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.

The Coromandel

WEDNESDAY, 30th November

I thought my holiday was over, but there was something missing and the trip to the Coromandel peninsula and then my last day in Auckland became a satisfying closure, which gave me in some way peace about the fact that it was really the end of my awesome down-under journey.

I went to the city centre too early, because I thought the Immigration Office opens at 7 am, but actually they open at 9:30 am. I just looked at wrong hours on the Internet. I had to wait for over an hour so I went to the Starbucks for a morning coffee and to plan my trip out of Auckland. It’d be my first time when I drive on a highway in a such big city. I haven’t even driven on the roads like that in Poland!

A lady behind the counter at the Immigration Office listened to my story, checked out my files and said that there had already been something written and I had two options: either show my plane ticket or apply for a new visitor visa. The visa thing was very tempting, because I could stay maybe one more week, month or maybe even three months, but I had no money left and I didn’t want to borrow from my dad anymore. And I thought it was time for me to go home. I showed her my ticket and all was sorted.

I rented a car from Omega for two days, $49 per day with free insurance which meant that if something happened, I paid $1000. I could have paid extra $20 per day and the rental would cover everything, but it was an economic trip, so I took the risk again and hoped nothing bad would happen. Luckily, it didn’t.

Omega rental cars had their office on Beach Rd in the city centre, which was a big advantage. Most of the rentals had their pick up point at the airport. I took SH1 to get out of Auckland as quickly as possible and behind Bombay turned left to road no. 2 and then no. 25 towards Thames. But I didn’t start exploring the Coromandel from the west coast but, as I had been advised by a shop assistant from one of the shops on Queen St, from the east. I left sunny Auckland and the closer the peninsula the more cloudy it was. I hadn’t booked any hostel. I had thrown away my BBH book with phones and maps in Wanganui, because I hadn’t thought I’d use it again and I didn’t have much credit left on my phone card. I wanted to stay in Whitianga, so I decided to go there first to find a hostel and reserve a bed and it was again a good move, because when I came back later in the evening, it was all booked. It was about 2 pm when I checked in at On the Beach Backpackers Lodge.

I also went to the iSite to find out the hours of low-tide and what would be the best time to go to the Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove. I was informed that the low-tide was between 4 and 8 pm that day and Hot Water Beach is the safest to visit during 2 hours in the middle of the low-tide. So after taking a short nap at the hostel, borrowing a spade from the reception and grabbing fish & chips in the town centre, I went back to Hahei to use my swim suit for the first time since I came to New Zealand.

Hot Water Beach. It was basicly a bunch of adults digging holes in the sand and then lying in them. I joined in. I found an abbandoned pool, dug a bit more and sat down to warm up my bum.

When I got bored and saw the Ocean destroying my pool, I went to dress up and head north to the Cathedral Cove. It was getting late anyway, the sky was getting clearer and I was hoping to have a nice light when I arrive there to take some good pictures. From the car park, I had to walk for a while. An information board said that it would take me about 45 minutes, but I walked for 30 min without derailing to any of the bays on the way.

the view on Cathedral Cove from the track; it’s behind that tall white rock on the left

It was really beautiful and I was so happy I had the chance to be there thanks to the Heathrow workers. 😀

Going under the arch was forbidden, because of the falling rocks and there were wires or ropes spread across making like a gate, but they didn’t stop me from going through anyway.

I think I know who destroys this place out of jealousy. They’ve got Urulu / Ayers Rock and they can’t stand that New Zealand has something amazing as well. They left their mark. That beige shape reminds me Australia!

I was struck by the beauty of the sail rock

Visiting Cathedral Cove in the evening in the middle of the week had this advantage that there were no people over there!

I was back in Whitianga when it got dark. Chatting with some girls from my room, I felt like a veteran at the end of my journey. I’ll have to go back to my first notes from New Zealand and compare myself from 3 months ago with myself after.