It didn't take long to nail down a date and on Sunday, I rode down to the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula to meet them at the gold-mining town of Waihi.
Introducing Marc with his Ducati ST4 and Nils with his Honda VFR 800
After some relaxed banter over coffee, we rode a few hundred metres to have a look at the 500 ft deep gold mining operation. Not often that you find a working gold mine so close to the main street of town!
Waihi gold ore extraction pit - impressive up close
Everyone was getting a bit peckish so it was time to ride north to the small town of Tairua for lunch. Being the local yokel/tourist guide, I took the lead. There are always some trepidations about riding with strangers but it only took a few minutes to learn that these guys knew their business and we all fitted together perfectly, proceeding to carve up the almost continuous twisties to Tairua and it was great fun riding in their company. Nils' VFR 800 was whisper-quiet and in typical Ducati contrary fashion, I could hear Marc's bike booming away behind me on the over-run - nothing quite like that sound. Both great machines.
Parked up for a late lunch
After lunch, I went into tour guide mode as the guys wanted to specifically see the Hahei Cathedral Cove area and Hot Water Beach. It was fairly cloudy when the photo below was taken but on a clear day, the sea is a bright turquoise due to the white sand on the seabed - simply gorgeous.
Hahei Beach from the lookout
Hot Water Beach is just 5 km from Hahei. So-called because at low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand and geothermally-heated hot water comes bubbling up and fills the hole. Pretty decadent laying on the beach in your own private bath!
Hot Water Beach. Hot water bubbling up where the people are congregating
The other thing about the Coromandel Peninsula around Christmas time is that literally tens of thousands of Pohutukawa trees come into bloom all round the coast. Also commonly known as the NZ Christmas Tree, they provide a breathtaking backdrop to summer. Although pretty enough in its own right, the photo below doesn't do justice to just how bright the flowers are, partially because of the dull skies and my camera at a distance.
A fairly young Pohutukawa, Hot Water Beach
However, the close-up below shows the flowers in true colour so you'll get an inkling of just how spectacular the coastal regions are for a few weeks, especially as the older trees are massive!
Leaving the beach, we headed north and made a quick stop at the Coroglen pub for a photo shoot. The Coroglen pub is an icon for bikers on the Coromandel Loop road and serves up such delicacies as fresh scallop burgers - yumm!! During the summer, they also attract great international music bands who play in a natural amphitheatre behind the pub.
Nils and Marc at Coroglen
From Coroglen, it was a brisk ride up to Whitianga, where Nils and Marc had booked accommodation for the night and I departed for home ready to meet up with them again the next day. They duly arrived at our place next morning and checked in but unfortunately, the forecast wasn't promising so we elected to take the 4x4 out and do some touring about. First stop was to the tiny settlement of Colville north of Coromandel, where the sealed road ends. It's an area full of alternative lifestylers and communes set up in the early hippy days - I really like it up that way. The Colville store stocks an amazing range of stuff, including gas mantles, big tubs of every bean and grain known to mankind for vegetarian and macrobiotic diets - a seriously cool place!
Not really "banjo" territory but getting that way!
Just down the road from Colville is Branch Creek Furniture which you access up a narrow track. The owner, Greg Taylor, is an old school craftsman who used to be a logger. He makes really solid, interesting-shaped furniture from indigenous and introduced timbers and we have several of his pieces.
Cool chair (and outstandingly comfortable)
Table and bench seat
We noticed Nils casting covetous looks at a gorgeous swamp kauri coffee table and in the end, he couldn't leave without buying it. There was a bit of spirited banter about what his wife would say but we're pretty sure that the " 'tis better to ask for forgiveness than permission" rule applied in this case! It's currently being couriered to his home in Wellington so we'll know soon enough!!!
On the way back home, we stopped off to see my mate Paul who's recent purchase of a classic 1951 Norton ES2 featured in a recent post. Paul is a complete Norton enthusiast and in addition to the ES2, has a racing 850cc Commando and a 750cc Commando road bike. Paul's now in his mid-50's and bought the 750 brand new when he was 17 - it's still in absolutely showroom condition!!
The stunning 750 Commando
In the early evening, we all went along to a working gold stamper in Coromandel which dated back to the 1800's where gold-bearing rock is still crushed, treated and bullion (a gold/silver amalgam) extracted. It was a fascinating demonstration and really enjoyable.
The incredibly noisy stamper battery
1800's OSH-approved belts and open gears!
The retorting process for extracting precious metals
A bullion ingot worth US$3000!
After a pretty full-on day, it was back home for a BBQ, a few wines and some well-earned sleep. The following day, Nils and Marc took themselves into Coromandel village to do some shopping, presumably as quid pro quo for being allowed out on a boy's bike trip **sly grin**. In the afternoon, they went on the famous Driving Creek pottery railway, followed by yet more refreshment and locally-caught seafood.
Driving Creek pottery railway - the vision of a local potter
The weather forecast for the following few days was fairly dire so Nils and Marc decided to shorten the trip and head the 650-odd km directly home the following morning. We enjoyed their company immensely and new long-term friendships have been established through the love of motorcycles - now that's got to be good, hasn't it?
Hope you've enjoyed the trip round the Coromandel Peninsula and meeting fellow enthusiasts Nils, Marc and Paul. All that remains is to wish everyone a wonderful Xmas and a safe and prosperous 2012!