I said I wouldn’t. After travelling with my own car for ages, watching tour bus upon tour bus descend on our pristine sights, I said I wouldn’t. But I have. I’ve joined the Stray bus. And frankly, I couldn’t be happier about it. Don’t worry, I haven’t abandoned Sunny (our rental car) completely – he is trucking Sarah to and from Auckland as we speak. But having the car by myself isn’t economical – gas prices are just way too expensive unless you are sharing the costs – and the bus is a fun way to meet new people and not have to worry about driving.
From Auckland to Hahei
I haven’t seen much of Auckland apart from where Sarah works and the front door of Base hostel. It’s somewhere I’ll explore at a later date, but we do get a great view of the city from the top of Mt. Eden, a dormant volcano. There is a huge compass there with distances on it, which reminds me just how far away I am from home!
We then travel up the Coromandel peninsular, another beautiful spot which is similar in a lot of ways to the Bay of Islands. Again, more stunning beaches – tough life, eh? The bus driver, Nana, drops us off at Cathedral Cove. We spend some time taking silly pictures and cursing other tourists who get in the way of the perfect shot… despite being annoying tourists ourselves.
We arrive back at the dorm to the smell of fish, sausages and lamb chops on the barbie… can’t say we don’t eat well on the trip either! After a huge feed, cooked by our awesome driver, we head out to Hot water beach. The sun is already setting and the beach is empty – that is, until we spot where the thermal pools are. There, despite the chilly early evening temperatures, girls are lounging around in bikinis and men in their swimsuits. The guys on the stray bus are carrying the shovels and preparing to dig. It takes a while for us to find the right spot (and eventually some of us usurp the holes already dug by other people) but once we do, hot water pools up out of the ground like an instant bath. The sea rushes up to the very edges of the pools, always threatening to cross and drown our hot baths with its cool, salty water but generally keeping its distance. The result is heaven. The water is a gorgeous temperature, as long as you avoid the places where it is scalding hot. We relax in the pools until night falls and we have to find our way back to the bus by moonlight.
Post-beach follows beer, poker and a discussion between myself, Manuel, Cameron (a fellow Canuck) and Lofty on what practical jokes to play on the other people on the bus… none are acted upon but I did learn never to share a room with Manuel.