Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Years, Coromandel Style!

Well yes indeedio I'm finally in NZ and should be down here for a couple years at the very least. The plan is to score a teaching job in the bustling Waikato region while working on a few side-projects such as a new bird-related book, and of course exploring the North Island and beyond with Lisa! Below is the first chapter of my new life Down Unda!

After unpacking my bags and getting set up at our place in Cambridge (Will post something on my new digs at some point), Lisa whisked me away to the summer town of Whitianga up on the Coromandel Peninsula. Thanks to a remote vibe and plethora of great sandy beaches, it's becoming more and more popular for those wanting to escape the busy city life or monotonous farm chores. So in that sense, it's becoming less remote each year but that hasn't encouraged anyone to make the roads wider. I pity the poor cyclists that attempt those windy hills during the busy holiday season. Anyhoo, despite the crowds, there is still plenty of beautiful for everyone. Here's a short from the deck of our "Bach" up on the hill north of Whitanga--looking down to Mercury Bay.
Back in the winter of 2008, my friend Natalie and I traveled up through the North Island and all the way out to Opito Bay, north of Whitianga. It's a beautiful spot that retains the chilled-out attitude of real New Zealand. I was stoked that we were visiting in summer as the water would be primo for swimming and potentially gathering the odd shellfish. This photo captures a bit of the beach (on a hazy morning) and some lovely pohutakawas that are starting to bud. These "New Zealand Christmas Trees" will soon explode with marvelous red flowers, and really make North Island beaches some of the most eye-pleasing in the world I reckon.
Bit of a slanted shot here--what's photoshop?--showing some blokes out gathering pipis. This is a type of shellfish that are relatively easy to dig up in the sand on a lowtide. We gathered a bunch and fried them up for an appetizer. Mmm mmmm! In the background are some of the Mercury Islands, home to most of the world's Pycroft's Petrels I think.
Even better was Lisa's mate Francis who put on his scuba kit and swam out and nabbed us a bag of scallops! Ironically he's allergic to all shellfish but thankfully he's more than happy to bring home the proverbial sea-bacon!
As this was New Years Eve, a bunch of friends and family joined us up at the Bach. Here young Max is clambering for some tasty scallops, complete with their bright orange roe (stomachs I think?) that is richer, tastier, and creamier than the typical piece you get in most restaurants. Add a couple of cold brews to this image and you can imagine I'm enjoying myself.
After a fun New Years with all the usual consumption and firework near-misses, we spent New Years Day heading to New Chums Beach which just recently made a "Top 20 Beaches in the World" list compiled by who knows--somebody who found a great way to get paid. Anyway, now that it's on a list everyone and their ferret decided to join us to see what it was like. First you drive to Whangapoua Beach (pictured above; tractors make an idea boat-launching vehicle and are a common site on North Island beaches at this time of year), then you hike around a rocky point to get to the fabled New Chums. 
After a lovely stroll through Nikau Palms and other jungley vegetation, here's Lisa at one of the best beaches in the world! (Note the pohutakawas blooming in the background). It was indeed pretty darn nice although there was a lot of seaweed in the surf. We were lucky to arrive before the big crowds but presumably this would be a great place to visit during the non-peak season.
The endemic New Zealand Dotterel is a fairly common site on Coromandel Beaches. This one was along Whangapoua Beach.
On one afternoon a raft of Fluttering Shearwaters put on a good show for us, though it seems these fishermen had a better view. This is the most common tubenose encountered in summer off the North Island with many nesting on the islands and headlands around the Coromandel Peninsula. I suppose they're somewhat like the Black-vented Sheawaters off southern California.
Paddle-boarder getting in on the shearwater action
We returned to Opito Bay on a sunnier day. I hiked up one of the nearby headlands and took this photo of some of the Mercury Islands. A little slanty but you get the idea.
Looking back across Opito Bay itself.
And looking down on Francis snorkeling below. Today he not only snagged some more scallops but a few sea-urchins as well. Tastiness overload!
Well that about sums up the first couple days of my year! Stay tuned for road trip adventures with Lisa!

1 comment:

  1. Wow amazing beauty there!! Exciting great post