This morning I get up early (07:00) and start driving quickly to utilise daylight as much as possible. It occurs to me that the runrises are quite beautiful here: blue skies with pink clouds. Sofar I did not have a clear sight on them.
First I visit Hunua Falls. This early in the morning I am the only one here. This waterfall is not particularly special, but photogenic it definitely is. Light conditions are far from perfect, however.
After a couple of photographs I head on to Coromandel Peninsula. The interesting part for me is on it’s east side. Soon, I discover that it will take a couple of hours to get there and I am going to arrive in late morning. The east coast is an early morning location and the west coast an afternoon location. Along the coast runs a beautiful road up until Port Jackson in the north and back via the east coast to Whitianga. I think it is better to follow this route clockwise to arrive in the east in the evening. This way I will be at the right spot tomorrow morning when the sun rises.
The landscape south of Auckland is more even, still hilly but there is a much broader sense of space. In the direction of Coromandel Peninsula the terrain is getting more mountainous. Not high, but steep.
The coastal road on the west side is a very beautiful route. A major part of the route runs very close to and along the water, where large wetlands sometimes are alternated by pebble beaches with old trees along them. These trees flower most of the year (red), but now there are no flowers.
On the beaches, I see these same birds as I saw yesterday in the river.
The best way to photograph a bird up close is to approach very, very slowly and take photographs as you go. Otherwise, chances are that you end up with nothing. I take some 20+ photographs of this guy before he thinks I am too close and takes off.
They seem to be seabirds after all.
The road is getting narrower, steeper and has a lot more curves in the north. Also, the asphalt is replaced by gravel. After a while, the road diverts from the coast and goes inland,…
…to appear again at the coast for the last part. This time much higher then the first part. Getting closer to the north, the road is getting truly spectacular.
You really have to keep a sharp lookout here, as you can only look some 50 meters ahead because of all the turns. Here the road gets single lane as well.
One time I am surprised by a couple of guys on trikes equiped with cages with dogs in it. They really drive like a madman and seem to be used to the fact that they have to avoid oncoming traffic once in a while.
Close to the north I notice a signpost ‘Ford’. A couple of hundred meters further I have to progress through water indeed. It is only some 10-15 centimeters and the soil consists of pebbles, but I am not entirely sure how easy this is going to be with two-wheel drive. The stream is only two meters wide, but the surface rises quite steep on the other side. I decide to keep my speed to get the front wheels on the other side. Through the water is easy. The front wheels slip a bit on the other side, but soon after I have crossed it completely. The road continues for a couple of kilometers and then ends…?
It appears that there has been a road in the past, but that one has been replaced by a footpath. It would take 3 hours walking to get to the other side of the peninsula, where the road can be driven again. Thus, continuing is not an option and I have to retrace the same road. Amazing how different the landscape looks like when you drive in the opposite direction.
I have to cross that stream again with the car. This is still a bit scary with a conventional car. I decide to take it slowly this time, because this side is quite steep. The front underside of the car bangs unexpectedly hard to the ground. Gladly, I am not driving as fast as the first time.
After half an hour I am hearing a rattling noise that I can not identify. I stop to have a look at the underside of the car. There I notice a considerable amount of fluid running away. If this has been going on for half an hour already, then something might be very close to empty now. I smell it and it seems to be just water. For a minute I think I have damaged the radiator, but that contains cooling fluid, not just plain water, or do they use water here? Quickly, I take some photographs of a pebble beach I have seen earlier.
Both have been processed differently to emphasize their respective qualities.
After this quick stop, I continue quickly to get to the first village and keep a sharp eye on the temperature. Everything stays normal and later I think that it most probably has been water running away from the airco.
Back in Coromandel, I notice that a waterfall and a Kauri Grove are only 11 kilometers further. Because there is still more than 3 hours of daylight and it is only 50 minutes driving to Whitianga (the destination for tonight) I decide to add this small detour.
The waterfall is a bit difficult to find, but it is really worth the effort. Close to the falls, there is nice view on the forest and a mountain in the distance. Because the foliage is quite high close to the road I have to shoot from a high position, not being able to check the viewfinder. It takes a couple of tries before the composition is of my liking.
To get to the falls, I have to follow a path through dense foliage down from the road to the river. And what a surprise! This is a handsome waterfall. The few people that are here are just leaving and soon I have the scene completely for myself.
A really beautiful setting with various angles possible to shoot from. Soon I have been photographing for an hour here.
I try something new as well, that I invented during the previous visit in Canada. Taking a lot of photographs with a shuttertime of 1/2 second very quickly one after another. It should be possible to make a short movie this way, with very slow flowing smokey water. I am very curious whether it works or not.
The camera appears to be able to take around 50 photographs on full speed (2 seconds of video) before the buffer fills up and things start to slow down. A faster memory card is really necessary apparently. Most likely, a few sets of 50 photographs will be sufficient for a nice little movie.
The movie will be prepared at a later stage and added here.
The Kauri Grove
Het Kauri forest is a bit further down the road. Arriving there, I notice several shattered carwindows on the ground. This is clearly a place where cars are broken into on a regular basis. There are no other cars around and I decide to leave it. Going back, I stop to photograph a tree fern…
…and a beautiful patch of forest, full of them.
Through the Mountains to Whitianga
Finally, I follow a winding road through the mountains to Whitianga. Here it becomes clear that my first subject for tomorrow morning: Cathedral Cove is unreachable over land because the path has been flushed away as a result of recent storms. The last time I was here, I already had to stop trying to visit it, because of a tendon inflamation. Cathedral Cove can be reached by boat, but I think I will let it go. It takes far to much time to visit it. I can spend my time better tomorrw, by driving to Rotorua.
Whitianga is a typically touristic place at a bay. Finding a motel, takes a lot of time. Every motel I try, I either encounter the “No Vacancy” sign or they are already closed. At the only motel I can find, they know this of course and they have a studio with bayview: tadaaaaaaa that is the jackpot. This is the most expensive night sofar. I negotiate a little bit, but the price sticks at 165 dollars.
I already said that I will take it, but the owner keeps recommending her studio: ‘You ‘ve got your baysight and you ‘ve got your queen size bed and you ‘ve your kitchen’. After the fourth time, I am becoming a bit fed up with this, ‘just give me the key’.
Apart from this, the owners are just nice people. The husband is a bit weird though. His left eye is located more than 1 centimeter higher in his head than his right eye. It is really a weird face, kind of a cyclops but differently. I would like to take a photograph of it, but think that he is not going to appreciate this. They do not have internet by the way, but that was immediately obvious. I wonder whether they know it exists at all.
The studio is ok. I can have my dinner outside on the balcony in the sun and enjoy my ‘bayview’. This privilege ends quickly because darkness sets in and there are two bright burning street lanterns shining straight into the studio.
I am on the first floor and it has a dividing door to the bathroom that has to be closed at night. Soon after, I discover why. The living room of the owners is next to mine and their bedroom is as well. These people go to bed very early and the floors are all wooden here. Soon you do not dare to set any step on the floor anymore.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
For a reason I do not understand, I am missing a part of the GPS information. The route from Auckland via Preece Point to Colville and back to Preece Point, is not included. The amount of kilometers on top of the page is correct though.
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.