Sunday, 16 January 2011

Hot beaches and dangerous roads

Car for Sam

Sam – we saw this old car today - do you know what sort it is?

Bike for Sam

and then this motorbike (which we know was a Honda) on the other side of the road. We thought you would like to see a picture of them.

North Island to Hahei 

Roads in New Zealand vary from motorway standard to ordinary quality and width to some of the most dangerous, windy, narrow, suddenly springing a surprise upon you roads we have ever met. If it were not for the fact that New Zealand drivers seem to be far better behaved than their UK equivalent, the accident rate could really be rather high.

We were recently on the Coromandel peninsula, Concentrating on the road as you drive around it is essential

Peninsular Road

There are too many places where the width of the road is just sufficient for two vehicles, get it wrong and you go over the edge into the sea (and we were on the sea side of the road). In some places the road goes down to single width –

Single Lane Bridge

that is very common at bridges. Occasionally, you share the single lane bridge with a railway track, hopefully there is no train coming the other way when you do!

Train shares bridge 

There is a notorious single lane bridge bottleneck on the main road from Auckland to the Peninsula, so notorious that it is marked on maps as a traffic delay certainty. We were lucky in that we went through it during a quiet time and it took only 15 minutes.

On East Cape, sections of the road we were on

 Rough Road

were extremely rough and we shared them with large logging lorries.

Gritted Teeth

Note the gritted teeth and determined look in the driver!

Another driving difficulty is the speed limit – it is not the maximum of 100kph (62 mph) that causes the problem, it is the fact that it the speed limit on your section of road seems to change constantly and you are never too sure what it is. We are sure to get a speeding tickets sometime during the next two months – fortunately they do not carry penalty points transferable to the UK.

The other hazard is the view – you are driving along minding your own business, you come around a corner and in front of you is:

Coromandel Countryside and Bay


C Cove 1

or to your side is a wide sandy beach designed for sand castles or a paddle or a leisurely lunch

Beach Coromandel Peninsula

or just sitting and breathing in the sea air

Hot Water Bay

It is impossible not to be impressed.

The Coromandel peninsula is a wide hilly spit of land jutting out some 100kms into the sea. It is a favourite holiday spot for Aucklanders and hence gets very crowded during the January holidays. It used to be covered in Kauri but no more of course. Coromandel town

Coromandel Hotel

(on the west of the peninsula) is a quite laid back sort of

Coromandel Pub

place with old buildings put into new use to serve tourists.

Take the cars away   

Take the cars away and you can still see the old 1800’s gold mining and logging town.

On the other side of the peninsula is Mercury Bay (where Captain Cook moored to view the transit of Mercury across the Sun in 1769), and Hahei Beach; Hot Water Beach; and Cathedral Cove.

Our camp site at the Hahei Holiday Park directly overlooks the sea. The view from the back of the van is something to remember – blue seas with islands dotted around and the dominant sound being that of the waves.

View out of the van

The beach is clean sand and very busy with those seeking a traditional holiday.

Hot Water Beach is so called because if you dig a hole in

Hot Water

the beach at low tide in exactly the right place, hot geothermal water bubbles up. Hence “the right place” is packed

Digging for Hot Water

with people wielding shovels looking for a geothermal spring. When they find one which is not too hot (some are scalding and were used for cooking food in the old days),

Pat in hot water  

general digging takes place so everyone can sit down or paddle in the warm water. It is a bit like Deception Island in the Antarctic although the sea is about 18c warmer.

Cathedral Cove is the location of one of the largest arches

Cathederal Cove Arch-1 Rock

in the area and passing through it takes you to yet another

C Cave beyond

clean beach with the historic remains of other arches clearly evident.

Bay beyond

The water temperature (at around 19c) is not warm enough

Pat in Cold Water

for Pat to properly swim in the South Pacific, but a mature paddle makes do for a photograph of this memorable occasion.

Here we are sufficiently far away from street lighting to be able to see an unspoilt sky at night. The best time is around 3 am and the sky is full of more stars than you can imagine with the Milky Way going from one horizon to the other.

Sunset over Shelly Beach

And so the sun sets over the sea, the air temperature is 25c here and around 3c at home. Blue skies are promised for tomorrow (again) – where would we rather be?

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