We left Auckland two days ago and traveled east and then north up the Coromandel Peninsula. The drive out of Auckland did not have an auspicious start, as I was in charge of navigation . . . and I’m a terrible navigator. So, we ended up driving north out of Auckland, rather than south. The upside was that we got a great view of Auckland from the western peninsula of the north island, and the kids and Sujata had a good time making fun of me.
After we oriented ourselves, we drove around the Firth of Thames–the bay that separates the two uppermost peninsulas of the north island—and then we headed north on route 25, a two-lane road that hugs the coast all the way up to Coromandel Town. I’ve never really been on a road quite like this. Besides being very narrow, since it follows the coast, it winds in and out in a way that is both sickening and mesmerizing. Sinewy beech trees create a canopy over the road and, as we drove further north, we started gaining altitude until, close to Coromandel Town, we were high above the ocean.
From Coromandel Town, we found a gravel access road that cut directly across the peninsula. I think we passed two cars on the 60 km drive—most drivers choose to take the paved road to the other side of the peninsula–and after 20 or so kilometers, I understood why. On the way, though, we came across a Kauri grove. Kauri trees are like the Redwoods of the States. They are ancient, enormous trees that are native to New Zealand. It was late in the day—the sun was rapidly setting in the west and it looked like there was an ominous storm brewing in the east, but we decided to get of the car and hike the trail to see the Kauri. This decision was very much against Eleanor’s wishes. She was slightly freaked out by the receding light and, I think, our isolation. She started down the path, reluctantly, and became increasingly agitated. This, if you know Eleanor, is unusual. The girl rolls with things and she’s tough and brave, but for whatever reason, she was not okay with the excursion to the Kauri grove. We continued, though, much to her chagrin, and, happily, we made it out alive.
On the eastern side of the Peninsula, we found a little motel in Whatamanga and decamped there for the night. Not much happened there, except that I found a fantastic Indian/Thai takeaway shop that—this is not an overstatement—had the best Pad Thai and Masaman Curry I’ve ever had. We’re all still a bit jet lagged, so everyone collapsed by 9 pm . . . and we were all awake at 5:30 am.
I woke up in Whitianga, did a little yoga, got dressed and went for a walk on the beach where I was greeted by a parcel of oystercatchers. I love shore birds and oystercatchers, the Halloween birds, are my favorite of the shore birds.
From Whitianga, we headed south to Hot Beach, a beach blessed with thermal springs just under the waxing and waning tides. We rented a spade at the local coffee shop, and started digging.
We soaked in the hot pools for two full hours and, afterward, I was exhausted! Sujata took the wheel as we headed south to Rotorua.