New Zealand Cycle Tour: Te Puru to CoromandelTime in the Saddle: 2 hours 31 minutes. Average: 17.6kph. Max 65.4kph
It was raining. Sitting in the door of our tent Scott spread peanut butter on our routine breakfast of grilled vogals, and handed me a hot watery coffee. I was still warm and wrapped in my sleeping bag, but I had been plagued by a headache since we started this trip, and again I woke feeling like my eyes had been gouged out and replaced overnight. “I’m buying a pillow in Coromandel. I just can’t handle another bad night’s sleep.” I was glad it was going to be a short day in the saddle.
It was a late start. There is something perversely wrong with packing up a perfectly good camp and climbing onto a bike in the pouring rain, so we left it as late as possible hoping in vain for a break in the weather. That feeling got worse when I punctured less than 5kms up the road. I generally don’t let other people fix my flats but on this occasion I just stood silently dripping and shuddering on the narrow berm of grass feeling miserable as Scott fixed me up.
It rained fairly continuously as we ambled along the coast line, yet it was still easy to appreciate the craggy beauty of the Coromandel coast that draws Kiwi holiday makers here by the incessant car load. We meandered around stony beaches scattered with toothy black rocks, over ragged bluffs, passed by an endless line of twisting and blooming puhutakawa hanging precariously over cliff edges, and underneath the fishy stink of nesting shags. In the distance a family dug for pipi to fill their large sack and the traffic continued to roll by on the narrow highway.
The rain eased as we headed inland and totally left us by the time we screamed down the other side of a large hill into the valley. The valley had a quiet eeriness about it. Away from the ocean the air became languorous, the traffic all but vanished, and the stock stood motionless in the shade of old knotted oaks and willows besides lazy marshes. It was suddenly hot and only the flies moved. Time appeared to have forgotten these old farm houses that leaned into the grasses beside historic hand hewed fences.
We climbed another hill, and then descended into the legendary town of Coromandel that was bustling and bursting full of holiday makers in shorts in sandals, roaming the quaint streets, possibly wondering what there was to do besides buying Coromandel trinkets and eating large open sandwiches. I wondered if I was going to be able to finding a travelling pillow in this tiny town.
We camped in the local campground that was run by a lovely accommodating couple, who happily found us a patch of grass to set up our small camp, which totally contradicted the abject rudeness of the i-site lady, who had looked at me like I was a complete moron for thinking I could find accommodation in this town miles from nowhere two days out from New Years Eve without a booking, and she more or less implied with her body language that she wasn’t going to help and that I should just piss off and find a place to sleep in the woods.
We set camp but Scotty needed food! He was fading fast and was making less sense by the minute. We had skipped lunch. But I made him wait a little longer as ‘the pillow’ had first precedence. I found my polystyrene stuffed ladybird shaped pillow at the local hardware store that sold everything from potato peelers to number eight wire, and with my sleeping issue sorted we settled into the URN pub for sirloin steak and pizzas.
Stuffed with goodies we wander off our meal with a stroll along the estuary, looking at the boats in varying states of disrepair and lay on the grass beside the mangroves. As we strolled back to our temporary home we took a detour to the top of an ancient pa-site with a 360 degree view of the whole area. Emerald islands dotted the coast, and bays glistening in the sun were filled with anchored yachts. All the surrounding land was farmed and Coromandel sat in the v at the bottom of the valley. Behind the town, the Coromandel ranges rose, as did one ominous snake like road that disappeared over it.
The sun shone. I felt great.
Back at camp we settled in for the mandatory leg massages in the games room and were cagouled into playing a game of pool against a couple of young hooligans who had one thing on their mind – the para-olympics. These boys weren’t flag-wavers for the physically impaired, but they had come to Coromandel for the time honoured tradition of the young kiwi bloke: to play as many drinking games as possible for the sole purpose of becoming paralytically drunk. It seemed the games had already begun as they staggered and swaggered, clutching and waving their pool cues, repeating colloquiums that made little sense to us. We were thankful when they left for other Olympic events.