Tearooms of State Highway 1 – Part 7

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Triangles, Corners and a Lack of Fuel – Thames to Whangamata

This morning I woke up well slept, or rather Palin woke me up well slept, especially after a slightly paranoid night. There really was no reason to think someone might rock up in the night and cause me trouble, but the very reason I felt worried was the same reason I probably shouldn’t have been. I was just so far from anywhere. I know that means there was very little chance anyone would come anywhere near my location, but after seeing the torched car I had the feeling the local “troublemakers” enjoyed the dirt roads and seclusion of Kauaeranga Valley. And it did my nerves no good when Palin would let out a little grumble and a bark now and then, probably just at the local wildlife. My paranoia was unfounded in the end, as I woke up unharmed and undisturbed. So I threw on my robe and started making breakfast. Then I noticed it was about to rain, so I decided to figure out how to set up the tarpaulin I carried for just such an occasion. I managed this with little trouble, after a couple of trails and errors, however it never did rain like the clouds were suggesting. This was my opportunity to take a walk in the beautiful Coromandel Forest Park. I packed my cameras, some snack bars and my water bottle, put Palin’s fluoro walking coat on and set out on the nearest of many walks in the area, the Wainora Kauri trail.

The trail started out well. Not too off-the-beaten, not too footpath. Criss-crossing across the Wainora stream, it offered a number of photo ops, and allowed Palin to take many unexpected baths. Then suddenly the trail disappeared. Well, not completely, there was still a trace of trail. After criss-crossing across the hill, finding occasional glimpses of the trail, I finally noticed my saving grace. Little pink triangles. With a slightly different connotation to those used in the early 40s, they guided me through the forest one little pink guiding angel at a time. At least I hope there were little pink triangles…perhaps I shouldn’t have drunk from the stream. Then, just as the trail was becoming even harder to follow, and little pink triangles were getting sparse, I burst onto a wide trail with a nice friendly orange arrow showing me where to go. The rest of the trip was a relatively gentle stroll and, 2 hours after leaving the campground, I came out onto the gravel road right outside where my car was parked. How convenient.

After stripping off my sweat-soaked t-shirt and replacing it with a low-sweat equivalent I was back on the road and heading for the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, Port Jackson. My fuel gauge was nearly on empty, so my first stop was a service station in Thames. My food supplies were also almost on empty, so my next stop was a supermarket in Thames. After gaining a new feeling of well-stockedness, it was off to Coromandel township. The drive there was very pleasant indeed. Winding roads along the water. At one point I was stuck behind a rather slow, foreboding logging truck that wasn’t quite suited for the narrow roads so, to my amusement, was forced to ride ever so slightly off the road, taking down those upright, thin, white road markers as it went. I was actually a little disappointed when he pulled over to let me pass.

Shortly after this I arrived in Coromandel township, and by arrived I mean drove straight through. Although I did make a note of how nice a little town it was. Very quaint, but not ‘Russell’ quaint. I thought about stopping to get some diesel, but my gauge was still just above quarter, and my new rule is to fill up whenever it goes below that. I figured I’d wait till Colville, the next ‘big’ town. This was to become a big mistake.

I made it to Colville no problems. More winding roads. But I didn’t see any gas pumps in the town. I still had a quarter of a tank, so I thought I’d just head for the top of the peninsula. Then the dirt roads began. Winding, narrow, dirty dirt roads. Gorgeous views, sheer cliffs. As I drove I watched nervously as my fuel gauge slowly went E-wards. I did make it as far as Port Jackson. And am pretty happy I did. But that was far enough. I was planning on going right round the top and back down, but noticed while stopped in Colville that the road didn’t go right round, there was a couple of kilometres of walking track, and I was not in the mood to carry my truck for 2 kilometres. Especially not with Palin as well. So I turned around, fuel gauge at about an eight of a tank. Rolling down every hill and braking as little as possible, without coming too close to the sheer cliffs and certain mortal injury. The fuel light was starting to show it’s face just as I came into Colville, and I still had 25km back to Coromandel. Then I saw the gas pumps. Outside the Colville general store, right there on the main road as I was leaving Colville. When I said I was looking for gas pumps in Colville, I meant to say the complete opposite of that, apparently. So I got a few litres of overpriced diesel, and dropped off a few gallons of worry. The drive back to Coromandel was now a lot more enjoyable. By now it was 5pm, so I thought I better head straight for the campground, since I had another couple of hours of driving still to go. Although I had planned to stay two nights at Kauaeranga Valley campground, there was a sign there saying that another DOC campground, in Wentworth Valley, allowed dogs. As this was more on the way to my next destination, Rotorua, I decided to make that my destination for the night.

Now on this drive, from Coromandel to Wentworth Valley, just outside of Whangamata, I came to realise something. They say that in nature there are no straight lines. It seems the Coromandel Peninsula has been highly influenced by the acres of surrounding nature and had taken this as inspiration in designing its roads, composing them entirely of corners. I didn’t mind too much, but Palin was flying left and right, with a somewhat distressed look on his face. I made it up to him by eventually making it to the campground.

On arrival I managed to put up the tarpaulin just before it started raining. Lucky I had the practice this morning. By now it was dinner time, so I went to get the mince out of the fridge. I then found out that it was not only Palin that suffered from an excess of cornering. Much of the milk had evacuated the bottle through a newly formed hole in the base and found it’s way into a lot of the other food in the fridge, and also into the surrounding carpet. Some quick lighter work and the hole was patched up, although half the milk was sadly wasted. This had no effect on dinner though, and the mince and pasta was much welcomed. As I am struggling to right this in the dark, I feel it’s time for bed. My paranoia has eased here, due to the low but present number of fellow campers that surround me.

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