Fucking Coromandel

I have (largely) tried to avoid annoying in-jokes with this blog, as well as attempting to temper my brash propensity for swearing. (Look, they’re just words, okay, they hold power in context like any other words, but there isn’t anything inherently immoral about their particular arrangement of letters. What? This isn’t the point of the blog entry? Oh. Sorry.)

The point is that I’ve failed on both counts with this title. There’s that horrible big f-word right up there out front (sorry, mum) and unless I met you in YHA Paihia (Molly, Felicia, Connor, Richard, Robert, Robin, hi guys!), it won’t mean anything to you at all.

But I’m going to rectify that now: over five months ago, while up in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, I determined to visit the Coromandel peninsula. Except it was impossible. Every plan I thought up failed to fit in with my existing commitments, and eventually I gave up, blaming the place itself for my inability to reach it. Fucking Coromandel became my mantra and mentioning the place in my presence became our hostel’s version of poking a wounded animal with a sharp stick.

Well no more! For I am thrilled to announce to all of you that I have visited the Coromandel (it only took six months), and it is most excellent. A northwards-jutting peninsula just a couple of hours’ drive from Auckland, Coromandel is a hugely popular tourist destination for Kiwis and foreigners alike, and allegedly heaves through the summer months. When I visit in early autumn, it’s desperately quiet, and frankly I’m suspicious that it’s ever that busy: the New Zealand definition of crowded is having to share the bus with the driver.

I tick off all the tourist stopping points on my two-day drive around the coast: quaint Coromandel Town, majestic Cathedral Cove, the famous Hot Water Beach where you can dig your own personal spa in the sand at low tide, sitting and waiting as it fills with warm water from underground springs. Despite this, the biggest highlight is the drive itself, especially up the western side of the peninsula, as the road threads its way along the line of the sea. Far North Coromandel is nothing but gravel roads for literally hours, but I’m rewarded with desolate bays and falling views of cliff and frothy water. At Port Jackson Bay, I park the car by the beach and spend the night in my sleeping bag in the passenger’s seat, looking out over dark waters and being gently lulled by the fierce black waves.

There’s one more location to mention here, and for once I feel like I’ve uncovered something myself. Though the splendour of most of New Zealand is well documented and conversed upon by travellers, I have never heard anyone mention – nor seen significant reference to – the place I stumbled upon on my lengthy drive from Gisborne, via Tauranga, to the Coromandel. Just south of the peninsula on SH2 lies Karangahake Gorge, a breathtaking river canyon that is a (literal) minefield of labyrinthine tunnels and caves. Karangahake used to be a gold mine, as well as part of the route of an old railway. Bring a torch and you can spend hours exploring forbidding and atmospheric routes through the cliffs themselves, encountering abandoned rail tracks and glow-worms in the depths of the hills. Maybe it’s just that I love exploration, but this place basically felt to me like a theme park. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone travelling through: it’s what the guidebooks like to call a hidden gem, and you can thank me later.

Snapshots of NZ

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One thought on “Fucking Coromandel

  1. Pingback: The End | Fof's Off

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