Thursday, 10 December 2015

Coromandel Peninsula, NZ - Place of Magic

Pohutukawa Flowers, New Leaves and Silvery buds.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been born in New Zealand and able to claim these glorious islands as my home. So much of our land is still as ruggedly beautiful and serenely unspoilt as Nature made it and there are many places within our shores to grab your heart and make you gape in wonder.

But for me, the most magical part of 'God's Own' is the Coromandel Peninsula with it's miles of rugged coastline, bush clad hills, gold mining history and summer beaches. Coromandel is about sunshine, holidays, fishing and getting back to nature. And every summer hundreds of NZers head up the Peninsula for the ultimate Kiwi Getaway. staying in tents, caravans, baches and motels. Some probably just sleep in their cars.

One of the landmarks you will see as you begin to climb from Wilsons Bay over the hills to Coromandel Town is the Blessing Buddha. I'm sure he has another name and when you look at him you might see something else entirely, but I rather fancy that rocky outcrop looks like a Buddha and he's waving - or maybe blessing all who travel over the hill in their quest for sun and relaxation.
The Blessing Buddha

The most notable natural phenomena of this time of year is the Pohutukawa Tree, a.k.a the 'NZ Xmas Tree', as it flowers profusely over the Christmas period, cloaking the hills with rich reds and greens and carpeting the roads with crimson as the stamens fall. We usually travel up the Peninsula at New Year by which time the best of the show is over and there are only random trees still flowering and only the ditches alongside the roads are awash in red. I really want to see the glory of full bloom.

So this year we made a special effort and went up before Xmas, hoping to strike it right. But it appears the nickname 'NZ Xmas Tree' is not a misnomer.We were too early! To see the best I guess we'd have to go right at Xmas.

However, the Coromandel delights whenever one goes. Some trees were in bloom, especially some of the dark crimson ones, my favourite. I even found a yellow one! It was just over the bridge going north from Tapu. I can only imagine it's a hybrid someone has planted there for I don't think that colour is found naturally in the wild. (Any specialists in NZ botany out there, please correct me if I'm wrong!) The hillsides, which will soon be richly crimson, are dark green with a silvery sheen, as the new leaves of the pohutukawa are overlaid with a silvery down and the flower buds are silvery white.

A coastal tree, Pohutukawa is not found naturally anywhere else and it grows in the most inhospitable places and with great tenacity. Many of the trees are old and gnarled and have great aerial roots hanging from the branches. For some reason I find them an endless fascination.

Pohutukawa in flower.



Silvery sheen of new leaves and buds.

Gnarly old Pohutukawa clinging to rocks.

Old Pohutukawa with huge aerial roots.

A Yellow Pohutukawa - hybrid?

Pure Coromandel: Pohutukawa, rocks, sea, and rugged bush-clad hills.
However, Manuka, the humble scrub bush which grows everywhere it can get a foothold, was in riotous bloom, so I have included a couple of photos. If you like a dark honey, then try Manuka honey. It is richly aromatic and reputed to have impressive medicinal properties.


Manuka flowering in a gully.

Close up of Manuka flowers.
Manuka has it's own special beauty, despite being much maligned. It is great firewood, burning really hot, and early settlers used it's leaves for tea. Thus, it's common name is 'tea tree'.

We feel short-changed if our Coromandel trip doesn't include a visit to the Driving Creek Cafe. A gloriously alternative concept, offering beautiful food, a meditative atmosphere should you wish for that, peace and natural beauty. The following photos are taken there.





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