Coromandel: Voyage to Narnia

On Thursday night we went to see The Hunger Games! A few of my friends back at Loyola were little upset to hear this as it was released two days earlier here than in the States! Go figure! It was SO MUCH FUN! The theater was really cool, big, and the seats were so comfy! It is an Imax theater but we didn’t see The Hunger Games in Imax.  

Friday and Saturday was our adventure to Coromandel. It’s a really beautiful peninsula that is the site of a lot of movie filming. The second Chronicles of Narnia movie had scenes shot there most recently. We rented 2 cars and our group basically split in half so we could all do what we wanted when we wanted to. My van had a great time. We got a little lost on the way there but found our first destination in no time: the hot water beach! At low tide you can go to one section of this beach and dig your own Jacuzzi because there is an underground river that is heated by a nearby volcano.  After enjoying some crazy waves and the fabulous hot water (that was REALLY hot in some places, we could see it boiling!) we decided to grab some dinner. So Coromandel is a really small place, tucked out of the way, with a very laid back atmosphere. The closest place to eat for miles was a little convenient store that served fish and chips. We ate all our meals here. We waited in line, placed our orders and took over some benches to enjoy dinner. I ended up at the back of the line and there was a man and a woman in front of me. I couldn’t help but think that he looked really familiar. I took in his appearance for a few minutes (aka I stared at his back) and then it dawned on me! The leather jacket, the frilly beanie hat, the long hair and beard… I was looking at one half of ZZ Top!! Billy Gibbons to be exact. I immediately started freaking out to the other kids in the group. Of the few who actually knew who ZZ Top was, none of them believed me! I was dancing in place in excitement. He eventually got his food and turned to leave, and I was standing there. Smiling immensely. And all I could do was give a frantic sort of wave. I stepped up to the window as I watched him walk away and the woman behind the counter looked at me and so poignantly said, “Yeah, that was him. You shoulda got his autograph.” Ouch. But true. But how random was that right? It turns out there was an auto and bike show going on just up the street, it cost about $200 just to get in, and he is a big car junkie so he was checking out. Casual, right?! Well after all that excitement we ate our food, and a little ice cream for dessert (I had orange chocolate chip, my new favorite) we headed to the other side of the peninsula to get our hostel all settled and see cathedral cove as the sun set. This beach is where the movies were filmed at and is known for its perfect white beach and outrageous rock formations. It took about thirty minutes to trek down to the beach, a little longer than we expected and by the time we got to the water it was already getting dark and was getting very nervous about the walk back. We stopped a lot along the way and took some great photos and the amazing view. Once we finally got to the beach we splashed around a little, enjoyed the view and the setting sun, and started the harrowing walk back up the hill to the car. I only fell once amazingly! Flip-flops, uneven footing, random stairs, and no light made the whole thing feel like a bad slasher movie. But we made it. We met up with the other van because a few people in my van wanted to camp out with them and some of them wanted to stay in the hostel with us. We headed to the spot they picked to pitch their tent, right near the beach and chilled until we were too tired to stay up any later. The hostel was great. There were only seven of us but they gave us our own little hut that slept ten. We had a blast.

Unfortunately, the other group wasn’t so lucky. So in New Zealand you can’t just pitch a tent anywhere, you need to be in a designated camp site, which means you need to pay to stay there. As poor college students we naturally have an aversion to pay for things so they figured as long as they picked a good spot they could get away with it. Nope. In the wee hours of the morning they were awakened by a police officer and told to clear out after he gave them a hefty fine. They packed up and moved on and basically had to stay up the rest of the night. It made for an interesting day with tensions running a little tight. But we all managed to have a good day. After my van had breakfast we headed back to Cathedral Cove to spend some time in the sun and really get to appreciate the view. I had such a blast! The rocks were incredible and would have been perfect for climbing if only I had my shoes! My friend Tj and I swan out and were messing around on one of the rocks in the ocean, being very careful of course, but it was one of the most fun things I did all weekend. We swam around and got good and chilly before swimming back to join up with our friends. By mid afternoon we were ready for lunch and then headed back to the hot water beach. I had it in my mind this whole trip that I wanted to surf. I big chunk of the Loyola group had taken lessons on a weekend not long ago and while I didn’t feel like I missed out, I really wanted to give it a go while I’m here. So I did! Diandra and I headed to a surf shop right on the water and signed up for lessons. A lot of the others rented gear so they could surf to, just not the lesson. We paid for an hour but our teacher ended up staying with us for almost three! It was so amazing and I don’t think I will ever look at the ocean the same way again. The surf was really rough and I struggled hard, but was able to stand up a few times. I really want to try it again because by the end of three hours I was completely useless and just had to ride the waves into the beach and site. I don’t think I’ve ever drank so much sea water in my life. I was soooo tired. We all headed in and returned our gear. The guys at the surf shop couldn’t have been any nicer. We got dried off and piled into the car. Some of the people in the other van wanted to do some extra site seeing so we ended up taking the extra people who were ready to just head home. It was a slightly soggy, crammed, and sleepy ride home. We ended up all curled together and using each other as pillows. It was a long ride back but a great weekend. And what was waiting for me when i walked through the doors at Huia? A GIANT care package from home!! I was so happy i started dancing at the reception desk. I got to do the walk of pride, struggling to maneuver my way onto the elevator as my peers gazed on enviously. This was the mother of all care packages. I got all the Easter treats I was graving and many of the necessities i was desperately needing too. Mom, as always, knew EXACT what to send me. Needless to say, after rejoicing over my peeps and a much needed shower, I slept well that night!

Sunday was the Great Waka Ama Race, which is a paddling race in canoes based on the Maori culture, that some of my friends were in. There was a big beach party held by the university because each canoe represented the different residence halls and one was piloted by the navy! And Huia WON!! It was so cool! I got to spend some time in the lovely sun just sitting and resting from my long weekend and then cheer on my friends who beat even the Navy in a boat race! Later on, after we had finished celebrating and gotten back to Huia, Tj, Erin and I went on an adventure to find a place we could go to church since it had been so long since we had been and we were really starting to miss it. We didn’t mind if the service wasn’t catholic and there is a lot of Christian denominations around Auckland so we figured we would find something. Tj did a little research and found a church that was definitely Christian but he wasn’t sure what specific denomination it was. So, feeling adventurous, we tried it out. It ended up being an Anglican worship service, the first worship service I had ever been to. It was a really interesting experience that I enjoyed. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting but just being in that kind of community again was renewing. I couldn’t help but feel a little bit more centered and ready for my week after we left. Granted it was two hours long, and there was a lot of raised arms and swaying going on, but it was nice to be so openly welcomed the way we were. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday so the search is on for a Catholic church where we can attend a service a little bit more like what we are used to. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Fun Fact: Gold was mined in the Coromandel Peninsula in the 1850s. Miners flocked from all over the world to get a piece of the action and the towns in this area basically sprung up over night. The rush pretty much died out by the 70s but it had a profound effect on New Zealand, nearly doubling its population!
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