22.05.2012 - 25.05.2012
The last 4 days have been amazing and relaxing in glorious sunny and almost warm weather. We left Matata and headed to a lovely beach town called Papamoa for a lazy morning reading on the beach. We drove on to a town called Mount Maunganui for lunch. We loved Maunganui – a large hill lies at the end of long expanse of white sand beaches.
We had lunch beachside before climbing the hill (Maunganui) to get amazing views of the surrounding beaches, sea and islands before treating ourselves to a very tasty waffle cone ice cream.
One of the most exciting moment in Manganui was meeting the most lovely and sweet elderly couple! They were very keen to hear about our travels, sharing theirs with us, and were glad had walked the mount as they are unable to. Had we not got the bikes with us, Sarah would have offered for them to join us for the rest of our trip! We could have stayed longer but drove on towards the Coromandel region as the area is famous for great beaches and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
We camped just south of the Coromandel region at a campsite in the middle of nowhere called Dickey’s Flat. We had to negotiate some very dark backcountry roads and some of New Zealands exciting nocturnal wildlife to reach the site. First up was a limping black goat in the middle of the road, closely followed by a newly discovered species of rat-hog (it looked like both rat and hedgehog), and culminating in the obligatory possum waiting for us at the campsite. The campsite itself was a little spooky as we were the only people there and had no idea of our surrounds because it was so dark! Sarah was once more grateful for Joe’s unrivalled bravery in scary situations – shining torches to scare off animals and accompanying all trips to the toilet. What a hero!
After surviving the night, we drove up into the Coromandel region in glorious sunshine, stopping at Whangamata for our breakfast porridge – a great looking beach but a little touristy for our liking! We drove on to an isolated beach town called Oputere. After a short walk through some trees we came out upon an amazing white sand beach with no one in sight!
After braving the water for a quick swim (chilly!) we made friends with a golden retriever named Marley. Marley was a lone ranger of a local dog being taken for a walk by a friendly young lady called Kate, and her 2 young daughters Ella (4) and Mollie (7 months). Kate’s parents have a beach house in Oputere and she kindly offered us a place to sleep, do our laundry and take a hot shower!! We had plans to camp much further north that night but we were destined to return tomorrow...
Next up was a trip to Hot Water beach, an amazing place where a small section of the beach is directly above some incredibly hot rocks way below the ground - heating the water above to around 60 degrees celsius.
After hiring a spade and digging a little hole, we spent a couple of hours alternating between our incredibly hot pool and the chilly sea. An amazing experience! We camped for the night at Otama Beach Camp further north – we were the only guests in the farmers field and he seemed surprised to see us!
The next day we drove a little further on from Otama Beach to a small settlement called Opito. Opito was stunning – around 200 expensive looking holiday homes overlooking a picture perfect beach... only no one was here as it is winter!!
We spent the whole morning and early afternoon on the beach and encountered about 5 people - 2 of which (and their dog) arrived by helicopter, landing in their driveway (seriously!). We also met a recently retired English couple who were travelling by campervan but had been given a set of keys to one of these amazing houses by a lady who they met randomly when out cycling in England. The generosity of Kiwis is truly amazing!
Speaking of generosity we returned to Oputere for the evening to take Kate up on her offer of a place to stay. Kate, Ella & Mollie were joined by Ross and we joined them all for an amazing roast chicken dinner and some beverages, followed by our first sleep in a proper bed since Doubtful Sound!
In the morning we breakfasted with our hosts before going for a lovely stroll all the way along Oputere Beach. At the far end of the beach we found a small island which we could only reach by paddling through shallow water (or if your name is Sarah, being carried across shallow water on Joe’s back). On the island was a tiny little sandy cove which looked almost untouched. The sort of place you wish you could return to in boiling hot weather with a good book!!
Lunch was back up the coast at Cathedral Cove – an amazing selection of tiny coves, cliffs and arches.
It was stunning scenery but the weather had turned a little to custard and so we didn’t stay as long we would have liked. We drove back down to Oputere to collect our drying laundry and say goodbye to Kate, Ross, Ella & Mollie. They had other ideas however and in a show of amazing kindness offered us another night at their place. In the end we couldn’t refuse and after Sarah had taken Ella for an energy burning walk down to the beach we enjoyed another lovely meal (the avocado & blue cheese salad was just magnificent!). Before bed was an absolute belter of a treat for Joe... live sport on the TV accompanied with beer!!! We watched the Waikato Chiefs (Ross’ team) beat the Bulls (South African) in a close game, serving as a good build up for our trip to Eden Park to see the Auckland Blues vs the Highlanders tomorrow.