Chapter 4 - Coromandel Peninsular

13 Feb 2013

We awoke to an overcast sky with the threat of rain to come. We were heading south towards the Coromandel Peninsular and had been travelling for about fifteen minutes on the motorway when we heard a loud bang and a series of rhythmical thuds. It was fairly obvious that there was a problem with one of the tyres on the coach and when Paul managed to pull over off the motorway this was proved to be the case. On inspection the affected tyre was found to have a fairly substantial chunk missing and was in the process of delaminating its tread. The coach has four sets of double tyres at the back so there were no real problems with its handling. Paul was very philosophical and immediately rang his base to find the nearest tyre fitters. Again we were lucky as there was one only a few kilometres away and he entertained us with more hilarious stories and anecdotes on the way there.

We had about a three quarters of an hour wait whilst the tyre was replaced and then were on our way again. By now we were about an hour behind schedule and had a long journey ahead of us before reaching our next hotel. We had a whistle stop pause for a 'mimi' (a loo break), then a half hour stop for lunch with most of the time spent trying to find a sandwich to eat! The scenery was lovely but unfortunately the weather had closed in and we had a few short showers of rain. We passed some wonderful sandy beaches, and then climbed up very windy roads to cross the dramatic Coromandel Ranges through the clouds. We passed through Thames, an old gold mining settlement, and then the town of Coromandel and were just in time for a surprise trip on the Creek Railway, New Zealand's only narrow gauge mountain railway, situated some three kilometres north of Coromandel.

The sun came out during our ride on this delightful train - it was great fun being driven up the mountain. If the 'Hobbits' had had a railway it would have been like this one! There were several trains on the track at the same time so each driver was shunting onto side tracks, hopping off to change points to let another train go by and then reversing back to continue their own journey. The trip up and down the mountain took about an hour and we all felt quite sad to leave - it had felt a bit like being a small child again!

We still had a further two and a half hours of driving to go before reaching our hotel, and spent most of that time spent going round hairpin bends, so not the best of trips. Luckily Mike and I don't suffer from travel sickness but there were a couple of the group who did so it couldn't have been very pleasant for them. Needless to say we eventually arrived at our hotel for the night and it was worth the long drive.

We were staying at the beautiful Puka Park Resort in Pauanui, a collection of wooden chalets set in amongst the trees up steep paths, all kitted out to the highest standards with wonderfully comfortable beds. We had a lovely dinner and then retired reasonably early as we had to be up at 6.00 am for an 8.00 am departure! There was a small hiccough due to a mix up with our keys - I was trying to unlock our door with Joy and Michael's key, must have picked up theirs by mistake! Eventually we realised, swapped the keys and went to bed.

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