Queens of this Castle

So I’ve failed, and now continue to fail in a slightly less severe way. These blog posts are waaay overdue. And now they are happening, but sans photos. No photos because I somehow didn’t get around to going through all of the photos from the family vacay, and now they are sitting on a harddrive in Auckland, not to be seen again until Christmas, when I will have enough time to sort through several hundred, do a quick edit, and belatedly add them to this blog. Yes.

So, sadly, for now (because otherwise these posts will probably, let’s be honest, never happen) there are stories, and no pretty shiny photos. See: fail. Nevertheless, the show must go on, as they say. And this show left off somewhere in Coromandel, in the North Island of New Zealand.

Coromandel is a pretty stunning part of New Zealand, dotted with beautiful bays, excellent beaches, and tumbling hills that offer extraordinary views. During the first full day we had to explore the area, we headed south from Whitianga to Hot Water Beach. New Zealand is full of hot springs, and on this particular beach (It’s best to hit it on receding tide) hot water bubbles up from underneath the sand. A small spade or two is all you need to build yourself your very own private spa pool. The trick is getting the delicate mix of steaming water coming up from below and cold water on the surface right. What appeared to be perfectly fine hot pools lay abandoned, and a cautious toe into the burning water told us why. We ended up with a reasonably well-combined pool; frequent stirring keeping one side from remaining too hot and the other too cold. The occasional breach of the sand wall between your pool and another could throw off your system entirely, and frequent shoveling was required to keep the small walls from caving down entirely. Yet somehow this rated exceptionally high in the quality of spa pools I’ve sat in. Perhaps only higher is a friend’s homemade, perfectly round (and therefore rollable and movable) spa that uses a removable woodburner to heat the water. (And yes, we’ve already had the debate of whether a spa made of wood that eats wood is slightly cannibalistic.)

Hot Water Beach

After that we headed over to Cathedral Cove, where a stunning naturally formed archway dominates the beach. The area is accessible only by a small walk or by water, which adds to its appeal. I’m sure there’s a lovely photo, somewhere. Damn it.

Cathedral Cove

The following day we split ranks, half of the group opting to take a glass-bottom boat trip around the area. My mom and I planned to take the gravel road back across the peninsula, visiting some stops along the way including a Kauri tree grove and a walk up to Castle Rock. Kauri trees have got to be in the race for the largest and oldest trees in the world, and they can be found in different groves across New Zealand. Castle Rock was what I was particularly intrigued with, as it been described briefly as a short but tough hike up to the rock, with amazing view of the peninsula from the top. Guidebooks and Google searches offered not much more information, so we though we’d give it a go.

From the beginning, it was clear that this was not a standard, touristy, well-developed hiking trail. We headed down an almost unmarked road that appeared to generally be used for logging. Our Toyota minivan’s capability was put to the test, as we climbed steep gravel inclines, not entirely convinced this was the correct way. We finally parked the van in a deserted logging lot and walked uncertainly toward the start of the “trail,” an unmarked path heading rather subtly into the bush. It appeared to be roughly pointing the correct direction – up – so we began our adventure. The trail was certainly rustic and was quite a mission to navigate towards the top – apparently too much of a mission, as we ended up missing the split in the trail, and somehow seemed to be heading back down in a loop, a loop that did not include the top of the rock or any particularly fabulous views. Rather determined to see this through, I spotted a break through the bush heading up – someone had clearly done the same as us and decided to break their own trail through the slippery and uncooperative vine-like trees that were growing there. Struggling up, I realized it would actually be quite a lot more difficult to come down, so I carried on. I eventually rejoined what appeared to be the main trail (it was very hard to tell, as it was little more than a few broken sticks and a lightly worn dirt path), and continued on in the general direction of up. I finally made it to the promised rock scramble to the top, briefly weighing the possibility that I would not be able to get back down (Mom had waited at the break in the trail, not particularly keen at the idea of wrestling with a vine forest), and I wasn’t sure if my voice would carry if I got truly stuck. With the relative confidence I’d gained from my recent endeavors into rock climbing, I decided to continue, and scrambled up to the top of Castle Rock. The view was truly something, most of the peninsula in my sights from the vantage point. The exposure was also quite thrilling, and it took me a couple of minute to be comfortable exploring the few square meters at the top. After savouring the climb for a moment, I began the mission back down which, as with all steep and technical hikes, was rather trickier than going up. I came out where we should have turned initially, and realized upon exited why we had not seen the nearly nonexistent break in the trees that led to the other trail. Mom and I finished the descent, rather pleased with how the unexpected adventure had panned out, and headed back home for one more night.

Castle Rock Views

Castle Rock


The TrailThe Finish Line


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