Saturday 25 April
Today we collected our bikes! How brilliant! And with a special custom made rack attached to the back of the van, off we went from Auckland, early afternoon, heading east this time into…..into…..well, actually further into paradise! Because we’d had such a long drive this morning we didn’t make Coromandel today, but opted to stop short at Kaiaua across the strait from Coromandel. Our guide book had suggested a free camping spot in the car park of Kaiaua Boating Club, in a tiny village on the coast! On arrival, we found that today (Anzac Day) was the end of season fishing competition at the club, with a bar and band to celebrate! So in we went, parked up, cooked bacon and egg sandwiches (obviously). Lots of other camper vans around, and the boats full of fisherman just arriving back for the grand weigh in. All very nice. And of course spectacular views!
Parked next to us was a huge camper van. It was actually an old bus that had been converted. The occupants were a couple of 70+ year olds. The lady came to chat with us. She was the spitting image of Charlotte’s mother Josephine! Complete with fag permanently in mouth! Well, we had a pleasant chat, and then….. well, I’m still a little shell shocked by it really. I don’t really know how to write this, but I feel I have to. So, she was telling us how much better it is in the South Island (as everybody does) and proceeded to say “it’s so much better there as there’s hardly any darkies, much better without them”! Her words, not mine. It’s just not what we expected to hear! We were absolutely gobsmacked! It’s such an awful thing to believe, let alone say it to complete strangers. But I’ll come back to this later……
Anyway, we had a brilliant bike ride down the lovely flat coastal road and along the track on the beach. It’s so good to be able to cycle again, and we’ve got the bikes for 5 weeks now! Magnificent!
The other amazing thing about this spot is that there is a fish and chip shop across the road! Yes!!! We had chips and snapper for dinner! Excellent!!!
Then we couldn’t resist a visit to the club house bar. This was a proper experience!!! Very drunk, but very friendly locals! With a band of 14 year olds playing covers of classic rock tracks! And at one point they decided the bar should be free, and so it was!!! One of the committee members, Mike, took it upon himself to look after us – at 70 yrs old, Mike had moved to NZ 45 years ago, having grown up in Potters Bar where we used to live! He emigrated as a 10 pound Pom! He only intended to travel through NZ, but has been here ever since. Let’s just say he was a character. Silver hair in a pony tail, married about 234 times, and just retired as a psycho analyst. And very drunk. Quite entertaining for a while, but gradually becoming quite boring! I got the impression he was latched on to us as all the others were fed up of him!! Anyway, after a few beers (Speights Ale! Lovely! But sadly no photos of it!) seeing as how he was an educated person, Charlotte asked him about the blatantly racist comments we had earlier heard. Hmmm. Mike started off well, explaining a bit about the Maori history (which I’m going to read more about) but then spiralled off into “Look at Britain, you’re all too PC for your own good” etc etc. When I suggested that actually it was nothing to do with being PC, but why shouldn’t any person of any race be able to live where they wanted in harmony, he didn’t seem to understand that concept.
Maybe we’d inadvertently stumbled across the party night of the local Ku Klux Klan….
I’m desperately trying not to stereotype, as it’s only been the views of a few people, and Charlotte’s telling me not to generalise, but I see a common theme…… Well, we’ve got another 6 weeks to further research!
Sunday 26 April
We escaped the Annual Assembly of the New Zealand National Front without further confrontation! Heading further into the Coromandel Peninsula we by passed Coromandel itself and headed to Cathedral Cove (time is our enemy here, as we need to be on the ferry crossing a week on Wednesday, and we just can’t see everything! I’ve also set a limit at 3 hours driving a day at most, as I’m on holiday!) We stopped on the way at Hahei Beach where of course I cooked up bacon, egg and beans! But the carpark at Cathedral Cove was ram packed (it’s a Bank Holiday weekend here for the Anzac memorial celebrations), and we’ve become very adverse to other people!! So we headed a few miles north to Cook’s Beach and once again found a beautiful spot right on the sand, all to ourselves! These locations never fail to impress me!
We had an hour’s biking to Ferry Landing and back (considered taking the ferry to Whitianga but decided the £9 return fare for the two of us would be better spent on beer) and a walk to Lonely Bay, which was nothing short of stunning – a cove a couple of hundred metres long, and our footprints being the only ones on the beach. (On the way, we passed a tiny cove, only about 10m long, which Charlotte insisted was Lonely Bay. It was only by accident we stumbled across the real thing further on. I named Charlotte’s bay Pathetic Bay).
Cook’s Beach is lovely, but a tiny place. Intrigued, we followed the signs to the “Town Centre” to find a small shop and a fish and chip shop! To give you an idea of what it’s like, there was a guy in the shop, in his 20s, very hippyish, and he’d ridden there on his horse! Bareback! Brilliant! However, all the houses are incredible and look immaculate.
A local came to chat with us at the van. Aged in his 50s, long hair, completely spaced out, and with many missing teeth (I’d fit in well here!). It seems that everyone we meet just fishes and drinks! No one works! How does that happen? What’s the secret? Sounds like a perfect life to me!
Once again the International Surveillance team have caught up with me, and HMS BobNNeil has moored in the bay to watch me.
I feel sorry for them actually, as I don’t seem to do much except enjoy myself! I can just imagine the log –
0800 – Subject Wok Smuggler wakes up, smiles, and laughs to himself.
0900 – WS strolls along the beach, fag in hand, looking far too happy for his own good
1030 – WS opens a bottle of Steinlager. He is still smiling. Sits outside van and makes bacon and egg sandwiches on the barbie.
1130 – Mrs WS blocks the van’s toilet. Again.
(Wok Smuggler was a nickname given to me at work, suggesting I look like I’m carrying a wok under my shirt! Outrageous! Ironically, it was conjured up by Aidy, who I can only presume has fairground mirrors fitted at his home to make himself look slimmer. Aidy is the only person I know who can go to a Chinese eat-all-you-can buffet and finish the lot! He’s bankrupted many establishments! It’s entertaining to watch his attempt at a diet every September, one week before he goes on his annual 3 week pilgrimage to Thailand, in a desperate effort to lose 18 stone. The Thai resort looks forward to his yearly visit as it means an extra 47 jobs in the kitchen, and 315 new jobs at the local off license. Poor old Mrs Aidy. A major player at an A & E dept, did she envisage whilst stood at the altar all those years ago that one day she’d have to assist with emergency surgery on her husband’s “farmer Giles”??!!)
Missing you Aidy, son!!
Found a scale model of Aidy’s haemorrhoids on the beach this evening……
Monday 27 April
Well, the weather’s taken a turn overnight! Windy and rainy, yet still 17 degrees, so all is not lost. Apparently we’re getting the tail end of a storm from Australia. I don’t mind that, as long as the Aussies promise not to send us any more of their pissy Fosters too… Fosters, it’s safer to drink that rather than Coke when you’re driving. Less alcohol content.
We went back to Cathedral Cove, which was spectacular. And only us there! The joy of seclusion! Another perfect beach!
Following the two hour walk we drove for a few hours to Taurangi in heavy rain. It’s a lovely place, with Main Beach (voted on Tripadvisor as the 2nd best beach in NZ), but because of the weather and an inbuilt Yorkshire trait which refuses to permit me to pay for camping, we’ve moved further down the coast to Papamoa. And here we are, all alone on the beach edge watching the sea raging in, and being buffeted about by high winds! Steve, we’re just down the road from your old house (we’re at Harrison Cut leading onto Papamoa Beach if that makes sense to you), which off course we visited!
What the hell were you thinking moving from here to England???? You should be certified insane!!!! I can only presume that you’re on the run from some heinous crime!
We’ve had an hour of planning the next 8 days, and have come up with a route. As we want to do the Tongariro Crossing (the best one day trek in NZ, 20 km long) we’re having to miss Lake Waikeramoana as the distance is just too much. But we’ve got Rotorua, Taupo and Turangi and plenty of hot springs on offer. And then another 4 weeks in the South Island!
The weather report shows a new warm front coming in from tomorrow! Yay!!!!!
Also been watching the news about Nepal and the whole region. Absolutely tragic. It seems to us that so much is going on at the moment with natural disasters. Just in Chile alone there’s been so many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and never-seen-before flooding. Even part of the Tongariro Crossing has been closed recently due to increased volcanic activity. Something is going on.
We were hoping to go to Nepal, but it’s probably not going to happen now.
I’ve just been out for a little cigarette on the beach. It’s still very blustery, but a warm wind, and so I’m still in my shorts. Charlotte is cooking bolognese, and there are plenty of Steinlagers in the fridge. All is well!
Tomorrow, launderette in the morning, then off to Rotorua for gueysers and hot springs! Tally ho!!
Tuesday 28 April
Woke up to a beautiful morning after a very windy night (and that was just Charlotte….). So we were able to see Papamoa Beach for the first time which is lovely.
A successful visit to the launderette was followed by another traumatic experience of toilet emptying, not in the least bit helped by Charlotte using it only 30 minutes before I had to deal with it! It’s not a precise science, it is quite simply a case of holding the cassette over the specified hole (direct into the sewer) and then aiming and pouring! Without going into too much detail, let’s just describe my turmoil with the words “lumpy”, “badly aimed” and “splash back “. Mrs Rock is coming close to being banned from using this toilet…..
Rotorua. What a strange place! It’s built on thermal springs, so every where you go there is water boiling, pavements steaming and a pervading sulphuric smell (having spent 21 years in the company of Charlotte’s boisterously bombastic bottom I’m quite used to this). And thousands of black swans on the lake! We’re at a proper camp site tonight and have just been relaxing in their thermal pools! Bloody hell! Pretty much too hot for me to sit in! I think I’ve been broiled! Later I’m going to stick a lobster in it to cook!
Geysers and mud pools tomorrow on our way to what looks like a stunningly beautiful wild camping spot at Kinloch on Lake Taupo.