Monday, May 4, 2015

Coromandel Peninsula

Since we were so close to the Coromandel Peninsula and I wasn't sure when we would next be near there with a car, we drove up it a fair distance to go to the Driving Creek Railway, a miniature railroad that was highly praised online and mentioned in Lonely Planet. The background is pretty neat. The owner, Barry Brickell, bought some land for a pottery studio in the 1970s and started building a narrow-gauge (15-inch) railroad to help haul the high-quality clay in the hills down to the studio. He engineered and built the whole thing himself and eventually decided to make it legal for passengers to bring in some more income. Our guide said that it has been very popular and successful (running several times a day) and that most of the ticket money goes to fund conservation. Barry is a firm believer in conservation and has overseen the planting of over 9,000 kauri trees, the very slow-growing native forest trees that the British settlers bladed to turn New Zealand into farmland. He also donated a part of the adjacent land to turn into a wildlife sanctuary with a predator-proof fence so native birds and creatures can flourish. This project shows me that engineering, art, and conservation do not have to be at odds with each other.

Next we drove to Cathedral Cove, one of the most popular natural attractions in New Zealand. It was full of tourists and the weather was cloudy, so the pictures don't come anywhere near the postcards. And the hike to get from the carpark in the cliffs to the beach is steep. But it was still a beautiful spot. We treated ourselves to ice cream in the shop in town, and they offered surprisingly huge portions at a very reasonable price. I got hokey pokey and caramel Oreo flavors, and D got an orange chocolate chip thickshake.

Overall, the drive on the Coromandel Peninsula is through a lot of windy, steep roads with tight curves. We were fortunate to have a day without rain to enjoy the scenery which reminded us of California.

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