We left Taupaki and headed towards the Coromandel Peninsula where our first stop was Thames. We didn't think much of Thames, just an average industrial town and so we headed into the Kauaeranga National Park and stayed at a DOC campsite in the middle of the forest park, it was pretty windy so we went for a quick walk through the forest and then hibernated for the night.
The next day we went on to Coromandel Town which is a bit further up the peninsula. It's a smaller town that we quite liked the feel of. We had a wonder in town and went for a beer and stayed the night at a nice campsite. The next day we got up and went to Long Bay where you can do a one hour loop walk along the rugged coast and past a huge Kauri tree which was beautiful. Then we went over to a rail track that was built by a Kiwi man, it's a huge narrow lane railway leading up a hill that took one man and his small team took 35 years to build, we didn't go on the train but spent some time looking around the sculpture gardens and gallery. When we were on the way back to the campsite we got a message saying some of the guys we had lived and worked with in Bannockburn were in Coromandel so we met them for a drink and a catch up and they came to stay at the same campsite as us. The next day we got a text from another friend that we had worked with in Martinborough to say he was in Coromandel as well. So met up with him and went to a local attraction called the Water Works. It's a great place where all of the attractions are made from recycled materials and involve water. There are water cannons you can have fights with, there are weird and wonderful creations mostly designed to tricking you into getting wet in some way but it was a great was to spend an afternoon. Then we went back to the campsite and had a few beers with everyone.
The next day we said goodbye to everyone and left our coincidental meetings and went to the very top of the peninsula to Port Jackson which involved a two hour drive along dirt roads. We are getting pretty used to driving on NZ dirt roads and how it will turn from a well tarmacked smooth road to potholes and rocks with no warning or reason, but we eventually made it! Port Jackson was a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, miles away from the nearest civilisation and it was just as San had gone to the loo and Jeff was getting ready to go fishing that Jeff managed to lock the keys inside the van. Complete disaster!! After trying to break into the van using twigs and pebbles which amazingly didn't work we called another DOC site who said they would send a guy down with some tools and see if he could help. We managed to get a wire through the gap in the door but couldn't hook the handle and I called the local tow truck who very nicely said he would come and get us into the can and only charge us $450 for the privilege, so we promptly broke a window to get in. Now the problem with this brilliant idea was that we seemed to have broken the world's most expensive piece of auto glass being quoted $570 to get a new one fitted. Again disaster!!! After a day of ringing around wrecker's yards and auto glass people we finally managed to get one and get it fitted all for about $250, so overall a pretty expensive mistake and we missed a day walk we were going to do from Port Jackson. Since we had to drive 120km to get the glass we decided not to go back to Coromandel and went to the other side of the Peninsula to Waihi.
The morning we woke up in Waihi was the coldest May day on the North island for 50 years hitting minus five degrees so it was a cold cold nights sleep and hard to get up but we headed into town to find coffee as the gas for our stove was so cold it wouldn't heat anything up. Waihi is a mining town with a vast open mind in the middle of the town. We found a coffee then walked around the mine which takes about an hour. We moved on to Waihi beach which couldn't be more different, with lots of surfing spots and beautiful white sand beaches. We went for walk and then sat reading on the beach in the semi warmth. We spent the night at a camp site in Athenree which has its own hot pools which provided us entertainment for the afternoon!
After a quick dip in the hot pools in the morning we left Athenree and headed to Hot Water Beach a couple of hours drive up the coast. At Hot Water Beach you can go a couple of hours before and after low tide and dig your own hot pool on the beach. We read before that the water can get to 65 degrees Celsius which sounded pretty good. We arrived and rented a huge shovel and walked down to the beach. We saw where people had dug their hot pools and were lying submerged in the water; it was raining a little windy and overall pretty cold. We were wearing several layers and thought the waters must be good if people could lie in just their swimming costumes. Jeff started digging a hot pool, but he was pretty determined that it was going to be the same size as an Olympic sized swimming pool if not the same depth. After making a pretty big hole we became worried that the water in our hot pool was pretty chilly. Jeff decided the answer was to dig deeper and deeper until we had a pretty sizeable hole, still filled with cold water. Jeff thought it was time to ask for advice and so sent San to ask people. Apparently you should walk over the sand looking for a hot patch before you dig which we quickly did and started a new hole. To try and win some points back and show he wasn't completely useless at building hot pools Jeff made our second one in the shape of a heart and after much puffing and panting it was ready, it looked great, people looked jealous and then as Jeff jumped in he realised that the water that had filled it was hotter than the sun and it was impossible to stand in, let alone lay in. It was all starting to turn into a bit of a Goldilocks situation. Luckily some people who had been watching all of this unfold said that we could dig a hole next to theirs and extend it out to share their water. And finally we had a beautifully built hot pool that was great. It was really nice looking out at the sea sat in our hot pool on a wet and windy autumn day. It even got so hot that Jeff went for a couple of swims in the sea which would be impossible to think about without the hot pool. After a few hours of bathing we decided to move on to Cathedral cove.
Cathedral Cove sits on a beautiful white sand beach just up the road from Hot Pool Beach. It is a hole cut into the side of a cliff made of volcanic "honeycomb" rock, that you can walk through and a series of island that have been eroded and worn away to form interesting shapes. It was pretty quiet when we went there and a very beautiful spot to spend the afternoon. We moved onto a camp site for the night which had a brewery on site. We went down and tried what the Hot Pool Beach Brewing Company had to offer and were pretty impressed.
The next morning we set off towards Whitianga, a beautiful coastal town. Unfortunately it was raining and a bit overcast when we arrived. We went to The Lost Spring hot pools, where you have poolside drinks and bar service. We enjoyed a cocktail while in the hot pool (40 degrees) and whilst it was raining. Perfect!
We then drove to a town called Whangapou where there is a 30 minute walk to New Chums beach (rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in NZ, some people told us in the world). After crossing a stream, a slippery bush walk and walking over a rocky beach we found the beach. It was very beautiful but we felt like we had seen more beautiful beaches in NZ. We walked along the beach and had a beer and then heading back towards Auckland for a 4 hour drive. Next stop North Land and Bay of Islands J