Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Trip to KatiKati and the Coromandel Peninsula

This is a busy time of year for leisure in New Zealand. Everyone but the trapped owners of my local dairy (quicki-mart) are off on holiday. Think of it: xmas, new years, school breaks and good summer weather all combine now! I was invited down to a town called KatiKati on the Bay of Plenty a few hours drive south of Auckland. I decided that would be great, but that I would then come back to Auckland via a short bike tour through the Coromandel Peninsula with a final return to the city via ferry.

On the way we stopped at a lovely cafe that had some rusting bikes for decoration, including this mower-bike.
They also had three friendly ponies and some fantastic pigs.
The way to KatiKati goes through the town of Paeroa - world famous in New Zealand (as noted before). This fizzy drink is no longer bottled in Paeroa with their natural soda spring, but rather in Auckland by CocaCola, darn. There are hot springs of all sorts all around NZ, leading my hosts to start to point them out followed by a smirking "ho-hum." I think that I will have to make a trip to the Edwardian Spa in Te Aroha with A and P. After Paeroa you climb over the Coromandel Range through the beautiful Karangahake Gorge.
I have no idea what this sign means. Anyone? It was near a big hole in the ground-type of tourist attraction in Waihi. You know, mechanics worked on a grand scale and an inverted mountain. Unfortunately for me, growing up in AZ and UT makes one jaded to this sort of thing.

This is the VIEW from the back of the house we stayed at in KatiKati. The place backed up onto a tidal stream and a burgeoning bird paradise caused in part by returning an adjacent pasture to tide-flooded feeding zone. The tree on the left above was the resting place of two white-faced herons who were a joy to watch.The house was fantastic with a few quirky features, mostly having to do with wiring being done by the first owner (and current neighbor) who happened to be an overzealous electrician. This photo above was one wall in the room that I stayed in with, what, 12 electrical outlets of some kind or another? Whoa! My hosts claimed to have spent some time trying to figure out the complex and numerous lighting controls in the den, all to no avail.
One morning, while eating yet another wonderful meal provided by my hosts, a Weta jumped out and spooked M. It's apparently a crime (if not just wrong) to harm these huge insects so it was hassled off into the bushes where I took this picture. This is one of the truly endemic species in NZ so it was a treat to have one introduce itself. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it was about 5cm long and mad.
I walked into KatiKati to see the local art. This is a wood carving of Humphrey, a sea elephant that would visit and was even rumored to have amorously pursued a local cow.
KatiKati remade itself into "mural-town" after the local Kiwi fruit market collapsed some years back. A good number of the buildings along the short main street are painted with murals. Half of these buildings are real estate agencies, attesting to the attraction this place has for retirees or those interested in "lifestyle blocks". For NZ$300,000 to 1,000,000+ you can obtain the kiwi fruit farm or avocado grove of your dreams.

I had yet to see the most significant NZ tree: the kauri. These resemble a mix between a sequoia and a baobab and were revered by the Maori and forested to near obliteration by the Pakeha. Now only a few giant specimens remain. So we went on a short hike in the rain. It apparently always rains in NZ around xmas.

After two wonderful days with D. and M (and spry G.) I got a ride north to Whangamata to start my bike tour. Goodbyes and got a snack from the bakery and I was off into the rain. Then sun. Then rain. In fact it was fantastic riding.
Unfortunately, just after taking this picture of the Teton-like hills outside of Tairua my back spasmed up. When this happens I usually become like an invalid but I found that I could grin and bear it long enough to make it to a (hugely overpriced due to the holidays - I had to pay the two people minimum and a spot big enough for ten tents) motor camp in Hahei. This is near Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve, some fantastic beaches and some possibly snorkeling, but I spent the rest of the day moaning in my tent and scaring the local Kiwi holiday crowd.

The Kiwis have a grand way of camping - they pitch enormous tents at immaculate motor camps in beautiful spots and spend weeks enjoying each other and their families. The next morning I was able to stand and shower and introduce myself enough to stave off their children's nightmares. I decided I'd try to head out that day by making it to Coromandel township by 4PM to catch the ferry.

I'll be going back to this stretch of land. Above is a beach that I glimpsed; there is also a beach nearby that has hot water springs (ho-hum) on it such that during low tide you can dig your own hot tub and lay in it while the waves crash over you.

This is the ferry from near Cook's Beach to Whitianga. The fellows in the foreground helped my load my bike while I hunched my way in. Lunch in Whitianga (I'm addicted to NZ bakeries) and then headed out to Coromandel township over the Range via the "309 road" - a part-gravel road that follows a beautiful stream. On the way up a very chatty Austrian riding his MTB for the day settled in and kept me enthralled with stories of his athletic prowess. He even wanted to switch bikes at one point. I was able to beg him off by claiming (truthfully) that any attempt to dismount would lead to me being doubled over on the side of the road. On to Coromandel!
Here is another place I will have to take P. - the Waiau Waterworks. Neato. Finally, made it to Coromandel and called the ferry operator and was able to change my reservation. So I doubled over for an hour in the park and listened to Japanese drummers. With about an hour to go I realized that I had no idea where the ferry landing was. Turns out it was 15kms out of town! Aaaaarh!
Well, anyway, I made it in time and caught the ferry. They made my take my super-heavy bike to the upper deck which finished me off and I just laid on the deck and winced while another (different) supper chatty Austrian yakked away happily. What is with these Austrians? Can they sense a captive audience?

Two hours back to Auckland, a short ride up to my apartment and a day of lying about reading have largely cured my back. So it was a mixed trip - wonderful food and company in KatiKati, then amazing scenery mixed with pain through the Peninsula. I can't wait to go back and explore it properly.


roy said...

Happy New Year.

You're first!

Marlene said...

Love the scenery! Happy New Year kiddo! Love, MOM & DAD