colour for days

3 good books + no laptop + patchy mobile phone coverage = a jolly good holiday

David are I are at last, fully subscribed, card carrying Kiwis: we have spent 10 days at the beach during January.

Turns out Hot Water Beach is very small place, with not even a grocery shop. We took an ice chest full of supplies which lasted for several days before we had to hit the road in search of food.

Just a few miles away was this Sunday Farmers’ Market where I bought, among other things, a football sized beet which lasted for three meals, and a jar of home made chow chow pickle. Add some organic chicken sausages and I was a happy camper.

Almost every stall was manned by a foreign accent, something I love about Coromandel, and about New Zealand in general these days. Variety is the spice of life. Detecting a faint American accent from one young man, who was selling produce from a communal organic farm, I asked him where he was from and it turned out David knew his mother (who has lived in NZ for 25 years) at Walter Reed Junior High in North Hollywood. We humans move around a lot.

Here are some pics from the Coroglen Farmer’s market. It was a glorious sunny day (most were) and the locale reminded me of the North Fork of Long Island with a few more sheep and cows.

Coromandel had a gold rush in the 1800’s, a time when the population was three times what it is now. There are lots of sweet old buildings from that time (plus some new ugly ones but we try to ignore those)

Back to the beach. Even though Hot Water is a small, quiet  place, there’s a stream of visitors every day, mostly from overseas, shovels in hand, to visit the hot springs that ooze out of the sand at low tide. It’s quite something to stand in shallow water and feel heat beneath your feet. The trick is to dig a pool and shore it up with sand walls so you can sit in it and bask in the warm water until the tide comes in again and demolishes it. That’s the fun part. There are screams of delight when the waves crash over the sand ramparts. The staking out of a place to dig resembles a land grab. No matter how early you arrive, there’s always someone there first, waiting for the waves to subside so they can start digging. After being part of the rush the first time, we did it the lazy way and waited for someone to vacate, as they do after a while, because the water gets too hot.

where did all these people come from?

waiting to pounce


Much of the coastline is a marine reserve. From a little inflatable boat that takes you along the coast to visit the islands and float into seas caves and blowholes, I took these pics. The ride turned quite rough part way through as the wind kicked up and the waves rose! Mostly I was holding my breath and  praying to reach land safely but I did manage to have my camera ready for these shags

and this archway we floated through

this is the famous cathedral cove, which is a 40-minute walk down from the road. We were the annoying people disturbing the peace and doing it the easy way.

The beach at Hot Water. After 10 days we felt like locals and were calling it “Hotty”

Remember Grace Coddington in The September Issue? I forgot her exact words, but she mentioned always keeping your eyes open, looking and observing, for inspiration. Camera excepted, a lack of distracting technology helps with this.

I was inspired by

the colour of the dunes. Ah, precious dunes.

David warned me not to encroach on them as I took these photos. These little seed creatures were fascinating. They’re called spinifex. They help stabilize the sand and are an important part of the sand dune ecosystem in Australasia. They’re ingenious at spreading their seeds.

If you look closely  you’ll see them, waiting in the grass

to be blown along the beach

It’s not that they’re lifted up to fly away. It’s more like a dance along the sand which reminded me of the tumbleweed blowing across a California beach at the beginning of the Coen Brothers’ movie The Big Lebowski, which we watched in our cabin, David for the tenth time, I think. This is a concern, dude.

The colours of the coast line, with more of the Pohutukawas I spoke of last post, holding the cliffs together.

From the subtlety of nature to glorious Lycra. Bright orange and blue, together, love.

and here’s someone I met on the beach: Coco, breaking the law (off leash), running around teasing waves but never getting wet.

contemplating her next move

the sky on our last night at Hotty

and speaking of colour, here’s the iconic NZ plant, a lush green fern

Conversation heard between two toddlers who were playing on the computer next to me in the very crowded TV room of the camping ground, when I relented and checked my email.

Girl: (wearing headphones) and what would you like?

Boy: (eyes rolling, to the ceiling, chin in hand), um, a big mac pwease.

Girl: (tap tap tap on keyboard) would you like fwies wif dat?

Because I like to stay away from fast food, here’s how I entertained myself :

I read

The Long Song, by Andrea Levy. A thoroughly entertaining page turner about a slave girl named July, set in 1800s Jamaica. Heart breaking and uplifting.

One Good Turn: a Novel, by Kate Atkinson. Also a page turner, and a mystery, with well drawn eccentric characters, set in Edinburgh during the arts festival.

Freedom: A Novel, by Jonathan Franzen. A dense,  funny, superbly written story of contemporary life in the USA in which you will see yourself on most pages.

5 Responses to “colour for days”

  1. anushka Says:

    great post! loved traveling to your beautiful country vicariously through you. looks like you had a great holiday. i especially like the spinifex passage. those, the hot springs, cathedral cave and blue and orange lycra and i felt like i was looking at a real life dr. seuss book.

  2. lisa miller Says:

    great holiday! felt I was really there- reminded me of sea shore hols in
    england- yet tropical and california like….. the sand colours so exquisitely
    subtle and framed by that sky… your country is truly beautiful, thanks
    for such a wonderful journey.

  3. Mel Says:

    Thanks for this great post and all the lovely photos. I’m a NZ girl stuck in a North Carolina winter, really missing the beach and everything that goes with it. Your post made my day!

  4. Lisa Says:

    Mel this sounds like the most wonderful holiday, thanks for sharing it with us :)
    I’m always interested in how people see NZ, I think those of us born here very often take it for granted.
    Hope you’ve come back feeling refreshed :)

  5. Karen Barrett Says:

    Hi Mel, happy New Year, looks like you and David had a great break. I too have read Jonathan, a bit depressing but at least you were at the beach! Weren’t you exhausted by that family by the end?

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