1/ Whangapoua, a small holiday spot in the north of the Coromandel (situated just opposite its flashy older sister Matarangi) holds my heart. The kids and I last holidayed together at Whangapoua before we left for England, eight years ago. Going back brought back a flood of memories. Some wonderful, some achingly sad. The black house we sheltered in during the storm of my marriage spilt, is still there, but holds no power over me now. It’s an aching memory I reflect on with wisdom. The Easter we spent there when the kids were little and the Uni girl (then only about four) ate so much chocolate she spewed everywhere and Son was banished to the attic in the old A frame bach, for beating his sister at Monopoly – happy memories all – has been replaced by a new modern creation, but the memory lingers like sea foam in the breeze. Picking pipis at Opera point with a young pup (now a grande old dame of 14 years literally on her last legs), who kept diving off the path through the bushes and into the water…And driving up the ranges to try and get a decent internet signal – that hasn’t changed. My 38th birthday – my first as a newly single woman – spent dashing into the surf one cool April morning alone but free. Whangapoua has changed a little, just as we have but it still delivers this heart-stopping scenery, and reassures that there is a Master Artist.
2/ The little store at Kuaotunu has the best and biggest icecreams I have ever seen. Truly. Ask for a double scoop ONLY if it isn’t a hot day and you can gobble quickly, and you can eat something larger than your head! Right next door there’s Luke’s Kitchen which is legendary on the Coromandel, and rightly so. This is how pizza and fish and chips should be made!
3/ The Thames coastline road along the Pohutakawa highway is still a challenging drive, made significantly more challenging by meeting logging trucks laden with trees or large boats and trailers coming the opposite way, on the terrifyingly narrow road. As you wind through the corners and along the single tracked road – with no margin for error – you have to take it easy, and in so doing, soak up all the glorious views across the Firth of Thames.
4/And just when you think the ‘scary bits’ are done you reach the Manaia hill, and soon after that the Whangapoua Road over the Coromandel Ranges. If ever you needed to do a ‘Thelma and Louise’ this would be the place to give it a go.
5/ Kids grow. It’s funny how you never think they will and you live alongside them as this growing happens, a quiet metamorphosis, and never notice a thing. Until, you go somewhere that is still populated with memories of little girls in pigtails, wide eyed boys challenging dwarfing surf and three tanned little berries fast asleep at the end of a full on day. Nothing points out the passing of time more than the memory of a little boy spending $20 on lollies at the shop, when it intersects with the modern day image of a bearded man checking the price of the Vodka RTDs.
6/ There is a way to ‘go beach’ in NZ. We don’t rely on activities, ferris wheels or gaming parlours a the beach, instead we depend on a dumping surf, a fishing game of cat and mouse, and foraging for food for fun. We leave the lipstick at home and forget the bra and undies preferring instead togs and sarong, and remember how to have fun around the BBQ without the distraction of the Internet and our always-wired modern day life.
7/ Sense of humour is well and truly still alive in the Kiwi Zeitgeist and so is honesty!
8/ I’m significantly fatter than I thought I was in my mind’s-eye, and I care not half as much as I thought I would. The sun and sea and calm will do that for you. Photo’s lie, it’s what’s in your head that matters most. But yes, it’s back to the gym and the revised healthy lifestyle tomorrow.
9/ If you live your life as you swim in the sea – fully respecting its beauty and its potential for danger and chaos – you can’t go far wrong. There will always be riptides and undertows, and sharks and other bitey things, but as long as we swim in the shallows when the surf is high, and ride the waves with confidence and head held high (not fearing the end of the ride) when the surf is up, we will be OK. In the end all seas, no matter how rough, reach the shore.
10/ After travelling the world and living overseas, I am reminded how incredibly blessed we are, to live here. This beauty, this very affirmation of a good life is only 3 hrs from the modern metropolis of Auckland, and I am beyond grateful.