Blog Five - Coromandel
25 May 2018
|Blog Five – The Coromandel Peninsular
Friday 25 May 2018
It wasn’t a big day of driving but the driving so far in the North Island had taught us that low kms doesn’t mean a quick trip! However it looks like a three or so hour journey and left our accommodation about 8:30 before making a stop at Starbucks for our last frappa for a while. Ju also had a quick stop at one of the souvenir shops for some skin cream before we headed out the usual way and then turning left onto the Five. It was raining quite a bit on highway five and the traffic was moderate although occasionally frustrating with the slow driver or being caught behind a truck with its spray making visibility very low.
Fortunately we turned right onto the 26 not too far down the track and this was a smaller but more favourable from a driving standpoint with very little traffic and a considerable drop in the rain to almost zero.
It was nearly midday when we turned off the path and headed into Thames to visit the Info Centre and also to pick up supplies as this is the largest town on the peninsular. We struggled to find a car park for the Info Centre and there appears to be no designated area – which is a special form of stupidity considering that people visiting have no knowledge of the town itself and we ended up parking in a no parking park for about 10 minutes while we collected brochures and asked a few questions. We then headed across the road to the shopping centre and after a quick walk through (very quick although Ju did have time to pick up a pair of short height gum boots!) we headed for the Pak n Save for supplies for the stay.
This done we headed off to our accommodation and the very, very windy and hilly road up the east coast of the peninsular to Coromandel. The drivers here are shockers and don’t seem to take any notice of recommended speed advisories or the dotted line separating the lanes! Still we took it easy around the twists and turns through the oft times rain to arrive at Coroglen and then turn left and head up Rangihua Rd to our AirBnB Orchard Farm stay. We were greeted at the gate and shown through our apartment which is attached, although very separate, from the main house on a five acre orchard. We did however have to take a quick drive to the Coroglen Tavern to pick up a bottle of Pinot Gris for Ju who, after seeing the view, couldn’t resist enjoying a vino in such an atmosphere.
As we approached Coroglen the skies miraculously seemed to clear and when we stepped on the deck of our apartment it was a wonderful sight. We had vistas over the orchard and the green hills surrounding the property. It was just gorgeous and we were soon unpacked and sitting out on the deck enjoying the sunshine with drinks in hand taking in the rays before being forced to put up the umbrella before heading in and having a dinner of cheese and assortments. The gin flowed very freely for Wuzz and it wasn’t long before the eyes started to close and we headed in for sleep in the (nearly) pitch darkness.
Saturday 13 May 2018
Up a bit earlier today but still a nice lie in for our trip around the peninsular. We headed off from the orchard and headed down the coast along the sometimes very twisty and hilly roads towards Thames and the markets. The locals don’t seem to be overly concerned about the lines on the road and more than once we had a car coming in the opposite direction over the centre line around a corner on hill. We suspect that this area would be horrendous in summer with the amount of tourists mixing with locals – the mix on the roads would scream accident around every corner.
Nevertheless we made it to Thames in just over an hour to arrive at downtown and down the end of the main street – a footpath market. First impressions weren’t promising with the first stalls brikabrak at best, crap at worst. However they did pick up after that and while produce was somewhat limited it wasn’t too bad and we did purchase a little bit of produce but no real purchase of any note. We also headed back into town to purchase a $2 plastic hand juicer for the abundant fruit that is there for the picking right outside our door where we staying.
And so we headed up the western side of the peninsular and we soon realised that the driver’s on this side are not any better than the ones on the east. The road however was worse with a significant amount of the first stage of the road a construction zone due to a big storm early in the year wiping out the road which is jutted up against sea which chewed and reclaimed some of it. It was now mostly two lanes but occasionally had a one lane patch but only 50 most of the way, at least until we hit the mountains. We climbed quite high and stopped at the lookout before heading back down and eventually arriving at the slightly hippy town of Coromandel. It’s a strange little town with a mix of art, souvenirs and the usual grog shops and supermarkets. It didn’t take us long to see what there is to see and hit the road again over the range and back down past quite a few bays and water views and into Whitianga.
This was a very modern town compared to both Thames and Coromandel. The wharf/river area was very large for a small town and very pristine. It is however undergoing a major renovation with the main road through the middle of the town centre closed cutting the town in two and we would imagine causing significant issues for the remaining traders. We looked and headed the other way and ended up having a quick lunch before checking out a very small organic shop, picking up some supplies and then heading back to our piece of paradise
It was only another 10 to 15 minutes to the orchard and we arrived with a note on the doorstep of tomorrow’s tides for the hot pools and also an invite for a drink at our hosts house next door at 6:30. Wuzz soon had a curry made and simmering nicely before we found ourselves out on the deck with Ju a wine and Wuzz a gin in hand admiring the view over the valley and farms in front of us. We duly headed off for a pleasant drink and chat with our hosts and we spent about an hour with them discussing a broad range of topics but mainly travel focused before heading back and having a nice curry and watching a bit of telly before calling it a night and hitting the pillows.
Sunday 14 May 2018
Another mixed weather day in the Coromandel with both showers and sun – occasionally at the same time. We are sticking close to home base today and after brekkie we headed out to Cathedral Cove. We awoke to the rain but it was patchy at best and we left under overcast skies and as we drove through the windy hills we came across an accident with a car having been completely sideswiped on the driver’s side. It was a mess with police, ambos and towie in attendance. It’s hardy unexpected with the driving standard for the conditions considered very poor with centre line incursions and vehicles consistently being driven above recommended speeds. But we continued on and just as we reached the top car park (very happy this is open otherwise it would have been another 30 minute walk each way!) another downpour came across the area. We only had to wait a few minutes and this passed and we started the 45 minute trek up and down into the cove. It actually took less than the advised and we were soon at the bottom on the sand looking through the opening in the rock, taking photos and videos and walking through to the other side. At this time of year and earlier in the morning, there wasn’t too many people about however there was the usual gathering of Asian tourists but they did eventually clear and we took what we suspect would be a highly sought after photo of no one in the “cathedral” at all! We did have to wait awhile for the photo but Ju captured it nicely and we then took a few snaps of ourselves as well.
We were lucky indeed in capturing the empty cathedral because as we were ascending the stairs at the bottom another 50 Asians were coming down the stairs! We walked through them and headed back up (and down) the path and after about 35 minutes (not stopping at the other tracks) we were back up top taking more photos and videos in the brilliant sunshine that was now prevailing in the area. In the distance however there were still clouds and we’ve learnt that the weather is very changeable around the peninsular.
We then drove a short distance to the hot water beach. This is a strange phenomenon where a quick dig in the sand near the low tide mark in certain areas will have hot water come through from underground geothermal pools. We had our trusty spades from our hosts and de-shoed before walk down the beach to the area where a lot of people were already bathing and foot – bathing in the hot pools. We decided on the latter and didn’t need the spades as we found an already dug pool with hot water in it and proceeded to shuffle around the pool moving from very warm to very hot and back again finding the right temps. We didn’t stay too long but Ju went for a wander amongst the other bathers and we were soon heading back up the beach to wash the sand off the feet, grab a coffee and head off again into Tairau.
We had a very quick wander of the Sunday streets and eventually settled on a café for lunch where we had a nice bacon and egg burger and BLEAT. Don’t ask! They were great and extremely fresh. While we were there a towie turned up with the accident vehicles from where we saw the remains from the trip over the hills from our apartment to the car park at Cathedral Cove. The vehicle that allegedly caused the accident went down an embankment but it was an older style van with a very solid bull bar and while apparently a write off, protected its occupants who were taking a look while we were eating. The occupants of the other vehicle were taken to the local hospital with minor injuries – it’s always the ones in the wrong that seem to escape injury or seriously injury.
After lunch we picked up some supplies for dinner and then went a bit further down the road to fill up our Sportage at an unmanned but cheaper ($2.12!) petrol. The automatic payment was a challenge but Ju sorted this and we were then heading back to Coroglen and the orchard. We followed our schedule and were soon seated on the deck again having a refreshing bevie overlooking the spectacular view for the last time. It’s been a good stop for us with just enough to do over the three nights but perhaps we were expecting more from the peninsular. Nonetheless it was very enjoyable and made more so because of the apartment and its views. With some packing done, a dinner of the usual nibbles and a bit tele and we headed to bed for an early night in preparation for the drive to the Bay of Islands in the morning.