The Coromandel Peninsula

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
Trip End Jan 20, 2009

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Where I stayed
On the Beach Backpackers Lodge

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, December 18, 2008

Frequently as we travel through New Zealand we come across places or road names which are either similar to those in the UK or give a clear indication of the British roots of some of the early European settlers.
On this occasion we entered the Coromandel Peninsula via the small town of Thames.
From Thames the road snaked north, with high cliffs to our right and the waters of the Firth of Thames extremely close on our left!  Very picturesque but, on occasions, a little nerve-wracking.
After some kilometres we turned off the main road towards Rapaura Water Gardens, which had received a number ofl plaudits from Trip Advisor.  We weren't disappointed. 
The feeling of peace and tranquillity as we wandered along the paths that meandered through areas of wilderness, cleverly blended with planted flowers and shrubs and punctuated with occasional water features, was the perfect antidote to several hours of travelling.  
We'd arrived almost at closing time and yet the owners not only insisted we take our time to explore the garden's delights, but also then insisted on serving us with a very welcome cup of tea and delicious home made cakes - New Zealanders' kindness and  hospitality at its best.
After the gardens we had one further brief stop to clamber a few metres above the road to look at our first Kauri tree.  Whilst these are neither the tallest, or broadest trees in the world, they are seriously BIG!!
From here we continued along what had now become a very narrow, windy, gravel road - something there appear to be quite a lot of in New Zealand, along with single lane bridges over the rivers - all of which makes for 'interesting' driving conditions at times.
It was along this road that we experienced our first of thankfully relatively few examples of reckless driving as, on the whole, New Zealand drivers seem pretty laid back and polite.
John was driving at a decent speed, especially considering the road conditions, along what had, until then, been a deserted road.  Suddenly he was aware of a vehicle behind him.  Moments later we were forced off the road as the driver overtook on a road barely wide enough for one vehicle and disappeared in a cloud of dust!!
We were glad to finally arrive safely at our destination - Whitianga - a small and fairly non-descript seaside resort which was to be our base for the next 3 nights.
The next day we explored a number of beautiful sandy beaches and coves in the vicinity.  The 2 most striking were Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach.  The former was  lovely sheltered cove, with, on one side, an enormous rock that had been worn away by the sea to provide a cavernous interior through which one could walk to reach a further secluded beach.
To properly enjoy the delights of Hot Water Beach we hired a spade and headed to a point mid way down the beach and began to dig ourselves a hole large enough to sit in.  To ensure you dig at the right point requires some local knowledge.  Dig too far one way and your efforts are rewarded by a pool of cold water.  Dig too far in the other direction and you are liable to do your posterior serious damage by sitting in scalding hot water!!!!  Having found the right location and dug your own private pool (not that private as dozens of other people are also vying for the right location around you!!) you ease yourself in and sit there gently cooking and wait for the incoming tide to lap over you with refreshing cooling water!!  A somewhat bizarre, but fun experience!
On our second day we spent some time walking in the woods and admiring further examples of kauri trees; a fun hour or two in a garden dotted with various water powered contraptions and a trip on a narrow gauge railway.  The latter, as it climbed high above the town of Coromandel, gave us a good opportunity to get a bird's eye view of the area, with its rich green, almost tropical vegetation.
The next day we left behind the Coromandel Peninsula with its verdant green mixed foliage, driving often through areas that were either covered with pine forests or bleak and barren, where the pine trees had been cut down.  We were heading towards Rotorua, one of the world's most concentrated and accessible geothermal areas.
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