Notes From Down Under: Hot Water Beach

March 5th, 2017

What lurks beneath a sandy New Zealand beach

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The rain steadily pours down outside our cute, cozy, cottage and life is calm, peaceful and smooth. So it seems insane that we’re about to go outside into the downpour, dig a hole and crawl into it.

The guest cottages we’re staying in behind a converted church are all built to look like mini churches. They used pieces, beams and windows of an old church the locals initially tried to move from a spot several hours south. But the moving company absconded with the money “and didn’t move the church one inch.” So instead, the people here had it carefully demolished, then resurrected up here. There were far too many pieces left, so they used ‘em to build several cottages. This is the nicest place we’ve stayed in, apart from that Hobbit hole-in-the-wall a few nights back. The digging thing? You’ll have to wait until the next paragraph or so.

Several hours pass, rainy afternoon becomes rainy evening. No one in their right mind goes out to a beach in weather like this.We go out to a beach in weather like this.

Hot Water Beach looks like a normal sandy strand along a rugged coastline. But scratch the surface — literally — and just below, is a bubbling geothermal spring that supplies the “Hot” and “Water” part. Two hours before low tide and two hours after, visitors bring shovels, towels, a sense of adventure and leave their sanity back in their cars. You dig down and voilà, really hot water comes up. Then, of course, you make fun sand baths to capture and collect it, being careful not to scald your feet. The water gets as hot as 147 degrees down below!

In the pouring rain, we were a motley, muddy, multinational, mass, all helping each other dig holes, dams, aqueducts and channels to help one another soak in the glory. Lots of us rubbed mud all over ourselves; the cold never bothered us anyway. 

I couldn’t take much lying around, so I had fun snapping shots of others including the funny older gentleman Dieter, from Germany, whose banana hammock left nothing to the imagination. But building stuff in the sand has always been my jam ever since I turned to my Mom back as a small lad on a Canadian beach and announced I was making her an antique.

All of us were soothed and relaxed, especially afterwards as I plunged into the ocean to clean off and fought a few battles with overly-aggressive east coast Pacific waves (I never get tired of that dichotomy; the Pacific Ocean is on the east coast). My head cold got a nice jolt as the saline and punch of the waves came at me hard.

The ocean was my own vast neti pot.

Later on, we had one of the best dinners of the trip at a small brew pub run by British ex-pats. As usual, we fell into conversation quite quickly and after apologizing about Trump for the umpteenth time, we sipped and munched on pizzas, “the best chunky chips ever” and I downed a delicious cider made to taste like apple crumble.

It felt like heaven, falling asleep in our church cottage.

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