Ahh, The Coromandel…. how much we enjoyed our time with you. The sunny little peninsula just east of Auckland gives you a host of activities: beautiful beaches, clear blue waters, deep forests, impressive mountains and charming towns.
We set off from the small town of Thames on the west side of the peninsula to get over to the east side where there is a quite a stunning coast line. The drive over wasn’t bad either. Slap bang down the centre of the jut of land is a national park and like all national park’s around NZ, it’s littered with walks of varying degrees of difficulty.
We decided to give Milly’s poorly groin a rest and spend the day on the beach – or beaches (as we popped in between a few). Situated within the delightful little town Hahei is a beauty of a beach and a trot down the coast will bring you to an even nicer beach, albeit busier, which is famous in the tourism community called Cathedral Cove. I’m not too sure why it’s so famous as it’s effectively just beach with a huge cliff in the middle and a tunnel through the cliff through which you can walk. Having said that it’s still very nice and something you should check out if you’re headed that way. The walk from Hahei beach along the coast to Cathedral Cove is lovely too, with a great Pacific view and if you’re very lucky you might get to nick a China woman’s hat along the route, just like Milly did.
We chilled there for a while watching some German lads jump in the water from one the few rocky outcrops and the local kayak sales people struggle to push out to sea some fat tourists who’d hired their goods.
After making our way back to Hahei we packed up the Juce and made the short 10 minute-or-so trip down the coast to Hot Water Beach. I’m not entirely sure what the actual town is called but it only got like a cafe, a hotel and a campsite and of course a beach and the beach is another famous tourist haunt. We parked up on the overly priced campsite (but the only one for miles) and made our way to the beach.
Hot Water Beach may be a bit of false advertising because the sea isn’t hot as it might lead you to believe. In fact the sea is cold and the rips are likely to kill you if you go too far out. When the tide is out however you can dig up holes in the sand and due to a couple of thermal springs beneath it’s surface, hot water will fill it. Now call me old fashioned but if you want to lie in hot water, run a bath or go to a swimming pool or even go to one of the many thermal pools in the area, but why would you want to get covered head-to-toe in sand so you can get potentially scalded? It was actually quite funny to see hundreds of tourists fighting for real estate on the sands.
Given the lack of long walks in the preceding days we (or just me really as Milly’s groin has become a cause for concern) were eager to put in the miles as this was also likely to be our last NZ walk. The walk we had penned in was a decent graft up The Pinnacles which elevates you to around 800 meters above sea level and provides you with views 360 degree panoramic views of the Coromandel forest park. Unfortunately though, someone has had enough of walking up mountains (if anybody recalls before we left, “walking up loads of mountains” was Milly’s catchphrase) and we had to settle for a shorter walk through the forest which, to be fair, was still quite a good workout.
The walk took us to an enormous tree, certainly the largest tree we’ve ever seen, which was very impressive and along the route (which contained 652 steps) there was a beautiful look out to Table Mountain.
There isn’t too much to write about Auckland as we didn’t stop for long. Suffice to say that most of the Kiwis we met along the way to Auckland didn’t speak in glowing terms about it and you can see why. It’s home to 33% (1.5 million) of the country’s population and it looks like it’s bursting at the seams. All over the place there is construction going on to deal with the rapid increase to it’s population and that in turn, as you can imagine, leads to road works, traffic lights, frustration and strain on the public transport network. It’s so distant from what we’ve seen in the rest of the country.
We had a potter about for a while, grabbed some sushi and sat in Albert’s Park to eat but we only had an hour and from what we saw, it could have been any old city really. We soon headed back to the inner city camp site we’d booked and busily cleaned out Brucey, packed our bags and made ready for the next day of travel; destination, Fiji.