a bit of a scary educational show as we saw skeletons of a bird and a puffer fish lying on the beach. Definitely not for the faint at heart!
Going up the aforementioned hill in the hot afternoon sun was much more difficult, since now losing a flip flop meant a burnt foot! After a bit of a struggle, we all made it up and over in once piece. The changing rooms, as basic as they are, were great, especially because there was no way anyone could change in our tiny tiny car!
Though we didn't exactly find the hot springs we had come to see, we did have a blast and would strongly recommend visiting this very secluded beach. Back in the tiny car, we continued on towards our next spot for the night, Waitomo.
We mentioned before that road trips and RV traveling is really a way of life in the South Island and the same is true in the North, although perhaps a little less so. Either way, we continued to be drawn to camp sites, though this time those that could accommodate those in a non-self contained vehicle. We ended up staying at a Top 10 Holiday park in Waitomo. The name is literally Top 10! The Top 10 Holiday parks are very popular in New Zealand, and if you are a member, you can get a discount. They are generally more pricey than other Holiday Parks because of the awesome amenities, like pool, trampoline, playgrounds, etc., that they offer, but they are still cheaper than hotels and they provide you with the ability to cook your own meals in the common kitchen.
This is where Kian and Hannah met a charming 6 year old girl named Sophie. I have to write about Sophie, because she was a big part of our stay at this Top 10 Holiday Park, and although I never got a chance to ask Sophie's parents if it was OK to take a picture of her, I still want us to remember how fun she was. The three kids had a blast saying all sorts of silly stuff and talking about Christmas and Santa as they jumped on the trampoline and played in the playground. This is where I realized how much the kids miss having friends to be silly with.
Elmer the Elf's Update
Yesterday, before we headed out to explore Auckland, Kian really wanted me to take out his art supplies so he could draw a picture of Santa. I grumbled a bit, but pulled them out of one of the backpacks eventually. Kian drew a neat picture of Santa that clearly Elmer really loved. This morning we woke up to find Elmer with the tape dispenser and staring straight at the drawing.
Seems like Elmer loves Santa and he can't wait for Christmas!