Stage 8: Start of the North Island Tour


Our stop in Auckland was brief. We had changed our plans for the tour of the North Island by deciding to include the Coromandel, a beautiful peninsula about two hours (by car) east of Auckland and a ‘must see’.

January 18, 2005 We left Auckland by train, since leaving a large busy city by bike in morning rush hour can be a challenge. We started with a short bike ride to the ferry in Devonport (about 7km), then a quick ferry ride to downtown Auckland. From there it was just a block to the train station.

At Papakura, about 30 km outside Auckland, we got off the train, onto our bikes, and made or way to Thames, a small town on the southwest corner of the Coromandel, where spent our first night.

January 19, 2005 From Thames we went up the west coast of the Coromandel and rode along a flat road that followed the shoreline to the town of Coromandel. There we spent the second night.

cormandel-view-eastJanuary 20,  2005 Leaving the town of Coromandel we faced a VERY steep hill just outside the town. It was too steep to cycle with loaded bikes, so we both walked. The hill was still a challenge; pushing a loaded bike up a steep hill for an hour is not easy. By the time we got to the top, we had set our worst speed record so far: 4km/h.

coromandel-view-westThese photos are looking east (above) and west (left) from the top of the hill.

heheh-beachOnce we made it over the hill we cycled east, got to Whitianga, where we took a little ferry across an inlet, and ended our day in Hahei, a touristy but pretty little beach town. We had booked our accommodation only a few days earlier and were happy to see it was a spacious motel unit, steps from the town’s small shopping area and only a few hundred meters to the beach.

Hahei beach is one of the most attractive beaches we’ve seen. As soon as we got ourselves organized, we went for a walk along the beach and found these kids playing with the rope swing at the south end of the beach.

Surfing and boogie boards are a big thing in New Zealand, and I enjoy seeing kids, even as young as three or four years old, drag along their little boogie-boards and play in the surf.

cathedral-cove-ingeJanuary 21, 2005 Cathedral Cove is one of the most famous spots on the Coromandel. Before we left for the day, we walked there from our motel (about a 45 minutes) and it was well worth the trip. Cathedral Cove appears in most tourist brochures and it’s easy to become blasé about it, but when you see the real thing, it is very impressive and awe-inspiring.

cathedral-cove-south-endCathedral Cove seen from the south end. Looking through the tunnel, you can see rock that is shown in the next picture.
cathedral-cove-rockAt one time, this rock was connected to the main rock face along the beach. Looking out over the water from Cathedral Cove, and many other places along the Coromandel, you can see pinnacles like this sticking out of the water.
cathedral-cove-distant-view View of Cathedral Cove from a distance. The tunnel through the rock is not visible here, but you can see the pinacle just beyond it. You can see caves that may eventually become more tunnels.
Hahei Beach seen from above.hahei-beach

coromandel-hot-water-beachFamous Hot Water Beach–a small stretch of beach, a few kilometers from Hahei. Ususally you need only dig one or two feet down and hot water comes bubbling up from the ground, creating warm pool to soak in. However, when we were there little water bubbled up and it was no warmer than the ocean. Nevertheless, many people were packed in this tiny area, sitting in puddles of luke warm water. Not my idea of good time, but entertaining to see.

karangahake-gorgeJanuary 25, 2005 From Hahei we cycled to  Omokoroa Beach, just west of Tauranga, and visited with our friend Kaye. She’s a Kiwi I met in Canada  years ago and she does a great job hosting and tour-guiding. In the morning she drove to various sites that we wouldn’t have been able to cover by bike. This picture is at an old gold mine in the Karangahake Gorge. Many of the tunnels are still open and you can explore them.

tauranga-mountAfter our sightseeing earlier in the day we spent the afternoon in the shade and coolness of Kaye’s home. Towards dinner time, when the temperature became bearable again, we drove out to Tauranga to do the “mountain”. The mount is at the end of a peninsula that is part of the city of Tauranga. It’s about a 40-minute climb to get to the top. Here we’re at the top. Brandon, Kaye’s son, had joined us for this expedition.
tauranga-mount-benchKaye’s ‘personal’ bench at the top of the mount. A great spot to sit and rest with a view over the Bay of Plenty and the town of Tauranga. After we hiked back down into the town, we had a pizza and ice cream picnic dinner on the beach on the right.