Day 7 – Exploring the Coromandel

Today I had an exciting day planned – bit I was a bit concerned that the weather would not be on my side. I started my morning by going just down the road to Captain Cook’s Landing site.

Then I headed to Hot Water Beach – this fascinating area where you dig a hot pool – on the beach – but only within about an hour of low tide. I got to the area early – went to the cafe to rent my shovel, then I headed out to the beach.

It was some seriously fantastic (airport and people of  Walmart caliber) people watching, as well as just a cool experience – although – I could have done without the folks who just decided they should strip down on the beach – I don’t get it!

It was a great way to start my day – but it looked as though the weather was not going to be on my side to get to Cathedral Cove – I was worried about walking down and getting caught in the storm, and most of the boat tours were cancelling left and right, and seeing as it was the off season – options were limited.

Realizing that Cathedral Cove might not happen, I moved on and went to check out Shakespeare’s Cliff (because Captain Cook did name everything he saw after something in England you know). This gave me great views of Cooke’s Beach and the scenery around me.

I still had tons of day to kill, so I decided to take the (very short) ferry across to Whitianga.

I walked around a bit, and decided I should probably grab a late lunch, as it was past 2:00. I settled into a little cafe, and ordered a grilled chicken pasta dish – then as I was at the table waiting, my phone rang – it was a tour guide operator, that heard I wanted to get on a tour (this is such a kiwi thing) – and he had a boat that had just left, but if I was interested would come back and get me to join the tour, if I could get there fast – I mean – guys – who does that?

So, I quickly found the server, and was just going to tell her I was leaving because something came up – and y’all – she tried to give me a refund – also – who does that? I refused to let her pay me – but she wasn’t going to let me leave without my order, so they packaged it really quick, and I ran across to the wharf to catch the boat – with my to go pasta in hand. It stayed sealed and amazingly enough dry on the seat during the amazing boat tour, and I enjoyed it even more after – as a lunch/dinner.

The boat tour was windy, cold and wet – but spectacular!

We toured the coastal features of Cook’s Bay, Mercury Bay and the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve – which is chock full of amazing coastal formations thanks to the constant movement of the Mighty South Pacific Ocean. We even had a pod of dolphins swim right beside our boat – truly an amazing experience. The captain was entertaining and shared history, amazing stories and humor with us, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip – frequently forgetting about the cold rain and wind. We even got to go inside a blowhole cavern and a cave!

I took a ton of pictures, and even some video. I compiled the videos into a YouTube video, which you can see here – it includes the blowhole, the dolphins and the cave.

The cave was slightly terrifying getting out, because the sea swell came in pretty rapidly – a good reminder that the ocean, while beautiful, is not to be taken for granted.

The pictures from the boat tour show Cathedral Cove, Champagne Rock, the fish, and the rugged beautiful coastline – and as has been a regular occurrence for me here – a rainbow or two.

I went back home to my Air BnB, where I warmed up by the fire, and enjoyed a movie, laughs and great conversations with my Air BnB hosts!

It was not the day I had planned initially, but it was spectacular!

Snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef

So today was absolutely amazing – and a total bucket list item – many of you know that when I was young we lived in a trailer on the lake on Corps of Engineer property at Little River Landing off of Bells Ferry – so I could swim about the same time I could walk. Water – particularly coral reefs have always fascinated me. I have snorkeled and scubaed throughout the Caribbean, Florida and recently New Zealand – and I have always dreamed of snorkeling or diving in Australia at the Great Barrier reef – and I am so blessed that I have now had this opportunity. Today I snorkeled in 3 sites within the Great Barrier Reef, all on a Reef called Flynn Reef. (Unfortunately due to having had Sinus Surgery and being cautioned by my ENT that diving would likely be uncomfortable, I was not sold on the idea of scubadiving, and I was told by many that snorkeling was just as good, if not better, and I was not at all disappointed.)

But, back to Flynn Reef.

Here is a diagram from Pro Dive Cairns Queensland that shows where Flynn is located:

Great Barrier Reef Dive Site Maps – 

Great Barrier Reef Map

Unfortunately the wind was high (30 Knots) and the sea was quite rough – so there was a lot of sea sickness on the way out – including yours truly. (even after meds, as they were highly recommended by the crew given the sea conditions) Seasickness was another first for me, in fact – but not one I really would like to repeat. I will spare you the details, but I assure you that everyone on the boat (including the crew) was glad when we docked at our first spot of the 3 locations we were visiting.

We stopped at 3 great sights on Flynn Reef: Tracy’s, Gordon’s and Coral Gardens.

Here is a close up of the reef with these sites marked, again from Pro Dive:

Flynn Reef Map

I saw all sorts of fish, a turtle, a small shark, rays and so much beautiful colorful coral that I just can’t even explain the beauty. It’s amazing that such a small organism can join together to make such a large living thing. I am going to let pictures and videos do the talking now.

First, Tracy’s site (with 2 videos):

 

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Next stop – Gordon’s Site:

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and the final site was Coral Gardens:

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So yeah – it was an amazing day. . . I hope you enjoyed the pictures and videos! 🙂

A day in Picton – a tramp to Bob’s Bay, Ships Cove, Dolphins and delivering mail by boat.

I got up the morning to a beautiful sunshiny day. I got dressed and headed next door to the famous Picton Village Bakkerij (filled with Dutch treats), which I just knew I had to visit in honor of my friend Simone. I grabbed a coffee, a breakfast pie, a vegetable cheese bread for lunch and a dessert treat before heading on my way. I had no plan for the morning, and only had to be back to the harbor to catch my Mail Cruise by 1:15.

I decided I would follow one of the shorter “tramping” trails and venture out to Bob’s Bay. It proved to be a great choice!

I started by walking across the harbor and across the harbor bridge, then set out along the opposite side of the harbor for the start of the trail. I was amazed by some of the boats in the harbor – there were “boats” with boats on them – actually yachts with smaller yachts in some cases.

Once at the trail, I was faced with a choice, the high route of the low route. Both were said to take about 30 minutes, but the low route came with a disclaimer about not being good for kids due to bluffs and cliffs – which translated to me as great views, so I went with the lower. It was beautiful, but they were not kidding about being right by the cliffs – I would not want to be walking with a child on that path – thus the warnings – I even made a stop to grab a trusty hiking stick for myself, just in case. . Still – the views made it clear that I made the right choice – while I enjoy tramping through the bush – the sea views on this trail were amazing.

The trail was quick, and not terribly difficult, and I made it to Bob’s Bay, where I was rewarded with a beach to myself for quite sometime – I sat, enjoyed my picnic lunch and just enjoyed watching the various boats, ferries, kayaks and other vessels pass by as the waves lapped on the shore.

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Once my alarm went off to go back for my next activity, I headed back on the trail, and crossed back over the bridge to check in for my next adventure, a ride on the Mail Boat through Queen Charlotte Sound. At this point the clouds had taken over a bit, and the sky was spitting rain, but hey – whats a little bit of rain on the sea, right?

We departed on time, and our guide was a stitch – he had funny stories about the area, about his mail delivery experiences, and the local history. I started at the top of the boat for the view, but as we were heading out into the coves rather fast, got chilly and went downstairs for a bit, returning to the top at key points to see birds, dolphins and great scenery. Check out these Hector’s Dolphins we saw:

 

Hector’s Dolphins are small (only about 1 meter) and found only in New Zealand – they are also highly endangered.

Once the mail delivery started, it was less fast and windy, so I spent more time up at the top, just savoring the view of this beautiful part of the world.

For some perspective, and so you can see the lay of the land, here is a screen shot of the area we cruised through.

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About 1/2 way through the cruise, we journeyed to Ship’s Cove, most famous for being a landing area and refuge for one Captain Cook. We were able to get off the boat here, and learn a little about the history of this area before continuing on our journey.

We delivered more mail, then headed back to Picton.

At this point it was quite wet and chilly, so I decided that I would go grab dinner before going back to the hostel, and what better to warm me up that some Irish Stew at the pub – while it was March 18th for me – it was still (sort-of) March 17th in the states, so I just celebrated a bit late here.

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Tomorrow is Sunday, and I get to journey to Nelson for my exciting week of school visits. I have a few hours before my bus departs in the afternoon, so who knows what fun I will find before I head out.