6 Days on the Road
Today brings a day of unexpected adventures. All we know is that we are hopping in a van with Willie, who is a tour guide with Coromandel Adventures, and he is going to show us the “real Coromandel”.
It’s a race!
As we wait to be picked up by Willie, we notice some go karts parked up outside the Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park.
“Please can we play on the go karts, Caren?” We ask our accommodation host like the little kids we are about to become again… Because of our charm, she accepts.
We challenge each other to the NZPocketGuide.com go karting race championship, to which Robin wins by inches. (And that’s while filming on the camera. What a lad!)
Our far north Coromandel Adventure
Willie pulls up in the Coromandel Adventures van while we are still causing havoc in the Coromandel Top 10 car park. Oops. Never mind. We hit the road and it looks like our mystery trip is taking us north – somewhere most backpackers have never been. From the get-go, Willie is full of knowledge about this part of New Zealand, explaining the peninsula’s interesting geography, telling us stories of all the locals we are passing (he knows everyone!), and showing us the native New Zealand wildlife. Even when Laura says her dream is to see a morepork, a tiny New Zealand owl, Willie says he will show us the tame one in his back garden on the way back if it is around when we get back. That’s Kiwi hospitality for you!
At this winter time of year, the road to north Coromandel is a quiet one. To start with we stop by some quirky little towns that look like they are stuck in time, the highlight being Colville with an old-school gas station. The further north we go, it gets narrower and windier on the gravel road. (There is no way we would come this far in our campervan, especially with steep drops on the outside). Around every corner there is a new awe-inspiring view. We’ve travelled through forest-covered mountains, volcanoes now used for farming, beaches lined with huge pohutukawa trees all holding onto the land so they are not swept out to sea.
Feeding a duck at Fletcher Bay… with our legs
Fletcher Bay at the very northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula was our lunch stop – definitely our favourite lunchtime view so far! We could see right out to Great Barrier Island in the distance, as well as Waiheke Island and Rangitoto. Apparently it was one duck’s favourite lunch spot too, except, we were the lunch because it kept pecking our legs!
Without Willie’s knowledge, we would have never known that the hills surrounding us in Fletcher Bay used to be Maori pa sites back in the day. These were fortified villages, where all that remains are the terraces and trail scars on the hill where man once made his mark hundreds of years ago.
Hanging on the edge of New Zealand
On the way back, we stop by the Muriwai Track and relax on a bed of long springy grass on the edge of New Zealand. No wonder the cows have such a blast here! This is also a great place to watch the sun setting, which casts some amazing shadows across the coast – shadows that Willie assures us are usually much more dramazing (the mix of “dramatic and “amazing”) but we do have a persistent rain cloud that sun just cannot shake off. It was a perfect example why Coromandel Adventures does a sunset tour to this beautiful part of New Zealand. With so many trees twisting around each other on the shore and scattered granite boulders, we can see why this place would be a dream for photo-loving backpackers.
Concluding our week in the west Coromandel
Night draws in and Willie calls his wife at home to get a status on the morepork owl. Unfortunately the morepork isn’t out yet, so he drives us back to the Coromandel Top 10 Holiday Park.
It’s been an amazing day with Coromandel Adventures, and we just can’t get over how kind the Kiwis are who we have met, from Wayne and T who spent all day with us despite the canyoning being cancelled and now to Willie going beyond the usual “tour guidelines” to cater a trip for us, even offering to show us the morepork! We are loving the Coromandel kindness over here!
This first week just on one side of a peninsula in New Zealand has been one big adventure so far. We’ll be sad to leave the hospitality, wild kauri forests and epic canyons of the west Coromandel, but, because we are annoyingly positive, we are super excited to see what the east holds for us as we drive over to Whitianga and Hot Water Beach tomorrow.
Crashing waves at Fletcher Bay
Ah yeah! We are always sharing more travel tips for New Zealand on our Facebook page.
For more information on some of the places we visited today, be sure to check out these articles: