Day 1 and 2.
It’s going quite well driving in the left side of the road (also got some practice last year in Scotland), and it’s a big help to have automatic gearbox. I drive from Auckland to Thames for supplies – it takes quite some time to find what I’m looking for in a store with brands not familiar. It’s very nice to drive along the coast in the sunset, and with all the turns and ups and downs there are no risks of getting sleepy. South of Coromandel the landscapes also open up with green hills and surrounding sea and I really start to recognize the photos from New Zealand. I sleep at a free camp site just opposite a police station – it’s very convenient with the Rankers Campsite app, where you can find the location, facilities, and reviews of a lot of camp sites. Next morning I get up early, since I have planned to see Cathedral Cove, which should be best around low tide – and low tide is at 5:25 am and there is both a long drive and afterwards walk. The weather is sunny and I decent to the beach, noticing my worst enemy: the no-drone sign (and my backpack is full of such equipment…). With the many people I keep it in the backpack, and enjoy the beautiful sight and refreshing water to walk in. Arriving 3 hours after low tide is still fine, and I can make my way through the cove in shorts, to get photos from the other side.
I drive a bit south to see the hot water beach where people dig holes in a confined area on the beach – so they can have a private spa. The hot water is also mainly 2 hours before and after low-tide, so I knew I would be late. There are no people this late, and only holes and a spade revealing what has happened. A little (dirty?) water still remains in some holes, and it’s really hot for my feet. Else, the beach is very nice, and the waves come shoaling in.
Next stop is Karangaheke Gorge, mainly to see the waterfall Owharoa but there is also a short historic railway track. It goes through a long dark tunnel (only pedestrians and cyclists), and I have brought a head lamp – but there is reasonable lit so not strictly necessary. The waterfall is one of many in New Zealand (more than 200+ named waterfalls) and also on the list of must-see, see link below. I go by the gorge in my return to the car park.
In Matamata I get my ticket for Hobbiton tomorrow – the location used to film parts of my favorite movies. I have really been looking forward to experiencing this location and get another layer of magic. I have always been fun of such universe, and have played numerous computer games (not counting hours) as my favorite character – Mage, preferable fire mage.
I’m yet again lucky with my freedom camping, and get a very nice spot with view to a river, hills and trees. The river is being used for water skiing and water scooters at quite high speed.