Trip to Hamilton, the Coromandel and the
A year after Andy took a
with BJ up to Hamilton and the Coromandel, the trip was repeated. Only
this time, the plan was to take in a few more places and also their
respective partners came along. So, BJ's car was packed full with bags
and Andy and Jenny slotted onto the back seats of the Subaru to
accompany BJ and his partner Fiona on a journey to the Northern half of
the North Island.
The original plan for the trip was to take in as many NPC (National
Provincial Championship a.k.a. Air New Zealand Cup - the national club
tournament for rugby) games as possible. As such, on our trip we were
expecting to take in matches between Waikato and Taranaki, Counties
Manukau and North Harbour and finally Auckland and Northland. A couple
of local derbies were in the mix and it was the final week of the round
robin league of the tournament with plenty at stake. Waikato, Taranaki,
Auckland and Northland were all sitting around the number 8 position in
the NPC table and were thus on the edge of making the quarter-finals
which would start the following week. It would be a major shock if
Waikato or Auckland failed to make the knockout stages have been the
tournament winners in the previous couple of seasons.
Our tour started with the standard drive up from Wellington towards the
Central Plateau and the now standard views of the three main mountains
from the Desert Road. BJ was so distracted taking occasional glances at
the snow-capped mountains that he took his eye briefly off his
speedometer and got pulled over by a local policeman and copped a spot
fine. Anyway, we pulled over and decided to take a more stationary look
at the view.
couple of views of Mount Ruapehu
After traversing the Central Plateau, the first stop on our tour was in
Taupo where we attempted the Lake Taupo Hole In One Challenge. This is
a raft out on the lake which has 3 or 4 golf holes on it. The raft is
placed about 100 yards offshore. If you manage to hit the ball into the
hole with one shot, then you win some cash. We failed. We then
attempted a similar challenge at the Taupo Prawn Park. Once again, we
So we hit the road again, the short distance to Orakei Korako Thermal
Park. This is an area located about 20-30 kilometres North-West of
Taupo where you get to watch geothermal processes in action. You take a
ferry for a short ride across a lake and you are dropped off at the
foot of a geothermally warmed stream, coloured by mineral deposits. You
can walk around for a few miles, ducking into caves and the like.
couple of pictures from Orakei Korako. On the left, out on the main
thermal cascades... Unfortunately obscured by Andy. The picture on the
left shows Jen holed up in one of the caves on site.
were soon on our
way again. We stopped for lunch in a cafe in Tokoroa, before finishing
the first driving leg at a motor lodge in Hamilton. Having arrived, we
prepared ourselves for the first NPC game on tour; between Waikato and
Taranaki. Waikato are the more 'fashionable' team of the pair, having
won the NPC back in 2006 and their first team features a host of All
Blacks - Stephen Donald, Liam Messam, Richard Kahui, Sione Lauaki, Mils
Muliaina and Sitiveni Sivivatu as well as cult hero, Callum Bruce.
Taranaki on the other hand could only call on the services of lock
Jason Eaton for that international experience; their other All Black,
Andrew Hore was injured. Taranaki's Loose Forward, Scott Waldrom had
such a successful NPC season that he was later to gain an international
relative strength of the two teams, Taranaki found themselves in a more
favourable position on the ladder at kick off whilst Waikato found
themselves just outside the top eight and a bonus point win was
game itself was
an absolute belter. Some frequently poor defense from both sides was
regularly overwhelmed by some fantastic attacking endeavour. This meant
tries galore was the order of the day; with the away team from the
Taranaki surging into a decent lead. Waikato switched things
around in the 2nd half and came back to win 45 points to 41 despite
Sione Lauaki being sin-binned with 5 minutes left on the clock (match
pictures from the Waikato vs. Taranaki match. The left shows Waikato
(red, black and yellow) attempting to win the turnover by getting men
into the ruck. The right hand picture shows BJ with his recently
purchased Waikato Cowbell (the Waikato team's nickname is the Mooloos,
their mascot is a cow and their fans all rattle cowbells). Jen and
Fiona look amused.
We stayed overnight in the Waikato, but departed early the next morning
on the next leg of our journey - to the top of the Coromandel
Peninsular. On the way, we drove through the flat, green pastures of
Waikato up towards the tall stand-out hill at Te Aroha and past the big
L&P bottle at Paeroa. Shortly after, we stopped at the
This is a short, loop walking track amongst old, derelict gold mine
workings and along the long-since removed track bed of the former East
Coast Trunk Railway. The track criss-crosses over the narrow
Karangehake River and past abandoned stamping batteries and old
concrete buildings. If you take a torch, you can go in some of the gold
mine buildings which are still standing. Also on the walk is a tunnel
that's over a kilometre long which the railway used to run through. The
walls are soot lined from the past, and also covered with the more
modern affliction of graffiti.
left picture shows one of several bridges that cross the Karangehake
Gorge on the walk. Jen, Fiona and BJ cross. The right hand picture
shows Andy standing near the entrance to the kilometre long rail tunnel.
walk took about
an hour, and thereafter we were straight back on the road. A quick stop
in Waihi followed, before we reached the Coromandel Peninsular. We
drove up the scenic Route 25, through the seaside town of Whangamata
before a quick stop for another walk at more abandoned mine workings at
Broken Hills. This was the site of both the mine and of an abandoned
village. This proved to be particularly interesting when we wandered
into a cave marked "The Old Gaol" and found a 'fake' skeleton (see
pictures below). The skeleton was made out of animal bones and had a
coconut for a head. Whoever had made the skeleton had even gone to the
trouble of providing it wear a pair of glasses and some worn out
next stop on
the journey was the Hot Water Beach that BJ and Andy had stopped at on
their trip the previous year. This time, we stayed for a little while
longer, even digging our own spa bath out of the beach.
was all then set
for the final driving leg of the day - the long windy road up to Port
Jackson at the Northern tip of the Coromandel. A stop in Coromandel
town for provisions was followed by the slow drive up the unsealed Port
Jackson Road. The road was very narrow and provided a tough driving
challenge for BJ. For the passengers in the car, however, the road
provided a picturesque interlude on the trip as the road huddled along
the coastline for the majority of its length.
in Port Jackson was a rented bach that had proved to be quite a bargain
between the 4 of us. The fact that it could have taken more than double
that number meant that we harboured the idea of a return visit at some
point with a larger group. The village of Port Jackson was pretty much
non-existent. One large farm house provided the only permanent
residents, whilst the nearby Department of Conservation campsite was
empty during our visit. We arrived at the bach just in time to see the
sun start to set on the deserted, sheltered cove. The remoteness of the
location meant that the night sky proved to be quite a stunning view
after the sun finally set.
more views of the Coromandel Peninsular. Top
'skeleton' in the Old Gaol at Broken Hills. Top
standing in our wonderfully well constructed spa at Hot Water
Left: The sun setting on the
cove at Port Jackson. Bottom
Right: The moon from Port
photographed by BJ.
was an early
start again the next day as we aimed to travel to Auckland in time to
watch the International Indoor Cricket between New Zealand and
Australia. Sadly, this meant that we had to leave Port Jackson before
really getting to take advantage of the facilities. The drive, along
the unsealed road and then down Route 25 from Coromandel Town towards
Thames follows the coast the whole way and provided several great
vantage points to stop and take photographs. Once having passed through
Thames, we chose not to follow the main road to Auckland, but instead
took the back roads to allow a quick stop at the scenic Hunua Falls
(only about 10km from Papakura, South Auckland). The site was worth a
visit, but was packed with Asian tourists who seemed intent on blocking
the path with a game of 'skipping rope' and would not be shifted.
Instead, we bowled through the rope to ensure that they understood that
they were causing an obstruction.
made it to the
Indoor Cricket Centre in Mount Roskill just after the start of the
match. The centre was packed with fans hoping to see a close encounter.
We stuck around to watch the Australian innings, but to be honest the
International game of Indoor Cricket has too many pauses (the players
get in a huddle after virtually every delivery) to keep the spectator
interested. I reckon they need to bring in a time restriction, much
like that which is used in 20:20 in order for the game to flow better.
on we went to
our second NPC game of our tour. This time, it was down to the New
Zealand home of Rugby League - Mt. Smart Stadium - to see the unfancied
Counties Manukau team take on North Harbour. At this stage of the
season, neither team had a chance of reaching the knock out stages, but
given the local rivalry, the fact it was the last game for Counties at
Mt. Smart (before moving back to their own stadium in Pukekohe) and
both sides having nothing to play for, we expected to see
were cagey, and at half time the score was 14 - 14. The floodgates were
smashed open in the 2nd half, however, as North Harbour - led by the
exciting Anthony Tuitavake and the experienced Jimmy Gopperth rolled 3
tries over the line in a matter of minutes. Both teams threw caution to
the find as North Harbour racked up a half-century of points. The final
score? 57 - 28. (match
walked away satisfied from an exciting game of provincial rugby;
disappointed only by the extremely poor crowd turnout for the match.
it was time to
hit the road again, the final stretch of the day taking us through
Auckland and out the other side of the North Shore to the scenic
Whangaparaoa Peninsular and another bargain bach!
pictures from the Counties Manukau vs. North Harbour game. On the left,
Counties win the ball from their own line out and on the right, the sun
sets on the empty stand at Mt. Smart.
The next day dawned with the
promise of a trip over to the spectacular Rangitoto Island in the
Hauraki Gulf and also a 3rd game of provincial rugby. We drove down to
Auckland city centre early and caught the ferry over to the iconic
Rangitoto - almost a perfect volcanic cone sitting in the scenic Gulf.
The weather was far from promising with thick grey clouds scudding
rapidly across the sky.
On arrival at Rangitoto, we took the steep walk from the jetty towards
the top of the island, stopping on the way up to rummage through the
Lava Caves. Disappointingly, these were not caves filled with flowing
lava, but instead were caves formed during the cooling stages from lava
The views of Auckland from the summit of Rangitoto were incredible.
Island. The left picture shows the jetty as we were about to dock. The
right picture shows Auckland as viewed from the summit of the island.
The overcast weather making it a pretty dark image.
it was time for
round of Provincial Rugby action, this time with plenty at stake.
Auckland, one of the most successful provinces in New Zealand rugby
were sitting outside the top eight and a loss at home to Northland
would see them knocked out of the competition. Auckland were
overwhelming favourites for the match, with a team rippling with All
Black talent whilst all Northland could boast was the experienced
kicking of David Holwell and some emerging youngsters.
the end, David Holwell
well have proved the difference between the two teams, hitting a key
drop goal at an important time to put Northland into the lead in the
2nd half. As Auckland pressured the Northland defense in search of a
match winning try, the Northlanders broke free again and scored the
decisive try to knock Auckland out of the 2008 Air New Zealand Cup. It
was a fitting victory for the Northland team who were threatened with
being thrown out of the tournament only weeks before and whose fans had
turned up in larger numbers than the locals. The turnover was a
disappointing 6,400 leaving the cavernous Eden Park looking very empty.
Auckland vs. Northland game. A couple of pictures showing Northland
challenging at both their own and at Auckland's line-outs. The pictures
also show the both the poor crowd turnout and the ongoing redevelopment
at the ground in preparation for the next Rugby World Cup.
The evening was spent back
Whangaparaoa. We ventured out of the bach for a short time to visit the
local luge (not the winter sport, but basically you sit on a little
cart at the top of a hill and use gravity to get you down to the
bottom). A little conveyor belt was there to get the cart from the
bottom of the hill back to the top, but went extremely slowly - so much
so that it would take about 10 minutes to get to the top and only about
a minute to get back down! Still great fun though!
The next day was the first stage of our journey back South to
Wellington. We took the main road South through Auckland and passed the
home of the Maori Queen in the small town of Ngaruawahia, just North of
Hamilton before stopping at the Waitomo Caves in order to have a go at
Black Water Rafting.
Black Water Rafting is very different to its White Water counterpart,
and is really quite basic caving where you also get the opportunity to
sit on a rubber ring and float through some underground tunnels. It can
be pretty hard work scrambling over wet, slippery earth and holding on
to anything with your hands submerged in extremely cold water. Still
good fun though.
The remainder of the day was spent following Route 3 South towards New
Plymouth, taking in the rural towns of Te Kuiti and Piopio as well as a
quick stop at a micro-brewery just after crossing the provincial
boundary into the Taranaki.
We stayed overnight at the house of BJ's grandparents in New Plymouth.
The next day we made a stop at the Dawson Falls on the Southern side of
Mount Taranaki. The weather was abysmal - absolutely bucketing down
with rain, so we didn't linger for too long, but the weather made sure
the falls looked spectacular. We found out later that evening, that
only about 15 minutes walk away from where we were at the time, a
middle-aged woman was washed away down that same river and drowned at
pretty much the same time we were there.
Obviously, we were oblivious of this at the time.
We then hit the road again, making only one more stop on the way back
to Wellington, stopping high on the hills above Wanganui to take in the