Pohutukawa Coast and Whangapoua.
Woke early after a restless night, the motor home rocking in the wind on our exposed headland. Rain lashed the windows as we peered out at the choppy seas below and around us. Good - another cosy lie in with mugs of tea in our nest.
Not for long though. The terms of freedom camping are that you must leave by 9am. We did. And parked a short way away overlooking the beach for breakfast.
A dull morning of house- keeping followed. Supermarket, petrol, haircuts, wifi, dump station and water.
All done and sorted we headed north just as the rain clouds cleared and the sun came out.
The west coast of the Coromandel peninsula is very beautiful. It's called the Pohutukawa Coast because essentially the whole coast is a rocky shore with these trees growing along the back and numerous small sandy coves along the way. It's about an hours drive and we were happily pottering along, music playing and I was just contemplating the sea colour changing from grey to blue as the sky did the same, when suddenly, there was the unmistakable gleaming black and white shape of Orca just surfacing in the bay next to the road! Two others, smaller in size, surfaced just behind it. We pulled over, and two other cars did the same, we were all transfixed by seeing these whales so close, just 50 metres or so away from us. As we watched, the largest Orca broached the surface again, revealing its characteristic black and white markings, spray rising from its blow hole, then lazily diving again, revealing its large black tail before disappearing.
We drove on along the coast, leapfrogging from pull-in to pull-in with the other whale-spotters, following the pod of about six whales as they swam up the coast.
In one lay-by we surprised an elderly Japanese couple having lunch in their camper van as we walked past, cameras raised. They hurried out chattering gesticulating wildly to each each other, as we jumped back into our van and drove on.
Eventually the road turned inland and we arrived in Coromandel. A large harbour to the south and a small pretty town with wooden houses to the north. We stopped for s nice lunch at the Pepper Tree and enjoyed lamb pie and 'tempura gurnard' aka posh fish and chips. Another excellent NewZealand coffee (not had a bad one yet) and back on state highway 25 east to Whangapoua. Our camper van app had shown a freedom camping ground right next to the beach here, but with only two spaces.
As we approached the village we noticed a large converted bus/ motor home in front of us.... What if they took the last space? They turned into the camping area... Oh no! .... Aha... Empty... So just the two of us. Hooray! The allotted free space was indicated by two blue signs with arrows to mark the limits of the area where we could park. By squeezing our vehicles as close together as possible without actually touching, we almost fitted into the space! In any case all four of us felt very pleased with ourselves, especially when we looked out over the edge of the grassy area to see a glorious white sand beach stretching out in the afternoon sunshine to north and south! And free camping!
They decided to stroll Whangapoua beach, we decided to set off to explore a hidden beach to the North - the bizarrely named 'New Chums Beach'.
This beach is widely described as 'One of New Zealand's finest beaches' and 'One of the world's top ten beaches' as well as being 'Hidden away from the masses and rarely explored'. We had to go.
It's not easy to get to. Firstly we walked to the north end of Whangapoua beach, and then had to wade across the estuary, which is only possible two hours either side of low tide. Bill was a hero and took off his walking boots to piggy back me across! After that, we scrambled across the rocks for about 200 metres until we could see a path rising through the forest over a saddle in the headland. We could hear the surf before we saw the beach.
The path emerged on a huge palm fringed white sand beach, surrounded on all sides by tall cliffs, illuminated by late afternoon sun.There was a group of four local lads surfing and one lonesome back-packer making his way along the beach in front of us.
We walked until we could barely see anyone else and then sat on the sand and soaked it all up. We had to swim, obviously having come all this way, and do leapt into the sea for a quick frolic in the surf. The beach shelved steeply and with the surf rolling in there was no time to stand and dither about, thinking about how cold it was!
Suitably invigorated, we dressed and then noticed the black clouds sweeping dramatically along the coast. Somehow the rain mostly held off until we were safely back in the van, and then it deluged down!
By that time we were warm and cosy inside, having supper and planning tomorrow.