Saturday, December 19, 2009

NZ - Coromandel

The plan was to hike the Coromandel Walkway a bit from Fletcher Bay.  The lady who runs the Jacaranda Lodge assured me that I really didn’t have to do the whole thing, as the latter half is more a bushwalk than a source of panoramic vistas.  I was delayed a bit getting out, though, by yet another German.  One of the other guests at the lodge was a sound engineer (not an acoustic engineer; this guy worked more with music but also dabbled in more business-like aspects of the music industry).  He laughed when I said that everyone I keep running into is either German or Dutch, as he lives only a few kilometers from the Dutch border.

It was a long drive up to Fletcher Bay, partly because the majority of the trip is on unsealed roadways, and also because for a portion of the time I was right behind a herd of cattle slowly ambling down the street.  The farmer (shepherd, I suppose?) followed on an ATV whilst his dog kept the cows in line.  It was a pretty entertaining show despite the delay it was causing.

Along the way I came by numerous vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.  We all passed each other by just fine despite the narrow road and sheer cliffsides, with the exception of one… even though we seemed to be maneuvering around each other just fine without any undo delay, he seemed quite perturbed and insisted on simultaneously honking the horn whilst giving me the finger.  Of course, these actions generally require the use of both hands, leaving none for the wheel, which may not be the most advisable action on a road such as this.

Off the edge he went.  Well, not completely off the cliff; rather, just his front tires went dangling whilst the bulk of the car remained on sturdy ground.  Of course, with a front wheel drive car, that was nonetheless a problematic situation for him.  I had slowed briefly until I realized he hadn’t gone over the edge, and then I just smiled and continued on.  I’d return later to pass by a now-empty car still in the same place.

My hike along the Coromandel Walkway was rather shortlived given my perceived need to keep moving southward to Thames.  The views were worth the short walk, and I wished I’d had a bit more time to have made it to the lookout & back.  My return drive went considerably faster given the reduced need to stop & take photos as well as the lack of a herd of cattle in front of me.

There was one point, however, where I spotted a car approaching from the opposite direction just before I neared a blind curve.  Knowing he was coming, I pulled aside at a good spot just before the curve & awaited his passing.  Suddenly a different vehicle towing a boat came by… confused, I started up and rounded the corner.  There he was, sort of pulled aside but still largely in the middle of the road.  There was another good siding for me which let me get totally off the road, so I moved over and waved him to continue.

It was an Indian guy driving and what appeared to be a white woman as a passenger… my heart skipped a beat when he tapped the accelerator without turning the wheel, causing the car to lurch nearer to the sheer cliff.  The woman instantly threw her arms up in a fit whilst the driver immediately got back on the brake.  He waved me on, and so I went.  The road isn’t a difficult drive if you take your time and stay alert, but something tells me this guy simply didn’t have the driving skills to take it on even with care… I’m not entirely sure he had the driving skills for a normal road, for that matter.

Something else I’ve noticed throughout the duration of my trip is that the birds here are absolutely psycho.  I’m not just referring to mayhem-loving magpies or too-friendly kea, but to the fact that birds here seem to have a deathwish when it comes to cars.  Back home we joke that “Rusty’s in the club” whenever a bird dives down but survives… here it’s not a club; it’s an organized religion.  All the birds come within inches of their lives before suddenly executing crazy acrobatic maneuvers to escape to safety (usually).  They’re like demented fighter pilots with a bit too much alcohol.  Er, then again I guess fighter pilots shouldn’t have any alcohol at all… so… yeah.

The drive down to Thames passes by some spectacular views, and it didn’t take too long before I’d arrived into town, gotten some tasty Indian food, and checked into the backpacker’s.  From there I just lounged my final evening away, chatting with a German girl from Baden-Württemberg along with two English guys.  I think the Canadian girl at reception may have developed a quick crush on me… either that or she’s just really sociable.

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