We all sometimes have those moments where we stop and think, “What the bloody hell am I doing?” For good reasons as well as bad, we all know the feeling I think.
Last night was definitely one of those moments for me.
After travelling just over two hours across from Auckland we’d arrived in Hahei mid-afternoon. After a failed attempt at going for a walk, we had dinner and then set off into the night on a recommendation (actually, assumption) from the hotel manager and a passing recognition of the place name.
The car was packed with all the necessities: towels, spade, first aid kit, Prosecco, torch, and we wound our way to our starting point. A pitch black pay and display car park, with a single other vehicle parked up.
We had seen the glow of head torches disappearing into the trees as we rounded the last bend so we made like sheep and followed.
Following the sound of the ocean, we meandered through the absolute darkness, assuming we were going the right way and not just heading further off the main road and into the middle of nowhere. Me with my phone torch on, trying not to trip and damage the Prosecco, of course.
And this is how I found myself, at 10 ‘o’ clock at night, roaming Hot Water Beach with a spade and randomly digging holes. Bear with me.
After digging a rather large one, the idea being a beach bath big enough for two; I realised there was a bit more science behind this than merely digging a hole. There was steam rising from several other mini lagoons around us whilst I was ankle deep in cold water.
Cue striding up and down the beach trying to determine where the sand felt hot, and making small exploratory holes at various intervals. Picture me hopping around the sand, excitedly proclaiming, “this bit feels warm!” only to be assured that I was totally wrong. Roaming a beach in the dark, when it is technically Autumn, meant my feet had fallen out with me and stopped sending the appropriate messages. They regretted their attitude when I happened upon a stream of super-heated water and didn’t realise until I was several panicked hops away from soothing cold sand.
I’ll admit I was feeling pretty disheartened, a teensy bit silly, and more than jealous of the people who had found good spots and were wallowing in their warm geothermal sandpits with steam billowing up around them.
So I was more than a little relieved when third time turned out to be the charm as the last hole we dug happened to be almost perfect. With only one spade between us, I had been helping dig by scooping the sand with my hands. I realised we were on to a winner when I couldn’t take the heat anymore. Imagine plunging your hands into fresh hot washing up water, when you’ve forgotten to put any cold in. With no exaggeration or hyperbole, that is what it felt like. On a beach. At night. With the Pacific rolling in not 20 metres away.
At first I had to make do with sitting at the edge of our little pool and revelling in the heat from the safety of the sand. Then little by little I could tolerate the water and actually lie down in it. Success!
I felt like a little sea creature I can’t quite place the name of. Something that inelegantly but indulgently digs itself in to the sand for warmth. I scooped sand from underneath me and wriggled down into the piping hot water, immersing myself as much as I could stand. I had fashioned a little sand headrest and procured the bottle of Prosecco.
This was the moment. The warm embrace of the thermal pool, the sound of music and snatches of murmured conversation from other nocturnal heatseekers. The ocean patiently caressing the shore, while steam rose and drifted across the sand, hazing the moon. A clear view of the stars now the torches were off, the Southern Cross and the vaguest smudge of the Milky Way.
A surreal and weightless moment. An organic, completely free experience, pretty much stumbled across without knowing what to expect, but memories made nevertheless.