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Published: September 14th 2008
A stop along the way.
Thursday 11th September
Off this morning at about 0900 to travel north and see some more of this beautiful country. First stop was about 100kms north at Whangmata. When pronouncing this name remember that wh is pronounced as ph as in f. ;-). This is a neat little town with a great information office, very willing to help point out the best spots to see. The town itself is on an estuary and there is much concern of a marina presently being built there. Apparently many feel approval was pushed through council too quickly, not enough of the locals being given an opportunity to respond. Seems the same problems exist no matter where you live.
Whitianga, where we have booked accommodation for the next 3 nights was only a further few hours up the road and as it was pouring with rain we easily put aside the thought of going bushwalking for a while on the way up. This town, like Whangamata, is neatly set out, here though it is obvious there is more money coming into the town through development. A canal development is underway and the houses near and overlooking the beach are of a better quality
Cute shops at Whangamata
Another stop on our drive. Here we stopped to buy cups for our tea and coffee because we left the others behind.
than just a weekend beach-house.
The B&B we are staying is called At Parklands Place, being just that! It is run by a couple, she of Polish descent, a former ship's cook, he a local, but much away master mariner. The whole place is just magnificent, large, modern and very nicely set up. They made us welcome and we soon settled in. Can't believe we have this place for 3 nights for the price of one.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the town, found there was a 38' catamaran for sale at a price which made us interested but on checking it out found it was a Wharram, which although a good boat not what we want. Still, it was good to dream for a short while.
Dinner was at Squids, a Thursday special of pork roast. We preceeded it with a plate of chilli mussels. Yummo! Not bad for the price.
Friday 12th September
After a good continental breakfast at our lodgings we were off to the Hot Water Beach, about 35kms away near Hahei. Here we met up with others who also set out to be there
an hour before the low tide of 1020. This beach has two small areas where superheated water comes up through the sand and you are able to dig a hole in the sand and have a hot bath if you wish. Here underground reservoirs of superheated water developed from a volcano. Over time, this water escapes to the surface — cooling on the way. There are two fissures at Hot Water Beach issuing water as hot as 64ºC (147ºF) at a rate as high as 15 litres/minute. This water contains large amounts of salt, calcium, magnesium, potassium, fluorine, bromine and silica. We were content to watch others attempt to dig pools, we tested by standing in them and at times found it unbearably hot even for our feet. This was remarkable! As there were waves rolling in, water kept filling the holes and pushing back the sand.
A short drive later saw us at the Cathedral Cove carpark.This gave us some much needed exercise ,we having to walk up and down steep steps for about 30 mins to get there. Great scenery, plenty of photos taken, and then the long climb back. We're both out of condition and hopefully
we'll get into it as we go along on this trip. Rags is missing his long bike rides.
From here we headed to Cook's Beach, stopping at Purangi wines for a tasting. This winery was run by a very personable young chap by the name of Danny. He expounded the virtues of the area, discussed his organic wines, and generally had us amused by his ability to mimic the speech of many countries as well as some pointed opinions of many. Even though we weren't overly impressed by his wines, especially the merlot they produced, we bought a bottle of a Cherimoya (custard apple) and Loquat Liqueur. Not bad but we felt almost obliged to after his generous tastings and continual patter.
A quick look at Cook's Beach followed (so named because Capt Cook actually landed here), and named the whole bay Mercury Bay as he spent ten days here observing the transit of Mercury. Many of the streets were named the same as those in the old part of Hillarys at home, which used Cook, his crew and the ships as namesakes.
Some shopping in Whitianga followed, a highlight being the purchase of a container with
a dozen huge local oysters for NZ$9, these going down very well with our 1700 "drinkies".
Dinner was at Smitties, a bar & restaurant, who have a steak and chips special on Friday nights. Great value for a yummy steak.
Saturday 13th September
Another early start, this time we headed further north. After about 15kms of steep windy road we left the main highway and came into Matarangi Beach. A lovely area with the new houses being the expensive ones, the old being the typical weekender or even just a caravan with a toilet block attached.
From here we continued to Whangapoua, similar to where we had just been. Here we did meet a couple driving a van similar to what we will have in the South Island. We had a look inside and if ours is the same we look forward to that part of our trip too!
Coromandel Town is a quaint town set up to cater for the tourist. It had plenty of art/craft shops to keep Judy happy for the time we were there. Our first stop here was a little shop recommended by Maria our host from the
These boats are going nowhere fast!
Tied up at Coromandel Wharf at low tide.
B & B. It sold smoked fish of all kinds and was very reasonable. Of course we couldn't resist indulging.
We followed the road to Long Bay where we ate lunch and had fun taking photos on various settings. Judy tried out the zoom lens for the first time. Pity few of the photos turned out! More practice needed!
Another winding road led us to Wyuna Bay, and after taking in more picturesque scenery returned to the wharf where we saw fishing boats sitting on the mud as it was low tide, with one owner lying in the mud whilst he worked on the propeller of his boat.
On our return journey we detoured from Kuaotuna to Opito Bay. A good gravel road took us through pine forest and the mountains, fabulous views being our reward. Every house in Opito seemed to have a tractor parked next to it, these being used to launch their boats.
Back at the B&B by 1700, tired but full good memories. Dinner again at Smitties, this time we pigged out on double serves of lamb shanks. Delicious!
Sunday 14th September
After breakfast and packing the car
we walked down to the beach, through the fields at the back of the house and took in the crisp, clear morning. After farewelling our host, Guy, we set off towards Thames. At Coroglen we headed west and followed a smooth 'metal' road for about 20kms. The road was narrow and very windy but we did't pass any other vehicles so not much used. The scenery here was reminiscent of the Canadian scenery we passed through in 2002.
We passed through Tapu and followed the coast down to Thames, the most memorable about this section being the oysters growing on the rocks and the houses crammed between the road and the cliffs behind.
At Thames we diverted east again for about 15kms to the information centre at Kauaeranga. This now has a brand new building, the last burnt down due to rats chewing through electrical cables and causing a fire. DOC (Department of Conservation) run this area and the person on duty was extremely helpful in giving us information on where to walk etc. He and Rags discussed the use of 1080 in the area, some saying it caused too many bird and animal deaths. 1080 is a
natural poison in Australia, with the native animals being immune to it. In NZ the animals do not have this safeguard but it is felt that the loss of some animals is offset by the greater survival rate of animals when rats and especially possums are eradicated. Whilst we were there a helicopter was flying up and down the park dropping 1080 baits.
We had some lunch in the park before driving to a walk trail through old and renewing forest. All sorts of fungi and plantlife were there, Judy enjoying the chance to practice her skills with the new camera. If we had been traveling in a campervan we would have stopped and spent the next day or so here so we could have enjoyed some of the longer walks in the area.
The next town we stopped at was a highlight - Paeroa, the home of L & P softdrink (lemon & Paeroa spring water) which we tasted at another helpful information office (ok but don't go out of your way for it) and its street of antique shops.
The trip from here backtracked some of the roads we have already traveled
and some we aim to come back to. By the time we got home and unpacked (and Judy cleaned the inside of the car) we were content to sit on the balcony overlooking the bay watching the sun go down whilst sipping a duty-free scotch with local tap water.
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