The Chronicles of Kiwi, Part 18

In Hot Water

Once more with the modest naming of things…

On the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, and located within the area of Mercury Bay is a place called Hot Water Beach. It is a beach…that has water…that is hot…hence the factual but lackluster name. But don’t be fooled by the dullness of the moniker. Hot Water Beach is incredible, exotic, beautiful, unpredictable, dangerous and quite popular – drawing around 700,000 visitors per year. We made up 8 of that 700,000 since our party of 4 visited it on two different days. Hot Water Beach was so named because of the underground hot springs which filter up through the sand between the high and low tides.

Because we were newbies, I strode up to the lifeguards to ask for some helpful tips. They told us to just sort of hen-scratch about with our toes and we would figure it out in short order. Once the discovery was made, we could then dig a pit and have our own little beachside spa. Sounded easy enough.

As we made our way into the three hundred person scrum, we heard random screams and loud swearing all about us. There was no sort of fight or brawl or disagreements taking place that we could see. No, it was simply the logical, artless reaction of innocent tourists who had been hen-scratching – as instructed – and who’d made purchase with the fires of hell. What made it worse was that most of those hen-scratching toes dug in way too deep and came up with a nice plaster of sticky sand to prolong the sensation – like burning one’s finger in a candle and getting a hot wax drip all at once – a twofer of pain. The temperature of the water lurking just beneath the beach reaches an agonizing 147 F. It’s just as well that they named this Hot Water Beach. Had it been left to the tourists a more colorful name would have prevailed.

It was enormously entertaining to watch the various outbreaks and reactions of the hotfoot. More than once we saw a party of as many as eight people have one of their sacrificial hen-scratchers squawk in pain and yell out a pejorative. You would think that would have settled it. Move on to where the thermostat has been bumped down a bit. Trust your brother’s shriek. But no! One by one, by one by one, they each had to have a bite of the apple! Eight sets of toes. Eight screams. Eight swear words. Moreover, I got to see a great example of American culture’s ignoble contribution to the world’s shared lexicon. All around us were Germans, French, Romanians, Dutch, Hindi, Japanese, Chinese, etc. – a true gathering of the nations. While they chattered away to one another in their native tongues, they all cussed in English! So, I flew halfway around the world to learn that we’ve taught the world to swear. Sigh.

A bit more about Hot Water Beach tomorrow. An action-hero story without any swearing!