Coromandel, NZ

Day 2

Rain is coming in a couple days. We have no dates ahead on our calendar that we need to ride to, so “living cheaply but comfortably in New Zealand” is our main goal. Despite the rain, this water-warmed peninsula covers the “comfortably” part, this holiday park covers the “cheaply” part, and the town of Coromandel has enough resources (grocery store, restaurants, etc.) to make this a feasible place to pause again.

My idea was to move from our tent site to one of the holiday park’s “cabins” (a tiny room with a triple-deck bunk bed, a small desk and a chair, and literally nothing else except that all-important roof!) We’d move tomorrow to make the living-through-rain more comfortable. At US$53, it was twice the price of our tent site, but that’s still below the long-term daily average that we spend on “rent”.

To Rett it made more sense to move today, to eliminate the chance of packing up a wet tent tomorrow morning. Three nice things about already spending a night at this holiday park is that we could look at the cabins to know exactly what we’d be getting, we knew they were in a quieter part of the park with the less-busy kitchen, and we could pick the specific unit that worked the best for us. Even better, when we talked to the office at 10am, they let us move in right then, and (without us even asking) said that we could store our bikes in a covered-but-rarely-used space off the kitchen. Perfect! Even better, we caught several rounds of showers starting well before we would have moved tomorrow morning, so Rett’s call to move today was totally the right one!

Our little “cabin” for a few nights (to the right is the kitchen building, which also has private bathrooms inside).
The view of a big flowering bush from our room.

Before the rains came, we did the Kauri Block Walk, which doesn’t actually bring you to any of the ancient native giant trees like you might expect. Instead, it brings you up to a good ridge-top viewpoint, and then through a forest with thousands of young kauri trees, part of an ambitious long-term project to restore the kauri forests that existed here before they fell to burning, the saw, or most-recently, disease.

Castle Rock, quite visible from the top of the Kauri Block Walk.
Looking back down to the Coromandel (our Top 10 Holiday Park is the host of the yellow trees) from a unusually well-cleared hilltop viewpoint.
Mussel farming out in the bay.
I’m not sure what this flower is, but in addition to the kauris, everything else in this forest also seemed very “native”. Manuka/kanuka bushes, fern trees, etc. Presumably if you’re heading out and planting all these seedlings, you take a moment to rip out some invasive species on your walk back.
A young kauri sapling.
The leaves growing directly from the trunk (also seen near the base of the tree in the previous photo), and the strange flat-topped “crown” that they all had, really communicate that this is a species that split off from the rest of tree-dom a long time ago and went its own way here in New Zealand.
This must have been one of the first-planted seedlings 20 years ago. It shows the next stage in kauri morphology, but this shape is just as different from ancient kauri shapes as it is from the spindly youngsters.
A bright rock/island in the bay, which we walked along as we looped back from the kauri walk.

Days 3 and 4

Friday had some light showers, but Saturday had heavy falls for most of the day. It also had the most-crowded holiday park of our stay, so rather than competing for kitchen space, we went out to the Coromandel Hotel for dinner. It was an extremely “local” place, from the 77-year-old guy who greeted us at the door and told us how the place worked, but was just a customer himself (I later joined him at his barstool to chat while we waited for our meal), to the big crowd that gathered for the award ceremony of the fishing competition (“where do I recognize that girl from? Oh, she works at the Four Square!”), to the guy outside on the sidewalk urinating into a vacant lot next door. Good stuff!

Back “home”, we fired up our portable movie projector for the first time in forever, since the room has no TV, and essentially no WiFi either (the one mark against it).

Maori figures in Coromandel.

Rett decided she wanted to hike the Pinnacles Track, which is two day’s ride south. Leaving tomorrow would make it two days of riding into headwinds, and get us there sooner than the prime weather days. So we decided to book one more night here; the weather would have been fine to move back to our tent, but we’re spoiled lazy people, so we just took another night in our cabin.

Day 5

Today we completed our course on kauri evolution by going to see “The Big Kauri Tree”. The public track curiously starts from within another holiday park (another example of New Zealanders being open to letting the public through private land). It took us on a nice water’s edge trail before rising up to the kauri forest.

Tuck’s Bay, which despite having a camping area on it (or maybe because the camping area was completely empty) felt million miles from anywhere.
The camping area had a rope swing that Rett relieved of its loneliness.
Apparently Ludo went to live out his days high in a New Zealand forest after one-and-done-ing his acting career with ‘Labyrinth’ (also he’s grown to be 20 feet long, even bigger than he was in the movie).
Before we reached the Big Kauri, we reached a young-adult kauri forest (much bigger and older than anything we saw in the seedling forest, so presumably natural), something we haven’t seen yet in our (admittedly minimal) kauri experience.
Young adult kauris growing straight and tall.
I believe we have found the “Big Kauri Tree”.
Unlike other big kauris we’ve seen, whose defining characteristic is a trunk rising high with almost perfect straightness (like the young-adult above, but much fatter), this one splays out into massive branches relatively close to the ground. 
And also even the straight part of the trunk doesn’t have the perfect circularity we’ve seen, but that somehow just adds to the impression of massive weight.

Redwoods easily outgrow kauris in both height and width, but something about kauris just makes them feel incredibly heavy. Maybe it’s the relative thinness and solidity of their bark, vs. an ancient redwood’s massive soft furrows that creates that illusion, or, maybe they are unusually dense, and our tiny human forms can subconsciously feel their gravity drawing us toward them.


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