December 12th – 15th: Coromandel Peninsula

Our drive toward the Coromandel Peninsula took us on NewZealand’s Pacific Coast Highway — sound familiar? (The tree with red blossoms in the background of this picture is the Pohutukawa, which we’d seen before but without its flowers — it blooms in late December, earning its nickname as New Zealand’s Christmas tree.)

The other Pacific Coast Highway.

The other Pacific Coast Highway.

We stayed in the teeny seaside town of Hahei for two days, soaking up sun and saltwater on the beach, and Becky even got a little sunburned. We managed to go swimming for a bit, cold as it was, until a rogue wave knocked us over and thievishly made off with Becky’s sunglasses. At nearby Hot Water Beach, we joined the crowds to dig our own hot saltwater pools in the sand, which are fed by underground, geothermally heated water.

A full moon rising over the beach at Hahei.

A full moon rising over the Pacific Ocean and the beach at Hahei.

We traveled on to Coromandel Town on the other side of the peninsula. The nearby Driving Creek Railroad was built over the course of twenty-six years by a local potter, who uses it to get clay from the nearby mountainside to his workshop. We got to ride the narrow-gauge railway up to a great viewpoint of the surrounding forest reserve and coastline.

All aboard!

All aboard!

Looking down from the punnily named Eyefull Tower at the end of the Driving Creek Railroad.

Looking down from the punnily named Eyefull Tower at the end of the Driving Creek Railroad.

Our last hurrah in the Coromandel was an afternoon sailing trip aboard the Trifecta, a nearly 30-foot trimaran sailing boat that was built from scratch by the skipper/owner who took us out. We were the only two people who’d booked for that day, so we ended up getting a spectacular personalized trip and one-on-one basic sailing instruction.

Jonathan tries his hand at the helm while Becky scrambles along the front of the hull to take pictures.

Jonathan tries his hand at the helm while Becky scrambles along the front of the hull to take pictures.

We drove on to Auckland, where we are now —cleaning out our little car and packing up to fly home on the 17th (and arrive nine hours earlier than our time of departure!). It’ll be hard to leave this place, especially now that summer’s really getting into full swing, but it’ll be good to return to some cold weather for Christmas — the Kiwi beach barbeque for the holidays seems just a little too otherworldly!

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