Written 10:40 AM Oct. 27th
Posted same afternoon
Still high on the achievement of doing the Tongariro Crossing, but with our bodies complaining loudly about the mileage of the previous day, we took it pretty easy on Sunday and Monday. We had a leisurely morning on Sunday on the Tongariro River, then did a short and mellow hike to Lake Rotoponamu to stretch our aching legs, and then took a wonderful soak at the thermal mineral pools at Tokaanu, just south of Turangi. The pools are DOC-owned (Department of Conservation, pronounced “Dock”) and managed by the local Iwi (tribe) and got us so blessed out it was hard to do much but sit around in the shade afterward. We did do the short and free thermal walk near the pools after lunch, and then started our drive north.
Click on photos to enlarge
Some views from the thermal walk:
Taupo was hopping with tourists on the sunny holiday weekend, so we basically just drove straight through town and out the other side, heading north through the South Waikato region and into the Shire. The area around Tokoroa and north is flattish green farmland, gorgeously bright, and definitely inhabited by hobbits. We drove through Matamata, with Hobbiton (seriously- the set for Hobbiton is still there) somewhere in the green a few kms off the highway. After four hours of driving, we found ourselves back at the Dickey Flat free campsite in the Karangahake Gorge, where we camped our very first night out of Auckland- full circle, and exactly one month later. This time, we found it full of campers on the last of their holiday weekend, and got to know a couple of our fellow campers, in particular a lonely-seeming character of a Kiwi who wandered over and told us all about the local area, how to catch fish and collect shellfish, and advised us to get an air rifle so we could “pop off some rabbits.”
On Monday we drove to the coast via Waihi, where we stopped at the campsite guy’s advice to look at the giant Martha Pit Mine, right in the center of town. This is a gold and silver mine, and the size is astonishing, and rather terrifying.
As you can see, it's too big to fit in a camera lens...
We finally made it onto the Coromandel Peninsula, ending up in Whangamata (fahn-guh-muh-TAH), which was hyped up as a surfer’s paradise, but we found it packed with loud beach partiers, and no surf whatsoever. With prices in town the most expensive we had seen ($1 for 7 minutes of internet) and all the “surf shops” staffed by teenagers who knew very little about surfing, we got out of town to a DOC campsite that turned out to be really lovely. Freedom camping is prohibited on the Coromandel Pensinsula (one of few places in New Zealand where it is enforced), and we were a little reluctant to actually pay for camping, but the cheeriness of the camp manager and the beauty of the site made up for it. It was just us and a German couple our age with a campervan, who we chatted with, and we had a lovely sunny afternoon and morning there.
The scenery on the Coromandel is much more dramatic than what we've seen up till now. Here's a few views:
The pinnacles of the Coromandel Range.
Beach and islands at Tairua
Matt on the beach at Whangamata
Yesterday we visited Bob Anderson, a surfboard shaper in Whangamata, where I found a secondhand board for a bargain price, and put it on hold. It needs some repairs, so we’ll go back through there in a week or so and pick it up. Then we headed north via Tairua to Hot Water Beach, which was definitely the highlight of the Coromandel for us so far. Not to far off the highway, there is a section of this public beach where the sand is heated by volcanic activity 2 km below, and you can rent a shovel from the general store there and go dig yourself a hot tub on the beach! The day was gorgeously sunny, the scenery amazing, and the hot water HOT!
The whole thing was rad, in a totally bizarre way. A beach full of people soaking in steaming holes, with the ocean just a few feet away! After soaking for an hour or so, we took a jump in the ocean, which was only refreshingly cold, and felt great!
We came up here to Whitianga (fit-ee-AIN-guh, apparently) in the late afternoon, and camped here at the holiday park, also owned by a super friendly couple, and were we had showers, a full kitchen, and most of the empty park at our disposal.
This evening we’re heading to Kennedy Bay, north of Coromandel Town, to the organic farm which is our next workstay. We haven’t been given a lot of information about the situation there, so we’re not sure how long we’ll end up staying, but I will definitely let you know when I know!
Hope you’ve all enjoyed the stories and pictures, and as usual, thanks so much for traveling vicariously with us!
Living the dream.