I am sitting in the Flat White Cafe, at Waihi Beach which is on the Coromandel Peninsula, at the western edge of the Bay of Plenty. The poker tournament here just started. And someone just turned on music – the Pixies.
I had a fabulous birthday dinner here earlier. Fresh Takahi fish, breaded and on mash (potatoes) with a little side salad. And a “short black” which I think is just a shot of espresso. Very good. Lemon meringue for dessert (reminds me of Grandma O’Brien). I went all out. Sitting near the back of the cafe with the window wide open, I could see the ocean and an island far off the coast. The cool breeze was a relief after a hot hot day.
A black lab jumped up onto the tables out the back while I was eating. Me and a few other guests giggled until the waitress who owned him came out and shooed him off.
He just wanted a better view, like the rest of us:
This morning I slept in (again!) due to a difficult, uncomfortable, tossing and turning night. I put in earplugs after it became clear an insistent bird was not going to bed. I woke up achey around 8:30am, but didn’t actually leave the tent until 10.. As I ambled down the path near the kitchen I saw the woman who had set up a tent near me the night before.
“I didn’t see you get up, I was getting worried about you…” she said good-naturedly. A fellow solo female traveler. We chatted a bit, and I asked her where she was from. “Ah, only Auckland.” and if she was here to surf “No.” She had wanted to travel up to the far north of the Coromandel but between bad weather and getting a late start, Raglan ended up being a better bet. I was planning to head to the Coromandel and she gave me good hints about places to see. Gavin had texted me the day before that Whangamata or Waihi were good surf spots. She put in a good word for Hot Water Beach and Oputere Beach – and the more secluded and not built up DOC campsites.
While cooking some oatmeal with bananas and apricots (and a little bottle of maple syrup I had saved from the plane ride), cutting up an apple and making a cup of tea, I got online. Lots of birthday messages both over e-mail and on Facebook. An e-mail from Mom said they would try to call – so I checked my phone and it was ringing! Neat to talk to Dad, Mom and Tim from so far away. The reception was great. I think my prepay is about to run out, need to remember to find a Vodaphone top-up place soon.
Stopped through town to mail postcards and then headed out East. This part of the North Island is all about the smaller bumpy hills, densely piled on top of each other. The light and shade constantly shifts as the low clouds pass over. Bright greens, various shades of brown, dark blue mountains in the background and the ever-evolving chiaroscuro adds to the depth and sculptural effect. At one point I had a strong physical feeling of being very far from home. Followed by a pang of loneliness.
About 2 and a half hours I was in Waihi. Stopped to see the big hole. It was, and still is, barely, a gold-mining town. Sort of a sad site, this huge terraced hole in the ground. Didn’t stay long before heading out to the beach.
To give you some sense of the scale, look closely and maybe you can see a tiny white dot going up the diagonal road. That’s a truck.
No waves here either, sadly. I went for a swim instead. And laid on the beach a while fully covered in sunscreen. The big hole we have created in the ozone layer rests over New Zealand, making the sun an even more dangerous thing. I have been careful so far and only been burned between my shoulder blades, a difficult spot to reach without help.
Got myself a cabin in the Bowentown Holiday Park. Only $35 for my own one-room cabin with a large bed. Room enough to store my board, too, so I won’t have to worry about someone stealing it off the top of my car. The nice man at the desk said I could store it in the shed if I wanted to camp. I suspect carrying this board around will be a little bit of a burden. But absolutely worth it, as long as the current no-wave spell passes. Things are looking up for the end of the week according to the surf reports. I plan to head back to Raglan and meet up with Gavin. In the meantime, I will do some exploring around here. Maybe head down to Rotorua, though I am slightly deterred as I hear it is very touristy. Hot Water Beach sounds cool. You grab a shovel and dig a hole and you can make your own personal thermal bath.
After dinner at the Flat White I took a walk down the beach. As I was trying to figure out making my camera flash and be set at the f-stop I want, a man came up behind me to ask me if I got a good shot of the pohutakawa. Ah! That’s a pohutakawa. If one of the many versions I took turns out o.k., I will post it when I find some non-extortionary internet rates. ($10/hour here at the Flat White, no thank you).
The goal for tomorrow is to get up early and go find some surf. Checkout is at 10, so that will help. I am still hibernating even though it’s definitely not winter here. Sometimes the body can lag frustratingly behind the frontal lobe. But that may be a blessing, as slow change is less likely to be based on a momentary whim or fantasy. Or a mistake.
The sun setting over Waihi Beach near the cafe: