the first day of summer

THURSDAY, 1st December

One of my wishes while my trip to New Zealand was to see pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas tree blossoming with crimson flowers, but I doubted it would happen this time, because I was to leave the country before its season. And again, thanks to certain circumstances I stayed a couple days longer and saw the first flowers on the trees near my hostel in Whitianga. And I finally remembered the name of that tree!

The road from Whitianga to Coromandel Town was mostly very narrow, winding and steep especially closer to town. That was a challenge!

I arrived safely in Coromandel Town at about noon and went straight to the Visitor Centre to find out what was there to see within one day. I booked a tour in Driving Creek Railway & Potteries at 12:45 and got a map with attractions on the 309 Road from Coromandel Town to Whitianga, which I hadn’t taken previously, because it was a gravel road.

I still had a little bit of time before the tour, so I took a short walk along the streets of town, bought my last hokey pokey ice cream. When I left the shop, there was Maori standing outside selling his book. He asked me if I wanted to buy one. He had tattoos on his face and said that he used to be in a gang and he wrote about it in his book and how he moved on and left the gang. He also said he was a Baptist. Small world.

I was right on time at the Railway & Potteries. It was created by Barry Brickell who was New Zealand’s first Kiwi-born fulltime handcraft potter. He had bought some land to make a place for other artists who would like to work together and then built narrow-gauge mountain railway to deliver necessary materials. When it became popular, he opened it to tourist. One of his projects is native forest restoration on the land.

One of many bottle walls

The view from Eye-Full Tower

Then I went back through Coromandel Town towards Thames and turned left and took the 309 Road. I passed the Waterworks, because I wasn’t interested in paying for the entry and probably it’s the best fun for kids or when you’re with a bunch of friends. But I stopped to see:

Waiau Falls (some couple was sitting on the top of the falls asking for attention)

Kauri Grove

and Siamese Kauri

Castle Rock

The morning was cloudy, but later afternoon it was very sunny. From the 309 I could go to Waiau Summit which would take me 2 hrs to get there, but I thought I’d rather find some nice beach and lie there the same amount of time than climb one more hill. When I took the road north of Coromandel Town to see more of the peninsula, I realized it was the first day of summer. I spent the whole spring season in New Zealand. I’ve had two springs in 2011 and the taste of my second summer. In Australia I was in my second winter, but I don’t think we can count that since it was warmer than Polish summer.

Nice picnic spot?

On this beach I met a nice German. He lived with his girlfriend in a camper van which looked like a bus. I thought of swimming there, but when we started talking, time went past quickly and then a group of young people with two adults came fishing and we talked to them. It was the end of a school term and the group was from high school. They were riding bikes around the peninsula. They had to catch something for dinner, so they came longline fishing.

Eventually, I didn’t get to swim, because I wanted to leave the gravel roads before it got dark.

I did a loop around the upper part of the Coromandel, which took me quite a while, because most of the road was gravel and I came back to Coromandel Town early evening. It was getting dark when I headed south to Thames.

The road was much better. It was still winding but mostly flat and along the coast. I was driving listening to music of my friend from my home town (he’s on MySpace and here‘s his official website) and admiring the sunset which looked like from Monet’s paintings. I was in two places at that time: first, in New Zealand and thanks to Piotr’s music I was already back home.

I was in Thames after 9 pm. There was only Chinese take away open, so I bought late dinner and went back on the road. I got to Auckland before 11 pm and had no trouble with finding my way back to Te Atatu.