After a month on the road in the South Island and a 5 day break housesitting we fly to Auckland to pick up another van. When we got the behemoth for the first leg of our journey we thought it was a little on the f****king huge side but after a short while got used to it and hoped that we might be fortunate enough to get another upgrade with the new van. Unfortunately we went for behemoth to Juggernaught and 6 birth double cab giant they gave us was a bit too much. We tried it for one night but the additional height, width, length and thirsty, underpowered automatic engine just didn’t feel right. The extra size was mainly unusable – double cab and extra bedding area and consequently the working space was smaller than before. so the following morning, after phone calls and a small monetary adjustment we backtracked the 70km to pick up the same sort of vehicle as before – weirdly this seemed like a mini in comparison but the way Rachel hugged the familiar sink, seating and sleeping areas with a huge smile on her face was testimony to us having made the right decision.
We headed off from the rental place once more and in no time found ourselves on the Coromandel – a small peninsula with off lying islands a couple of hours from the sprawling city of Auckland which houses over 25% of the country’s population. Oh how lovely to be once again away from all that brick and be surrounded by tree’s, hills and rolling countryside. The Coromandel is beautiful and is soon wowing us with its loveliness. We camp in a DOC site at the end of 3km gravel track and ramp up the heating and pile on duvets and hats to keep warm as the temperature plummeted under the big clear sky. The good news, however, was that the following morning was glorious and we set off on 5 hour trek through the native bush. We had hoped to walk to some huts deep in the outback but without sleeping bags and suitable trekking gear had to abandon the idea. Still, there’s always next time and the trek we did was a joy anyway.
We have decided to scale down the miles for the second part of our journey and have selected a few areas we want to see in more depth rather than rushing through. The first two night stop is in a charming town of Coromandel (principal town of the peninsular). It’s all wooden, Victorian styled houses and turn of the century solid looking buildings that were once the court houses, banks, assay offices and the like. The principal trade of the town is fishing and oyster farms and consequently there are lots of little restaurants selling seafood. We had to have a powered site the first night as we both had skype interviews for teaching jobs in Japan and hopefully by the time I get to publish this post we might have some news. I hope so. As fab as NZ is it has still not quite usurped Japan as our favoured destination to stay. But, we haven’t completed our second leg yet and who knows what we will think by the end.
Had a great day today. Parked up at Whangapoua and before setting off to find the isolated and unspoilt New Chums Beach we asked two lady walkers the way. We had a very animated and jolly 5 minute chat and ended up arranging to go for a drink and meal with them in another town 40km away that evening where we watched the rugby, had a few drinks, laughed a lot, and slept in the council car park. Heather and Jen (our new best buddies) were good company and have invited us to stay with them for a couple of days when we get up to Auckland again. Testimony once again that if you are open and friendly then good things come your way. I do think we will take them up on their offer and are looking forward to another evening (we forgot to pay attention to the Rugby!). Anyway New Chums Beach is reached by walking along a beach, wading a stream, jumping from rock to rock over a further 500 metres until a glade of some NZ trees, palms etc is reached. You follow a little track through this until you suddenly behold what
is said to be the 7th Best beach in the Southern Hemisphere (Who puts these lists together?). It’s lovely. White sand, steep rocky outcrops covered in dense vegetation that stop egress from above and clear blue water that slowly slopes away into the pacific. Its deserted and the sun is shining and it’s the middle of the NZ winter so we strip off and run down into the surf naked for a very (I mean very) short dip in the icy water before lounging on some rocks like a couple of basking seals – basking seals who happen to like sandwiches and a bottle of pop.
Next day we travel a bit further down the coast to Hot Water Beach where, along with about 30 other people, pick a spot on the beach, dig a hole in the sand and after waiting a few minutes jump into the shallow, very hot pool that has seeped through the sand. I am sure we looked wonderful with me wearing my trunks and Rachel, for reasons best known to her, opting to just wear her underwear. Once again it is a beautiful day and the slight chill in the air only served to make the whole experience better by keeping our exposed bits cold. After an hour or so we hand our pool over to a group of young things in return for them taking photos of us which they are to send via email. Tonight, as I am typing this, Rachel is just cooking our dinner “Curried Vegetable Thingy” I believe she called it. The sun has just set over the sea and we are atop a cliff overlooking the huge expanse of sea before us. My god life is good!
Bright and early we set off on a walk to Cathedral Cove. Small cove separated from another by an arched cave that will eventually become a sea stack. Its deserted and beautiful with the usual blues, greens and yellow of the sun. Back to the van for a full English and then off to Whangamate where we walked on yet another beach and camped beside a sparkling river where sat and read our books in the sun with a bottle of wine until it got dark and the vista became one of a million twinkling stars in the night sky. We hadn’t really thought too much about where we had parked and during the night the tide came right up to the van so looking out of the back window in the morning made us think that we were at sea.
Final day on the Coromandel Penninsula – a place that we will be sad to leave with its coves, stunning hilly scenery, charming towns and friendly people – and we spend the day walking along a trail that took in a gold mining gorge where we went through very long and very dark (pitch black) tunnels, along old rail tracks and over suspension bridges. We finished the day with a stroll on another beach about 10 metres from our van where we saw a seal then had a half hour bathe in a hot tub. Its tuff but someone’s gotta do it.