As some of you know by now I find myself these days a hop, skip and jump across the pond and into Kiwiland territory. I landed in Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) just over a week ago, and was fortunate to spend a few days catching up with my cousin Katrina and getting shuttled around to various attractions by her flatmates. After getting accustomed to the cars driving on the wrong side of the road, kiwi slang and quick changing weather fronts I made up my mind that it would be best to leave the city and begin my journey by bike.
Cycling downtown towards the ferry terminal, I found this car with eyelashes
I decided to take a quick commuter ferry from the downtown harbourfront to avoid the high volumes of traffic within the city limits. The ferry shuttled me to the outskirts of town called Beachlands Pine harbour. On the ferry deck I met 4 young guys who were art students in the city, making their way to Maraetai on a day adventure by bike. They invited me to join along and after a few pints of beer, or cider in my case, we were on our way through the countryside by a bike path linking the ferry dock to the coastal town of Maraetai. After saying our goodbyes, I continued on my way by narrow and winding roads towards the coromandel peninsula. Within a matter of an hour, light mist became a complete downpour and soaked through all of my panniers, and leaving me chilled to the bone. A car pulled up beside me and asked if I wanted a place to sleep for the night, making note that I looked like a “drowned rat”. I jumped at the opportunity and began to try to write directions down on a soggy piece of paper with a leaky pen. Resorting to memory, I made my way the 8km down the road and to the front doorstep of sheep farmers Peter and Pat. Their little acreage nestled on a river which opens up to the Tamaski Strait and faces all the small islands off of the coast. They shared with me the story of the family farm and camp on the relatively close Ponui island, over a mutton chop dinner with zucchini, potatoes, and green beans (all rewards reaped from their tiny paradise)
Peter and Pat standing beside their home on the river
Looking out of the bedroom window, the first hour after the storm passed
The River at low tide
"Red Sky At Night Sailors Delight"? I sure hope so
Plucking some plums off the tree for later 🙂
My first glance of the Firth of Thames
I made it as far as Waikawau the second night and found a nice little nook on the side of the beach shore to pitch a tent and watch the sunset. I forgot how loud it is sleeping near the ocean. The waves crashing and breaking up amongst the rocky shore could only be topped with a side of grasshoppers staying busy into the late evening hours.
A Cormorant or Shag of sorts? still trying to ID the species
Finally reaching the summit before Coromandel
On day 3, after 4 hours of pushing my bike uphill in the blazing sun, I decided to call it quits in the town of Coromandel and enjoy the rest of the afternoon talking to some fellow travelers from all over the world (Denmark, Indonesia, China, India, France, and the Netherlands, just to name a few!) at the Anchor Lodge Hostel
The Anchorlodge (hostel and motel) in Coromandel town was such a good find, they had a heated pool and hot tub as well as a cave system that had some glowworms in the entrance
To be honest, the cave could be considered pretty anti-climatic. After a few glowworms at the entrance the cave goes back and turns for a while, leading you to the end where this letter S was taped on the wall. We figure it stands for "you SUCKERS fell for coming all this way to see nothing" or "SORRY this is just a free preview". Regardless, it was still fun running around with flashlights and sloshing around in the mud.
Anna & Sophie, two girls from Denmark who are over in New Zealand WWOOFing talked with me about Denmark politics and shared that even though they are taxed ridiculously (like 68%) they receive good benefits like free university education and healthcare regardless of their background or financial income.
Soon I found out that the hill into Coromandel, was not nearly as bad as the hills OUT of coromandel. Luckily there was some amazing decends to bomb and some wonderfully stunning views
I made it to Whitianga in the late afternoon and managed to catch the worlds quickest ferry across to Ferry Landing, cutting off 40kms of the leg to Hahei.
One of the highlights of my trip so far, was stopping in at the rustic Purangi Estate on my way to Hahei. Danny (pictured above) walked me through the great variety of wines, ciders, beers and fruit liqueurs and gave me heaps of generous tastings. The fresh and zesty notes totally hit the spot after pedaling along in the hot sun. Before heading out I bought a bottle of Feijoa fruit cider to tuck away in a pannier for a walk along the beach later that night.
Of course my visit to Hahei wouldn't have been complete without a stop off at Hot Water Beach. Arriving at low tide gives visitors the oppurtunity to dig their own personal spa in the sand and enjoy the thermal hot waters bubbling up from the earths surface
- The next morning I jumped out of my bunk at the Tatahi Lodge hostel at 7am to hike up to Cathedral Cove before the mass’s arrived.
Shh... don't tell (I went under the arch!!)
Leaving Hahei, another storm was brewing in the distance, which is when I met Tony a man who lived in the hills outside of Waihi with his partner Gwen. They took me in for the next few days as the worst of the storm passed by. I really really enjoyed their company. As well as wit and humour they seemed to have a lot of wisdom and good values that they shared with me. I also drove a car for the first time in New Zealand when I was driving Gwen around to her doctors appointments and running errands for them. I think I did pretty good I just had to remind myself to STAY LEFT.
When Tony found out that I love mussels, he collected some from his friend who had harvested some from the previous week
These were the biggest and meatiest mussels I have ever seen!
The goldmine pumphouse, built in 1904. It was originally on the other side of the mine, but as the operation expanded and more gold and silver were produced, it got moved across the mine site.
The Waihi Mine which produces gold and silver from host rock Quartz was found in 1878. Back then horses were hoisted down into the mine and pulled carts of ore. They lived in underground stables and only saw daylight once a year around christmas. They eventually all went blind due to their circumstances. Now days the operation is so big that the ore is put on a conveyer belt and moved across town to a processing plant. The Waihi mine produces 100,000 ounces of gold and 700,000 ounces of silver a year.