Wow, this has all been going by so fast. Here’s the latest.
Got on the bus early Friday morning to go “demand” my bag from Auckland. Who do I think I am? It didn’t go well and to add injury to insult, in the midst of the rush to get there, I left my guitar on the bus! 😦 Time to file an insurance claim on that one…whoops! After the stress of the baggage issue, we got a case of the “Screw-its” and rented a car for the rest of the trip. The bus system here is pretty expensive like I said, so it works out well.
To the Beach, Jeeves. Piha
We floored it west about an hour from Auckland to Piha Beach. Windows down, music blaring, singing at the top of our lungs and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful smells. Finally, our trip has truly begun. Down a winding and steep road (think Stinson Beach for the Bay Area folks) we arrived and immediately laid down a blanket and let out a long sigh of relief. After a few hours of blinding my fellow beach-goers with my blinding-white body, we hopped back in Sonny (our car) for a 2 hour jaunt back East to a small town called Thames in the Coromandel Peninsula, where we’d be meeting Katha and Daniel the following morning. As luck would have it, we landed the very last backpacker (hostel) in town and were out cold in a matter of an hour.
Thames, Hot Water Beach, Cathedral Cove and Fishing
Erin and I got off to a hot start and have just been eating quick little meals that we bring along with us from produce stores. We always have a loaf of bread with us as well. Thames was having a “market” in the morning and a local turned us onto some local fare for lunch. Mussel Fritters. Make them immediately for your family because they are delicious. Make a corn fritter but substitute the corn with Mussels. We would learn later that Mussels are apparently a big deal in NZ and after tasting this fritter I couldn’t agree more.
Katha and Daniel showed up soon after our nap in the park and we were off to Hot Water Beach. The name didn’t sound too appealing as I’m more accustomed to hot sun and colder water, but this place was the coolest thing I’ve seen in awhile. NZ is a hotbed for geothermic activity so if you apply that to the beach, you’ve got Hot Water Beach. The Pacific is still a balmy 65-70 degrees, but as you walk onto the beach they rent you a few shovels in which you begin digging your own hot tub in the sand. Tons of people are doing the same thing and before long you’ve got a stretch of 100 “hot-tubs” all connected. Some of them get ridiculously hot though so if you time the tide right, you get a nice mixture of the colder Pacific and your hot-tub. Nice and relaxing and SPF 45 works real nice. Kiwi’s (New Zealander’s) would come up and have a soak in your tub and shoot the breeze. It was refreshing to be around such friendly and outgoing people. 🙂
Then we headed 10 minutes north to Cathedral Cove, named for it’s cathedral-like cave on the north end of the beach. It’s a 3 mile hike down to the beach so after exploring the area, I quickly hopped in the water for a swim.
Daniel and Katha’s friends were generous enough to let us use their tent (since mine is luckily still trapped in my bag which is nowhere to be found) right next to their summer home so we all drove the hour to meet up with them. This was probably the greatest experience for me so far. Just meeting locals has been great. We arrived and I whipped up a batch of guacamole and immediately had some friends. They cooked us some NZ lamb which I could eat for eternity. Also had a Pacific Island dish with the fresh Snapper they caught that day. They cooked the fish raw with some vinegar and lots of lime juice (like ceviche) but then to add a twist, added some coconut milk and fresh chopped veggies. A few beers later (Speights Beer, a nice ale that goes down quick) and I was off to bed. We woke early for a day out on their fishing boat. You can chum in NZ so after setting anchor in the midst of thousands of Mussel Farms, we had a frenzy on our hands. I was the first to snatch a little Kauai (Cow-eye) which I kept on for bait for the elusive Kingfish that we could spot under the boat. Moment’s later, Erin snagged a Kingfish but they are so tough that her rod almost broke. We even handed the rod off to Lance (Kiwi) to try but before long we were pulling in nothing but line. Oh well. We caught a few other snapper and decided to head back to dock but before we got in, we were surrounded by Dolphins which was a good finale. Went back to grill our catch. Had some authentic NZ fish and “chippies.” French fries as we say. So good.
After dinner, we hit the road for Auckland, where we had a hostel waiting as we planned to bum-rush the baggage area for my bag early Monday morning. A big thanks to Grumpy, Mo, Lance, Amanda, and Liam for the hospitality in Coromandel and especially to Katha and Daniel for introducing us to so many great things in New Zealand.
We’re driving back to Auckland and it’s getting kind of late, but Erin suggests we stop by the airport, “just to see.” Well, I walk in to the baggage claim and it’s closed.
The door is slightly open though so I peek my head in and see a lady and she immediately recognized my pitiful, unshowered, been wearing the same clothes every day, state of affairs and allowed me to be the last person to have a chance. She took my info, instructed me to have a seat, and returned 10 LONG minutes later to say she couldn’t find it. My heart dropped even further as she confirmed that the computer said the bag was IN AUCKLAND! Being the second greatest person on earth though, she has already cleared me with customs to enter the “high-security” baggage holding area to look for the bag myself with her as my escort. There must’ve been several thousand bags in this area. I looked through every one twice but to no avail. My frown was turned upside down when she told me there was a second room though so off we went. No lights in this room but fortunately they have a spotlight that you would normally use for deer-spotting. Brilliant, but no bag. But wait! There’s another room. Off we go and yet again no luck. Is it possible, there is a fourth room? You bet there is and it is the actual customs-going-through-everyone’s bag area. They find drugs and other fun stuff in this place and here I am walking around, peeking and prodding. I couldn’t help but smile and nearly shed a tear when sure enough on the VERY LAST cart, there sat my beloved bag! A customs search and an hour later and I was running giddily to the car where Erin was waiting.
Oh, by the way, it’s all LA’s fault (but I’m still of the opinion that USAir can pound sand.) They’re tracking system had been broken for over 5 days so every bag that left their airport was tracked manually. Can you imagine?
More to follow…thanks for all the comments and well wishes…keep ’em coming!