I drove and drove, up and around, past stunning vistas, past thousands of cows and hundreds of grazing white tailed deer, past mirrors that showed the other side, and around hairpin curves and long sweeping straight-aways…. I had set out from Matakana and drove right past the big metropolis of Auckland and then up the other side.
It was a very long drive indeed, and once I hit the town of Thames of the Coromandel peninsula, I still had the hardest 59 km left to go. Here the road hugged the shore, twisting and turning, with the occasional one-lane bridge. The views as we climbed in altitude begged photography–that clear, see-for-a-million-mile view that makes NZ so popular with the makers of car commercials was hard to resist, so I pulled over often and shot.
Over glasses of wine with my hostess Robyn, her neighbor Nigel and Nickie, a houseguest from the UK, I learned that this is a place like others in the world that people seek out. And most of them never leave. Coromandel Town is a place that attracts artists, and hippies and people who are committed to causes. People who might not be as happy in the hardworking regular world found in Auckland and other busier parts of NZ. It’s a long way back down that winding road to reality and to the regular world. Most prefer the laid back lifestyle found here, in Coromandel Town with about 7000 residents.
As the wine flowed, I found out the group was heading for a party to celebrate with a man named Stuart who had turned 60. In a matter of an hour I had become cool enough to wangle an invitation. Yeah baby! We arrived at the party to find cars parked up and down the narrow road in the bush. An eight-piece band was set up on the porch, cranking out dance tunes anchored by two men playing sax. Lots of food and wine was spread out, and I mingled easily with the guests….after all this is New Zealand where it’s always so easy to get into interesting conversation.