Christmas Eve… it was going to be the last quiet(ish) day before Christmas and the start of the Summer Holidays.
New Zealand takes to the roads on Boxing Day (26th December). There is no lazing around eating leftovers for kiwis (the people, not the birds) – they’re heading for their holiday homes.
Frankly, they’re missing a trick.
Boxing Day is the best part of Christmas, in my humble opinion.
There’s no need to cook and, indeed probably nothing left to cook, because everything that could be has already been roasted, boiled, fried, sauteed or grilled. All that remains is to spend the next three days eating it all. And Boxing Day is the start of that.
But, this was Christmas Eve, not Boxing Day so…back to the 24th December. This was going to be the last day we could do anything touristy or popular before the hordes descended.
We had learned a little about Whitianga on our Boom, Bust and Beyond tour with Barbara – this was the town that received Coromandel Town’s intended post office design while the Town was given Whitianga’s.
It’s a 30-40 minute drive along more twisting roads. At times it feels like the start of Bond movie, a road pursuit along Italian mountain roads.
Disclaimer: We were not involved in any road chases. It was just the scenery.
Whitianga is in Mercury Bay, named by Captain Cook because this was where he observed the transit of Mercury across the sun.
This is marked in some of the murals around town and by the Mercury Bay Museum.
After lunch, seven of us headed off for a trip on a Glass Bottomed Boat to Cathedral Cove.
Mr HFM would not be joining us on this cruise. He isn’t good with boats. He threw up on river boat across the Thames and, actually, I’m not sure that there is a lake cruise that he hasn’t been sick on.
Sea legs? Not really.
We were going out with Cathedral Cove Glass Bottomed Boat team.
We met Mark and Julian who had clearly drawn the short straw in ferrying us. They had already warned us that the sea was rough so the likelihood of seeing a great deal was low.
There would definitely be no snorkelling.
Seven of us set off and we were joined by a family of three.
The boat pulled away from the jetty into the sea. It quickly became rough.
I’m usually a very good sea passenger. Waves don’t bother me.
Not this time.
Mark and Julian had told us we could stand if we wanted, as long as we held onto something. No problem.
I stood at the front firmly holding on to the metal bar across the windows or, as Tenzing put it, I was ‘white knuckling’ for dear life.
(Once we disembarked and carried out the group postmortem of the trip, it was commented that I could have let go of the bar and “done a Kate Winslet like in ‘Titanic'”. No chance. I was hanging on like a water skier).
So, a few facts to assist with any post Christmas pub quizzes or games of Trivial Pursuit you may embark upon after watching ‘Die Hard’.
(Yes, it is a Christmas movie. It’s far more cheerful than ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’).
Whitianga, pre Christmas population: 5,000. For ten days after Boxing Day, it hits 40,000.
When they say New Zealand moves on Boxing Day, they are not kidding.
Buffalo Beach, the first sight we saw from the boat, was named after the HMS Buffalo which ran aground and sank here in 1840.
95% of the Coromandel Trees were milled during the logging boom. The process of transporting them resulted in 50% being unusable.
An outrageous fact in my opinion.
Our next pauses took in photo opportunities, when I briefly released my trip on the bar, at several beautiful spots but the most beautiful was…
Te Whanganui-A-Hei (Cathedral Cove) Marine Reserve is in the southern part of Mercury Bay and, movie fans, was used in the Narnia films.
The cave and beach were used as the tunnel through which the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’.
It’s not only about ‘The Lord of the Rings’ here.
Mark and Julian opened the floor so we could see the sea through the glass bottom.
After briefly looking down long enough to see the Snapper, I decided that keeping my eyes on the horizon was the best outcome.
This part of the Bay is a marine sanctuary and had the sea not been so rough, we probably would have seen more sea life here than in other coves.
I was happy with the view above sea level.