We are stuck in Tauranga. We were all ready to move out, caravan packed, ute hitched up, then on a last inspection around the caravan Dave noticed that one of the springs was not where it should be, safely tucked up out of sight – instead it was on the ground behind and between the left rear wheels. So we can’t move, even carefully and slowly. The caravan will probably have to be loaded on a trailer and taken to a repair shop. We are supposed to be in Wellington in a week’s time -we put our ferry booking forward only the other day…!
Of course it is a Saturday and all possible useful businesses are closed, and even the big RV centre simply said – come back Monday. Luckily we still have a reasonable amount of fresh water – although we do regret having had showers this morning in anticipation of filling up the tank later today and also emptying the black and grey water tanks.
This is one time I am thankful we have a caravan and not a motorhome. With the latter we would be REALLY stuck. But with the ute we can still drive around, visit friends and shopping centres, etc. Even drive home leaving the caravan here if necessary. We are well stocked with food. The weather of course is still not co-operating, Today is grey and showery but not nearly as dreary as yesterday with its heavy rain. The ground is very soggy.
SO – a good time to catch up on the blog! And I have been neglecting it ….
Last I wrote we were in Tinopai. From there we drove through Matakohe to Auckland in the usual grey weather, deciding to keep going on the motorway all the way to Ardmore, where we caught up with the laundry. Then we were off heading east on minor roads to the western side of the Firth of Thames. There was a free camp along the shore but we decided to press on and it was good we did as the weather closed in yet again. We continued to Te Aroha.
Disappointingly the wonderful little Italian restaurant we visited some years ago is no longer there, the Info centre said they had ‘retired’. Rain, rain! A drive to Morrinsville to look at their “Herd of Cows” provided some entertainment! The first one is “Bonnie McCow”
After 2 rainy nights we shifted to Paeroa. By then I had developed a bad toothache but luckily had a prescription for antibiotic which my dentist had given me in anticipation of this happening, and thankfully it worked. Extensive dental treatment awaits me on our return home.
Paeroa is a lovely town. We were there years ago for the Highland Games and also the Street Racing, which was cancelled due to … rain! The main street is as full of antique shops as ever, it would take all day to check them all out.
On to the Coromandel via Thames without mishap. There were few signs of the recent cyclonic weather which caused so much damage. We negotiated the narrow twisty road up to Coromandel Town and were glad to nestle into the near-deserted NZMCA camp, found with much difficulty down an obscure laneway.
The Driving Creek railway which we visited years ago was still an irresistible attraction. It is the fantastic achievement of one man who spent years hacking through dense bush and at the same time starting a pottery which still attracts people from all over the world. We spent a happy morning on board the little train … zigzagging our way through bushland and coming upon quirky pottery objects in unexpected places
We did not drive right up to the tip of the peninsula, but we did explore some of the bays closer to Coromandel Town, and enjoyed a long mussels-in-cream-and-wine Mothers’ Day lunch at one of the many cafes. Quite a few of the mussels were still bearded but when mentioned to the waiter he simply said – “We can’t do much about them.”(!!) But they were so delicious it didn’t seem to matter. That was one of the few fine days as well …
From the Town we took the “main” road to Whitianga where we stayed several days. Normally absolutely packed with tourists, judging by the number of cafes, restaurants, gift shops, hotels, motels and holiday flats/houses, it was strangely quiet. It s actually winter up here!
There is another rather famous road between Coromandel Town and the east coast of the peninsula, called the 309 Road – we made it more or less a day trip. Extremely narrow and twisty the gravel road gores up and up and up … there are various attractions along the way, the closest back to Coromandel Town being a place where there are numerous pigs which feed on the roadside – signs everywhere exhorted people NOT to feed them – and a large collection of extremely decrepit old caravans and cars all covered with green slime and moss.According to Dave the pigs are descended from the original ‘Captain Cookers’ left in NZ by that esteemed gentleman to provide food for castaways etc in the future.
A little further back towards Whitianga a sort of fun place called the Waterworks full of quirky water-operated things made from old junk which children undoubtedly enjoy but we found rather so-so.
Back towards Whitianga there is a really nice little waterfall, the Waiau Falls, well worth the few minutes walk from the road.
We had booked a 2 hour cruise in a glass bottomed boat for the next morning. About half an hour before check-in time Dave received a phone call – a pod of orca (dolphins or ‘killer whales’) had been sighted in the harbour – if we could get to the wharf early, there was a good chance we would see them. There were 10 people booked in and all turned up within 10 minutes, and then we were off! 2 Kiwis (us), 2 Germans, 3 Welsh, 3 Americans … a motley crew.
We saw a couple of orca at a distance but after chasing around for some time we continued with the cruise proper, which took us some way down the east coast to a huge natural cave with a ceiling 40 metres high and in water 40 metres deep and absolutely teeming with fish. Awesome!
Then back a way to the famed Cathedral Cove, a natural rock formation with a curious peaked arch.
We also visited Seal Cove with a couple of resident NZ fur seals (not usually found that far north), and to the boundary of the Marine Reserve where seaweed still grew prolifically – in other areas previously fished out of lobster and crayfish, the Kina (spiky sea urchins) have taken over and eaten all the seaweed leaving a barren wasteland which is slowly regenerating.
The huge Mercury Bay is full of rocky islets and would take days to fully explore.
On the way back – orca!! This time we got up really close to a small pod which were grazing the rocks along the shoreline. One swam right up to and under our boat. One of the three young Welsh girls managed to capture the whole thing on video and was in tears afterwards, so overcome with emotion.
Then we went back to a fairly secluded beach where anyone who wanted to swim/snrorkel could do so – only the young German man decided to brave the cold water – and he had a wetsuit. He swam among huge snapper and obviously had a wonderful time.
Leaving next morning we first went to a nearby grey/black water dump point and were surprised to see a woman running after us – we still had the jockey wheel attached. Fortunately it was just off the ground so not damaged. Finally off to Waihi Beach, along the usual narrow twisty road, used by cars and large heavy vehicles alike. Always a little unnerving to round a sharp corner not sure of what lies ahead.
And so to Tauranga where we are in a NZMCA camp at Welcome Bay, some way out of town. Next morning, first a visit to Dave’s sister Beverley and her husband Bruce in a retirement village complex, then to our ex-neighbour Barbara and her menagerie of two, who we last caught up with when she was homesitting on the other side of the north island at Palmerston North.
And now we are stuck …..