Get that member of the public off the airstrip!
One of the most popular destinations for Aucklanders going on holiday is the Coromandel Peninsular, a large jut of moutainous land sticking up to the east of the Auckland region. Despite the fact that it's so close to Auckland, Glynn and I have never made it over that way - mainly because it is always so popular and we tend to shy away from crowded holiday destinations. With winter fast approaching though, it shouldn't be too busy at all.
We left Auckland on Thursday afternoon and arrived in the little resort town of Pauanui around 1.5 hours later. The road was easy going up until the rickety old Kopu Bridge, a single lane wooden structure that links the Auckland region to the Coromandel. One way in, one way out. The government recently announced a replacement bridge would be built and having now experienced driving across it, I'm surprised the bridge has lasted as long as it has. Once onto the peninsular, the road became ever more winding as we twisted and turned around mountain bends and along the valley floor. It was a picturesque journey despite the rain that had begun to fall.
Our accommodation this weekend is another
House and Plane
Most people just have a car outside their house but not in Pauanui!
holiday home owned by the hospital where we both work. The house this time was a little more compact than in Whangarei but still we everything we needed for a good old self-catering style holiday. By the time we unloaded the car, the heavens had really opened and the predicted storm looked to be moving in. We came prepared for bad weather given the time of year and so spent the evening reading and watching movies.
The storm lashed on throughout the night and into the next morning. We awoke to find the rain had seeped in through the back door despite it being tucked back under a large overhang - I guess that gives you an idea of just how fierce the wind and rain had been. By midday the storm had eased up enough for us to venture out and explore the area though the skies were still looking pretty gloomy. We headed first down past the local airstrip which was quite literally a long patch of grass with houses backing onto it from either side. I'm not sure I would want to have a house that close to a runway!
We passed by a large
Just incase you fancied taking a short-cut!
grey concrete skate park and then a few streets later came across the little Pauanui shopping mall. I had been warned not to expect much of the mall so we had bought all our groceries in Auckland before we left. What we found here was a few boutiques, a small supermarket, a takeaway, a bakery, a video rental store, a bait and tackle shop and a couple of cafe/restaurants. Not bad for such a small place if you ask me.
A few spots of rain fell as we walked on but it felt so good to be outdoors that we continued down to the beachfront. We could hear the roar of the sea long before seeing it. Peering over the steep sand dunes and into the distance we saw huge, dark tunnelling waves crashing into the shore. The ferocity of the storm had literally churned up the sea and a haze of spray hung in the air all around us. The beach below was almost entirely swallowed by the high tide but out on the horizon we caught glimpses of clusters of rocky islands, some of which looked to have little houses on them too.
Further along the
Judging by the tree, today wasn't the only windy day here!
dunes, the beach widened and we climbed down the steep banks to get a closer look. Debris from the storm littered the shoreline - driftwood, seaweed, enormous shells but thankfully very little in the way of manmade junk. I guess it might be a different story on the other side of the Coromandel, closer to Auckland. We had read that Pauanui has a diverse range of bird life, and some of which had came out to greet us as we walked along the beach. First of all were the usual suspects - a large brown speckled gull and the more common smaller white seagull with its blue eyes and orange beak. We threw out some bread to them and the smaller one was in like a shot. The larger gull seemed far more wary of us and waited until we had retreated quite some distance before claiming its share of the food.
The next birds we saw I think are called New Zealand Dottrels - they looked to me like a cross between a robin red breast and an oyster catcher. They had long curved beaks and bounced around merrily on the sand. Then I spied a large bird
Jude watches the big waves rolling into shore.
sitting still by some driftwood and tentaively inched my way towards it. It watched me approach but seemed unpreturbed by my presence until I was no more than a metre away. I thought at first it was a Cormorant but I later read that it was actually a Pied Shag. This chap looked a bit like a small penguin but with a longer, curved neck.
Finally, towards the far end of the beach was a group of black oyster catchers standing one-legged in the sand with their orange beaks tucked down into their bodies against the wind. Every time I got close to them, the whole group started hopping away, still only on one leg which was most amusing! I could have chased them around for hours just for the fun of it!
At this end of the beach, we were almost opposite the Tairua Peninsular with its elegant Twin Peaks just across the water. We followed the water's edge around the bend and into the river estuary where we found the jetty for the ferry linking Pauanui to neighbouring Tairua. I was keen to do a boat ride on our trip but given the poor weather, today
Mr & Mrs Harris
The obligatory photo of us :-)
was certainly not the day for it. Sitting on the jetty's railings was another collection of birds similar to the Pied Shag I'd encountered on the beach. These were smaller in size though and I was not surprised to learn they were Little Shags. So if anyone ever asks you if you fancy a little shag, you might not be about to get lucky after all!
The icy wind was picking up and it felt like time to get back to the house. We had barely closed the door behind us when the rain set in again. I guess we really did time it right today!
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