On the advice of our Coromandel town campsite hosts we traversed east, across the Peninsula’s central ridge, on an unsealed road. Winding up through forests of tree ferns and other species unique to New Zealand, the going got more difficult as constant drizzle made the gravelly surface muddy and slippery. It was a hard slog; slow going both up and down, but the atmospheric mist resonated with sounds last heard in the tropical bird house at Paignton Zoo.
A short ferry ride allowed us to cross the estuary between the charming town of Whitianga and Cook’s Beach, where Captain James Cook anchored HMS Endeavour in 1769. The coast here is as spectacular as anywhere we have been, forested hills running down to, fine fringed, sandy beaches. Our billet for Valentine’s night was a cute cabin at Hot Water Beach, where the must do thing, is to hire a spade and dig a hole on the sand at low tide. This rapidly fills with geothermal hot water for a natural hot tub. Most surreal, but welcome therapy for sore muscles. The sand gets everywhere though!
Wednesday dawned dry and bright as we continued south, up and down more long hills through tinder dry farm land. Yet another ferry ride, this time between the picture postcard towns of Tairua and Pauanui, allowed us to hug the estuary avoiding the much busier main highway. Our day ended at the lovely Whangamata home of Annie’s friends, Wendy and David, for whom she was bridesmaid back in Devon, England some 27 years ago – catching up took some time!
Keith has now joined us in Whangamata for a four hour drive to Opotiki, the gateway to the East Cape, where we plan a circular ride over the next six days. It was a good day to be in the car as the rain has not stopped all day – good news for those parched fields.