As we’ve made our way north towards Auckland, there have been many interesting stops along the way. One of these stops was at Hot Water Beach, roughly an hour from Auckland. The beach gets its name from the heat that seeps upwards from volcanic activity below. In certain areas the sand is nearly boiling while just a few feet away it can be cold to the touch. It has become a major tourist attraction and rightfully so as it’s a very rare experience. The locals have been making their own sand hot tubs for decades now and this has caught on with the tourists. The basic premise is to show up with a bucket and shovel and start digging. What you’ll quickly find, however, is that certain tubs remain cold while others get far too hot. This is where the bucket comes in to play; pour cold ocean water into your newly formed home if it’s uncomfortably warm. There are a few other techniques that you can utilize as well; I’ll touch on those later. This post isn’t about the wonders of geothermal heat nor exotic New Zealand. No, this post is about human psychology. Let us begin.
A small sign notifies you that the turn off for Hot Water Beach is in 500m. Half awake you drive down a long gravel road to the entry way of the beach. You’ve rose at an early hour to ensure the tide is at its lowest, otherwise the beach will be covered by ocean water. The cold, crisp, morning air follows you as you walk down the shoreline in search of the “hot spot”. The phenomenon only occurs in specific places and patterns. This means a shortage of prime real estate. In the distance, you see two tightly packed groups of human lobsters. Steam is curling upwards from the 50m diameter circle that houses all the possible hot spots. It’s a perfect little ecosystem. Your money won’t help down here. All anyone’s got is their brain, bucket and shovel; many are missing one or more of those things.
The air is warm and humid. Half clothed bodies fill almost all the existing hot tubs. The occupants resemble seals sunbathing, with a distinct defensive look on their faces. As more tourists arrive, the seals that have the best bathing spot begin feeling the pressure. Suddenly, you notice a spot that hasn’t been taken! Right beside a mega pool occupied by a semi-submerged German in a Speedo. The water level is low but you’re convinced it’s a fixer-upper and some TLC can make it work. Your comrade begins getting buckets of cold ocean water while you try to dig the tub deeper. It’s a humble hole, with an exhibitionist neighbour and poor road access but sweat can make the difference.
At first, it’s too hot to stand in. Alayna pours more and more water. Somehow this stupid thing won’t cool down. After 10 minutes of almost scalding your feet, dumping water in and seeing no change, you give up. There’s a reason this one is unoccupied, you think as sweat drips from your brow. Your next thought is to start from scratch; get a plot of land, preferably with a view, and build your foundation on the proverbial rock. High sand walls for privacy would be nice but not necessary. After a bit of surveying, you get to it. A friendly stranger suggests a plot of untouched sand where you’re at the edge of a discovered hot streak. You suspiciously accept his tip and begin furiously digging. The wool sweater you wore down to the beach has been long taken off and your dark shirt is absorbing morning sunlight. After 15 minutes of digging, your hands are tender from the wet sand and friction, back is bent, and shirt is soaked with sweat. This is when your wonderful girlfriend asks if you even want to sit in a hot tub anymore. Standing in your lukewarm puddle you think you’d rather die than give up on this stupid sand tub.
Meanwhile, three solid, older men showed up beside you. They have three full sized spades and are working in unison in creating what is no less than a hot tub mansion. After another 5 minutes of digging with your hopelessly small sand shovel, two of the your tub’s walls collapse inwards. DAMN YOU SAND! The older men next to you have completed their Jacuzzi-open-concept-mansion complete with sand seats. They begin attracting curious females now. They offer a mother-daughter duo two spots in their Jacuzzi and the duo breaks free from their male family member. You desperately try to keep your puddle from completely falling in on itself by manically digging. All the while, the Jacuzzi group is laughing and the German speedo man floats with a smug smile. You look at your partner in frustration and tell her that crime is the only option. We must steal a better tub. She begins scouting for a new tub but they are seldom. Sometimes the really hot tubs will send people running into the ocean for a cool down. This is the perfect moment for blatant theft. A half hour spent in this ecosystem has made you hardened criminals. You tried to follow the rules; pay your taxes, live outside the core and live with the long commute but the game is rigged.
The tide is coming in at this point. Slowly all the tubs will be reclaimed by the ocean. You’ve thought of everything to salvage this hopeless hole, including tunneling into the Jacuzzi and draining some of their hot water. Your partner can’t find another hole and returns defeated. She could just leave you for a better hole looking for female company but she’s loyal for some reason. You both plop down into the lukewarm, collapsing, sand puddle of a hole and enjoy the moment. At least your bum is warm and you’re in good company.