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Published: December 14th 2006
After driving nearly 3000 kilometers and not once hitting a single traffic jam, the lack of vehicles on the roads was one of the characteristics this country bares in complete contrast to home, where getting across town during rush hour will leave you regularly impeded by stressed parents in 4x4s trying desperately to get the kids to school on time. We navigated the mid-morning traffic in the centre of Auckland without once beeping the horn or encountering any commuters brimming with road rage and made our way east towards thames and the Coromandel coast. The Coromandel juts out into the South Pacific and is densely forested and mountainous, criss-crossed with hiking trails, and as we head up the west coast, seems to be fond of single lane roads that cling to the hillside threatening to sweep you into the water, as waves crash onto the road. The town of Coromandel quite literally struck gold in the 1850's which saw the region's population swell to over 10,000, but the town today is a sleepy village more visited for its panoramic views of the bay than panning for shiny metal. Unfortunately the persisting rain made for a frustrating first day, and as the
gail force winds threatened to send branches crashing onto the car, we sat idle in the campsite's T.V room, silently wishing mother nature would send one crashing so we wouldn't have to sleep in the thing for that night at least. No such luck with the demolishing of the car but we did befriend some inquisitive ducklings who took a likening to Lucy's feet as Dave hand fed them some bread. the weather brightened for the remainder of our stay and allowed us to take a couple of walks along the coast and up to a lookout that provided stunning views over the bay beneath.
Leaving the ducklings behind after they nearly became another one of Lucy's many attempts at turning our car into an animal sanctuary and drove through the winding mountainous roads, arriving on the east coast of the peninsular and the village of Hahei. Hahei beach boasts white silica sands that look out over a vast green ocean and a collection of islands that in the midday sun looked more like Thailand than New Zealand. This place really makes the Bay of Islands look more like Shoebury East Beach. We took the three hour walk that
took us across the cliff tops, past hidden bays of bright turquoise crystal clear water that are completely untouched thanks to the lack of tour boast filling the seas with diesel and crisp packets. At Cathedral cove the path descends to another small sandy bay that is named after the huge hole in the cliff that creates a passage between the beaches on either side. One the return journey we made sure to say and enthusiastic hello to everyone we passed, as on the way to the cove there had been a large amount of faces brandishing a striking resemblance to that of a slapped arse, and it seemed a shame that on such a nice day all these people were walking passed each other without even the faintest smile, the more arse slapped they looked, the more zealous our acknowledgements. After many looks of bewilderment we capped off a successful day with a few beers whilst watching the sun disappear behind the cliffs, and after another day enjoying Hahei and its scenic surroundings we again headed south this time descending on the town of Whangamata. We took a walk out to Wentworth falls that paled in comparison to the
falls of the same name in Australia, but the trail criss-crossed the river deep into the forest that made up for the lack of cascading torrent we had hoped for.
Wahei beach was next and more scorching weather called for a lazy afternoon enjoying the deserted beach lined with holiday villas that we looked upon with complete envy. An early start the next day was required as we had made arrangements with Dave's Aunt and Uncle who had only a few days ago emigrated to the bay of plenty from the sun kissed shores of north-west England. Joyce and Tim along with their two boys Ben and Jamie and Tim's mum Jan had fled the British winter in search of a new life here in New Zealand, and as they had only just moved in, the last thing we expected was an invite to stay. After they kindly offered a bed for the night, they didn't exactly have to twist our arms with the prospect of getting a break from sleeping in the back of our station wagon. We spent the afternoon checking out the beach and playing games of football and cricked in the back garden. Punishing defeats
at both sports were dealt out to Dave by both 10 year old Ben and 7 year old Jamie. Over a BBQ lame excuses were made as the to the nature of Dave's lackluster performances and after he was refueled with burgers and beer, the stage was set for yet more sporting embarrassment. We said goodbye to the Regans the next morning and headed for the hot pool capital of the southern hemisphere, Rotorua.
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