Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Week 40 - Raglan to Cape Reinga via the Coromandel

So as you know we arrived safely and early in Raglan, after a quick check in and a chat with our lovely host, Sally, we made our way into town. Raglan can only be described as a surfers retreat, with relaxed vibes, vintage stores, coffee shops and surf rental shacks there isn’t much else in this town. Obviously Kyle loved it instantly and after a look at Ngarunui beach I was pretty impressed myself, a long stretch of black sand surrounded by crystal blue waters and cliffs covered in bush, I mean whats not to like? After a stroll around town, an alright-ish Asian fusion meal and a ice cream we headed on back to Sallys for a nights sleep. 

Kyle was keen to get back surfing, so equipped with a wet suit (the sea is still pretty cold) and a board we headed back to the beach, along with around 300 surfers, for a day of waves and relaxing. Though the waves looked calm from the top, Kyle soon learnt that like Gisborne it was an effort to swim out, but once he did it was totally worth it for all the waves he caught. I gave up watching after 5 minutes mind, all the black dots tend to look the same after a while. Surfing over it was time for me to get my eyebrows done before a sushi lunch and a catch up with Sherlock. The sushi place in town, Aroha, has a story to tell, the couple who own it came to New Zealand from Japan after the 2011 earthquake in Fukushima which destroyed the nuclear power plant and along with it their home. The couple are now appealing to stay in New Zealand and are asking people to sign a petition to assist them with their campaign, of course we put our names down and wish them all the success in staying in Raglan.

After lunch we drove down to check out Manu Bay, a pro surfers beach. With no sand and more rocks, you can either jump into the sea with your board or enter lower down and climb over the rocks. There weren’t many surfers around when we were there, but Kyle still made us stay to watch the waves (yawn). We also took a walk down the waterfront towards the wharf, even though the tide had gone out there were still plenty of families enjoying what little water was left and the evening sunshine. Surrounded by mountains and filled with fishing boats the wharf was a lovely evening setting, made even better by cheap fish and chips which were almost the same as those you got back home….with the inclusion of hand cut chips!

A quick laundry day and some minimal planning for our trip to the Coromandel led us nicely into Kyles surf lesson. Having chosen Green Wave out of the many companies in the area we were met by, Zennor, his instructor for the day. Kyle had a great time and improved not only his pop-up but his knowledge of getting out passed by the strong waves, and learnt how to turn, something he has been keen to do for a long time. Me? Well of course I did what I do best, sunbathed…which was a little difficult given how windy it was, I was covered in half of the beach by the time we left.

Our journey to the Coromandel took us through farm land and along busy motorways, but once we got away from the busier city of Hamilton and down the State Highway we soon had the mountains in sight. Crossing over the bridge led us onto a steep mountain climb with my favourite sharp, windy bends and a fast rollercoaster like descent. The first town we hit was Tairua, surrounded by beaches and clear blue waters, the houses and cars here scream money…Audi’s, BMW’s, Aston Martins, poor little Eric must of felt way out of place, The Coromandel must be home to the richest of New Zealand. Don’t be surprised if you see a Real housewives of The Coromandel on TV soon.

We soon arrived at  our new campsite Seabreeze not far from Hahei. A picturesque site surrounded by farmland, bush and limestone mountains. Pitching the tent was like hell on earth, it was boiling, by the time we had finished we were ready to hit the beach, but first we had to travel 25 minutes out to get some shopping. Thankfully, we managed to get that done within the hour and were soon relaxing on Hot Water beach. The whole point of Hot water beach is to take a shovel, dig a hole and sit in the hot water below, we skipped that once we saw the 600 tourists all cramped together on a tiny section of beach fighting to get a space, and instead relaxed further down with about 5 other people. You could be forgiven for thinking that Hot Water beach is a tropical island, the sea was crazy clear and slightly warm, the sand was soft and golden and the surrounding cliffs looked like those in Vietnam, it made for a perfectly relaxing afternoon. Even Kyle enjoyed himself swimming out in the water and sunbathing. 

An overcast morning meant a walk up Mount Paku, which I suggested as I thought that it would be a casual stroll. Could I have been more wrong? The steep climbs and 700 steps had us lost and sweating until we found the final ascent, a mini climb up some rocks…not needed when you’ve already lost a stone and your face looks like a lobster (overcast does not mean no burn). But man was it worth it the views of Tairua and the surrounding islands were unreal, we could of stayed up there for hours enjoying the views. It looked as though the sea went on forever, so blue and clear it looked totally tropical. To cool off we treat ourselves to an afternoon at Hot Water beach, lapping up the sun and relaxing in the water.

I haven’t driven for about a year now, it’s just not my thing, but Kyle decided that an empty campsite carpark would be a good place to start. Well let’s just say after 5 minutes driving at the 5kph speed limit we both decided that Kyle would continue to do the driving. Nobody told me that automatics rolled in drive even when your foots not down.

Early rises had become a thing of the past but with Kyle wanting to visit Cathedral Cove, a total tourist trap, we got up early to beat the crowds. Another walk along a coastal path took us under the shade of palm trees and up into the early morning sun, it was hot going up and down the hills until we reached the steps to the beach, where it was more than worth the effort. It was like we had been transported back to Gili Meno. This little cove was paradise, soft white sand, translucent warm water, white cliffs and lush green trees with islands in the distance. It was perfect, and having got there early we only had to share the experience with 2 others, shame it started to get busy after about 40 minutes though. However, we did get chatting to a nice local guy who told us about it being a location for the film Narnia. On the way back we stopped at Stingray Bay, a small beach with a rocky climb down and a cave in the distance, and Gemstone bay, which should have a sign saying don’t come here unless you have a snorkel. The walk down to Stringray bay took my breath away, far too many steps and  a steep path, just to see loads of rocks and a shaded sea, take it from me the climb back was ten times worse, so unless you’re keen to snorkel, don’t bother! 

Hot Water Brewery lives on our campsite so after an afternoon soaking up the rays at Hahei beach it felt only fair that we sampled what beers they had to offer. With an award winning  local ale and some fresh, crisp cider we managed to pass the afternoon way into the evening drinking until our bellies were full!

To break up our journey to the North we decided to stay at Parkakai Springs campsite, I know we weren’t fans of Hamner Springs but we figured after a boring day on the “motorway” and a 3.5hour journey ahead of us the next day that we needed a little R ’N’ R. We were pleased to note that our little green campsite wristbands (like you get at an all inclusive resort, only we got no food) gained us half price entry to the “springs”. Only they weren’t springs, they were simply a heated indoor and outdoor pool, filled with children. Oh no, if you wanted a hot spring you had to pay extra for a private pool…what a joke! Safe to say we didn’t last long there either, and with little else to do in Parakai we were stuck in the car reading. Kyle did make friends with our next door tent neighbour, who after a little chat offered him a joint. There must be something dodgy about Kyle, hey?

The road to Opononi was so dull and to top it off I had Asia arse, not ideal when toilets are few and far between and good portions of the road were unsealed which resulted in another chipped windscreen! But joy did come when I won a free car air freshener from a free 4 square (local store) scratch card, I never win anything so I was actually pretty happy. The last 18km of State Highway 12 took us through Waipoua forest which was kinda cool, the roads were narrow and windy, so windy it felt like you were going to lose your head up your backside, and all of it was lined with palm trees, bush, Christmas trees, fern and kauri trees. This forest is controlled by Te Roroa, a local tribe, who help take care of the kauri trees which are now very rare across New Zealand. 

We pulled into a view point on the way into Opononi which after a short walk had great views over the town and ocean, there were cliffs to walk across so you could see in all directions. My favourite view was the giant island made completely of sand where people were riding down on body boards into the sea, we were going to have a go but at $27 per person for a boat ride we thought it was pretty steep. Instead we pitched our tents at Opononi Beach Holiday Camp, alternatively known as a retirement home for goats and their children…I’m not kidding you there were loads of them running around shitting everywhere, and to top it off they had a chicken that liked to claw your tent, no wonder the Chinese eat their feet. Once the tent was pitched we spent the little remainder of the afternoon walking along the white sand beach, before catching the sunset from our tent, with the goats of course. 

I was looking forward to short drive day, an hour on the road Kyle said…bullshit! I mean it would of been if we had taken the ferry to Kaitaia, but you’ve got to cut costs somewhere so we stuck to the road. 10 minutes into the journey the heavens opened, and this was some of the worst rain we have seen, so bad you could hardly see the road in front of you, but Kyle, Richard Hammond it and we soon arrived at our destination. We were way too early to check in at our Air B&B, so instead Kyle decided that we hadn’t done enough driving and took us on a 3 hour return trip to Cape Reinga, NZ’s most northerly point. I imagine had it been a nice day that the walk to the lighthouse would of been brilliant, but the fact is it was pissing it down and it was windy, which meant you could see fuck all, not even the lighthouse until you were 5 metres in front of it…I was not amused.

Tonight we’ll settle in at Sarah’s house and catch up with the final Sherlock, Kyle’s hoping for better weather in the morning so he can do some surfing. After that we don’t have anything planned so it’s back to the Lonely Planet and Google to plan our final adventures.

Love Carrie xxx

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