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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Coromandel » Whitianga
December 10th 2006
Published: December 11th 2006
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NZ Christmas tree in bloomNZ Christmas tree in bloomNZ Christmas tree in bloom

The beautiful Pohutukawa tree which lines the coastline in the Coromandel.
Sunday 3rd December

We left our campsite and drove back down the road into Thames itself. The town apparently has the longest main street in New Zealand but we didn't bother stopping and browsing the shops as they were all closed due to it being a Sunday. Instead, we drove inland to a place called Kauaeranga as we were hoping to have a walk around an area called "The Pinnicles". We didn't find out what they were though as after 10km on a gravel road we decided to stop at another walk and make do with that one. The walk followed a stream uphill, providing many crossing points which we had to navigate to make sure we didn't get wet feet. We managed to get all the way to the top where there is an old, now very useless, dam - this is where I managed to fall in the stream after slipping on some rocks that I was exploring. Pride was the main thing hurt but I had two boots filled with water to add to it. We stopped for lunch on some of the felled trees that had been used for the dam before making our way back down.

We drove back through Thames and continued up the east coast of the Corromandle peninsular. The road was really windy but we weren't in a hurry and could enjoy the great views. We also got our first glimpse of the Pohutukawa trees which are known in New Zealand as their Christmas tree. They looked great and are used for Christmas as they bloom with bright red flowers for three weeks in December. We made it up to Coromandel Town and found a great little camp site located right on the beach to pass the rest of the day.

Monday

The weather has certainly changed and we woke up to a bright blue sky. Deciding that the beach would be a good destination for the morning we headed across the top of the peninsula looking for "New Chums Beach". We didn't find it but stumbled upon a really nice sandy beach where we could explore the rock pools and have a walk before settling down to sunbathing and reading. After having our lunch on the beach we made our way back to Coromandel where we visited the Driving Creek Railway. This was set up by a famous NZ potter (whose name has escaped me) who has turned an old railway into a bit of a tourist haven as you can have a ride in the small trains up the hill for great views over the peninsula and towards Auckland. The trip took about an hour and we were entertained by the driver's commentary and the nature and sculptures that are besides the tracks. After the train trip we returned to the centre of Coromandel Town for a walk around the shops and to buy some kumara chips that Alex was craving before returning to the same camp site for the night.

Tuesday

We left Coromandel Town and headed across the peninsula driving on "The 309 Road", which is famous in, well, the area anyway. First stop of the morning was at Waiau Waterworks which is some gardens with a difference. Walking around the grounds you get to interact with loads of water propelled sculptures that the owner has produced over the years. Highlights included a water powered clock, chinese bird scarer, push bikes that fire water into a lake when you pedal on them, having a water fight on some water cannons where we had to call a truce before both of us were soaked, racing boats along a course and acting like kids in the play area. All great fun. The next stop on the 309 was a Kauri grove, Kauri being one of NZ native trees. We had a wander around looking at the 13 remaining mature Kauris which used to cover most of the area. The trees were felled during the war as they can reach up to 60m in height and more than 10m around the base with a tall, straight trunk before any branches appear - perfect for logging!

We finished the 309 road and drove to the town of Whitianga to have a look around the town and more fish and chips. After reading that there was an outdoor pool at the campsite we were heading to we got there as quickly as possible and spent the rest of the day soaking up some more sun with the pool to cool us down. We did have to drag ourselves away from our life of luxury to go for a food run as well as getting the registration for Max (road tax equivalent) - hopefully he'll also pass his
Hahei BeachHahei BeachHahei Beach

At last some warm weather!
Warrant of Fitness, or WoF (MOT), so that we can sell him on returning to Auckland.

Wednesday

Another glorious morning with only a few clouds in the sky which was perfect for our plan for the day. We left Whitianga and drove to Hahei beach where we left Max. We didn't stop at the long, golden beach of Hahei but set off on foot for an hour and a quarter along stunning coastline to another beach called Cathedral Cove. Here there are two sandy beaches which are joined together by a huge archway through the rock that would otherwise divide the beaches in two. We picked our spot on the beach and went to cool down after our walk with a dip in the sea. Despite being rather cold at first it was refreshing enough to have a proper swim. Exercise done for the day it was back to the sunbathing and reading for the rest of the morning.

After lunch we set back off on the path and once back at the car park we headed a bit further down the coast to a big tourist attraction called Hot Water Beach. Stepping onto the beach we thought that we had hit a quiet time as we couldn't see many people in the area. A second look down the beach revealed where everyone was as a big crowd was squashed into one small area of the beach. We knew what they were there for and walked down the beach to join the fun. Somewhere behind the beach is a natural hot water spring and the hot water runs down through the sand to the sea. If you time it right, two hours either side of low tide, you can grab a spade (which we luckily had in our van) and dig yourself a hole in the sand. If you've dug in the right place of the beach (which was given away by the big crowd) then you will get your very own hot spa pool. We found a place right at the front of the other spas, but right next to the sea, and started to build the walls to our own pool. We were surprised at first that the water was actually scalding hot, resulting in a few short trips to the sea to cool our feet down again. After about half an hour of finding
Hot water beachHot water beachHot water beach

"Argh, my hot pool's just been washed away!"
our feet, we managed to get ourselves a nice little pool which was getting plenty of hot water but also some cool water from somewhere else so we didn't stew. Very relaxing and extremly bizzare! The night was spent at a DOC campsite further down the coast and inland at Puketui.

Thursday

We started the day gently (I think we deserved it after all the hard sunbathing) with a gentle walk around the area where we had camped. The area is an old gold mining area and we found several shafts cutting into the hill. One of which was signed as the old jail and there appeared to be a skeleton in there - we didn't get too close to find out, especially as it was dark in there so we just peered in from the entrance and didn't go in! We drove on down to a place called Karangahake, which is also an old gold mining area, where we set off on a rather long and not very interesting walk in the heat. The only good part of the walk was an old railway tunnel that you could walk down. The tunnel is 1086 metres long with
Hot water beachHot water beachHot water beach

Simon relaxes (or tries not to scald his bum!)
very poor lighting, we were equipped with a torch though, but it took what seemed like forever to walk the length of the tunnel.

After our walk we decided to relax for the rest of the afternoon and our campsite for the night was the perfect place for it. Just like hot water beach there are natural hot springs although the campsite has conveniently tapped the source and put the hot water into big spa pools for us campers to enjoy.

Friday

Another dip in the pools before breakfast - may as well get your moneys worth. We headed into the town of Tauranga for a walk round looking at all the things we can't afford to buy at the moment until we sell the van. We got into the festive mood by listening to a Navy band performing a Christmas medly which was nice but it doesn't seem like Christmas when they are all sitting around in short sleeved shirts. Seeing as money was tight we headed to our campsite for lunch and a relaxing afternoon - including another dip in the hot pools for Alex. One other Christmas related event that I've just remembered was driving through the town of Bethlehem, very strange!

Saturday

After our failed attempt to go white water rafting on the south island, we booked ourselves onto a grade five river near Tauranga - and Saturday was the day. We arrived at the river in the morning despite not rafting till the afternoon, but it gave us a chance to look at the area. The river had been damed in the past (for hydro electric generation) so the stream is usually a trickle, but, on 26 days throughout the year, water is released to allow the rafters and kayakers to have some fun for the day. We met our group after lunch and got kitted up in our wetsuits and boots. Thankfully we didn't look anywhere as near as bad as we did at Waitomo. After a short trip on the bus up the river and the required safety talk, with as many jokes added as possible by the guides (mainly directed at us Poms), our group of twelve set off down the river in our two rafts. I was riding shotgun in our raft as our guide was at the front and asked who wanted the adventourous seat which I volunteered myself for without hesitation. We had a great time plunging down the rapids which varied between grades two and five, getting thoroghly wet and really enjoying the ride. Just to make sure that we were completly wet, we got out at the end to ride the last set of rapids solo, floating down the river on our backs. Unfortunately the trip was over far too quickly, time flies and all that, and we were back at the base for drinks and some food. We finished the day by starting our drive back to Auckland, stopping in the town of Cambridge for the night.

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