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November 27th 2008
Published: November 28th 2008
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Mair ParkMair ParkMair Park

Whitianga in the rain
Wet and windy Whangarei to sunny Shelly Bay: Coromandel Peninsula

Wednesday 26th November 2008

Every other Kiwi male has a moustache! That’s because they call this month Movember and grow moustaches for charity donations. We’re wondering whether they will all be shaved off next week on 1st December or kept for Christmas.
Yesterday’s journey from Whangarei down to the Coromandel Peninsula was one of complementary colours, red and green; green lush sub-tropical vegetation and red road cones. New Zealanders have the English habit of leaving miles of red cones restricting traffic and closing lanes all along the highway where nobody is working! Fortunately, unlike in England, traffic isn’t heavy so it didn’t cause too much stress and road rage. Every so often we spotted a few moustachioed workmen holding up “Stop” and “Go” signs and roadwork in practice. We drove 390 kilometres but took a lot of nice scenic stops so spent the day doing so. We had a picnic lunch by the beach on Orewa Bay north of Auckland and then continued down through the Hunua Ranges to the Firth of Thames. Hunua is dairy country, Anchor butter land, with herd upon herd of dairy cows grazing
Orewa BeachOrewa BeachOrewa Beach

Lovely place for our picnic lunch
on the lush green grass that rolls on for miles. The River Thames, which flows into the Firth, is the boundary with Coromandel. The guide book says that Captain Cook named the firth after the nearby river. We think it more likely, perhaps, that James Cook named both the river and the firth after another River Thames elsewhere, but let’s not argue a minor historical point over such beautiful surroundings!
Oh, the Coramandel! Nature has surpassed herself here! Whenever we think we’ve seen the best scenery there is to see we turn a corner and it just gets better; sensational! It cannot get much better than this. We drove the western coastal road up to Coromandel Town, rated as one of the most scenic coastal routes in New Zealand and found a lovely campsite just north of the town on Shelly Beach (so named simply because it is a beach of crushed shells); and the sun shone down all the way, so it looks like the bad weather that has dogged tourism for two months here, is fading away for the summer. That’s the forecast anyway! Today we came just 35 kilometres over the mountain range (stunning views) down to
Firth of ThamesFirth of ThamesFirth of Thames

Coromandel Peninsula
Whitianga on the east coast. Whitianga, like Coromandel, is a small town full of character, well-preserved 19th century houses and a harbour full of yachts and fishing boats; very picturesque and the weather is still fine. The whole peninsular is rugged and unspoilt, with an abundance of forests, mountain peaks, streams and waterfalls. On the coastal road it is necessary to cross numerous small narrow bridges, as the waterways flow down into the Firth of Thames on the western side and the Pacific Ocean here on the east. The little bridges are numbered, with small plaques mounted on the bridge posts and so far we have crossed from bridge number 1 by the River Thames to bridge 1259 here at Whitianga, so the total must be over 2,000. We’ll find out over the next few days as we journey on down the rest of the coast towards the Bay of Plenty. We nearly missed out the Coromandel Peninsula because it is quite a detour and we still have so much to see and many kilometres to cover to get down to Wellington and the ferry crossing to the South Island, but we’re so glad we didn’t because so far, this
Shelly BeachShelly BeachShelly Beach

Campsite right on the beach of crushed shells
is the highlight of our New Zealand tour.

Thursday 27th November 2008

Well, I was wrong! I wrote yesterday, “It cannot get much better than this” but the scenery today on the eastern coast of the Coromandel is even more outstanding than the west. Today we were in Cathedral Cove and Cook‘s Beach. It is a marine reserve near the small town of Hahei. The coastal hiking trails are hard work (and we are less fit than we were in America due to too much lazing around in Fiji) but well worth the shortness of breath and aching calf muscles. In New Zealand they call the trails “Tramping trails” so we spent the morning “tramping’ up and down the coastal forest paths that steeply lead down to beautiful sandy bays of crystal clear water. It is too cold for swimming; shame because this reserve is rated as one of the best dive and snorkel sites in the country but one would need a wet suit. We only saw a few people snorkelling (with wet suits on). Most people (not many, very quiet and peaceful) were tramping and enjoying the scenery. It was hard to drag ourselves away from
Sunset on Shelly BeachSunset on Shelly BeachSunset on Shelly Beach

A rare golden sunset
this beautiful bay full of islands, white sand beaches and rocky outcrops. Eventually we did so and drove down to Whangamata and then on to Waihi Beach on the Bay of Plenty where we are camped for the night by a cold and windy rugged beach on Bowentown Peninsula, which we‘ll explore in the morning before setting off again. The last little Coromandel bridge just south of Whangamata was number 2260. On that long and winding road around Coromandel, across all those little bridges, there wasn’t a single metre that wasn’t scenically beautiful. Memorable trip!

Friday 28th November 2008

We went to bed next to Waihi Beach with the windows open; lovely stars and galaxy clusters and a clear night. Woke up soaking wet at 4 a.m. in a thunder storm and all the bedding wet - hunted for the snorkels!!!

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12


Cooks BayCooks Bay
Cooks Bay

East coast, Coromandel Peninsula
Hahai BeachHahai Beach
Hahai Beach

Cathedral Cove marine Reserve
Cathedral CoveCathedral Cove
Cathedral Cove

...or in Maori, "Te Whanganui A Hei"
Wild FoxglovesWild Foxgloves
Wild Foxgloves

all different colours and all over the forest
Stingray CoveStingray Cove
Stingray Cove

part of Te Whanganui A Hei reserve
Tramping overTramping over
Tramping over

"I need a beer!"
Waihi BeachWaihi Beach
Waihi Beach

Bay of Plenty (our site was right next to this wild rugged beach)

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