Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thames to Warkworth and a beer tasting

Monday 23 Mar Sunny and warm 21C Drove 270km

After loading the car, we headed south out of Whitianga to Coroglen where we turned off onto the road to Tapu. Tapu is on the western coast of the Coromandel peninsular, so this was yet another crossing of the Coromandel range, and of course, it was on gravel. The road is 28km long and the gravel in very good condition and we made rapid progress up into the mountains. Shortly after crossing the saddle, we found a footpath to the 'Square Kauri'. The path, consisting of 187 steps (the Rough Guide says 178), is very steep and takes about 10 minutes of puffing and panting. The tree at the top is stunning. It is reckoned to be 1200 years old and is 41 metres tall and the girth is 9 metres. It is reckoned that the Kauri cutters left the tree because of its unusual shape.

On down to Tapu and surfaced roads again. The SH25, still part of the Pacific Highway, follows the coast of the Firth of Thames and is very scenic. Thames is a the largest town on the Coromandel and marked our exit from the peninsular. Just after Thames we crossed the Waihou river on the Orongo single-lane bridge some 470 metres long. Much of the road from here was through flat farmland and wetlands. At Waitakaruru, we turned north along the coast along the western side of the Firth of Thames. After stopping briefly at the Miranda bird-watching centre, we continued on with the sea one side and the Hunua range to the other.

The road continued on to Clevedon, where we stopped for lunch at the local deli. Once through Maraetai, we started to get into the suburbs of Auckland. After going though Howick, we were finally at the northern end of the Pacific Coast Highway, a road that we had followed all the way from Napier.

Once in Auckland, we joined the SH1 again, a motorway at this stage, right into the middle of the city before crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the north. We stayed on the motorway until it turned into a toll road and left to drive into Orewa. Here, at the Tourist Information Office, we managed to book a tour to Tiritiri Matanga Island for the following week. With that job done, we continued on north to the small town of Warkworth.

Warkworth is a pretty town on the banks of the creek leading out to Mahurangi Harbour. The choices of accommodation weren't great and we were still trying to find the elusive internet access we wanted. The Central Motel was a little dated but was clean and well priced. They did claim to have wifi access, but we never managed to connect to it. Although our room was next to the main road, it was quiet all night, but in the morning, one of the other guests was a road-working lorry driver and he started his lorry at 7 in the morning!

We ate pizza in a small Italian take-away almost next door to the hotel and then walked on into town. Down a small alleyway, we found a Tapas Bar called Tahi. I can't report on the quality of the food here, but I can say that the owner is a beer expert! We were the only customers and got talking to the owner, a Kiwi, who was married to a German. He had lived and worked in UK for several years in pubs and bars, and his knowledge of English beers was huge. Unsuprisingly, he was also an expert on New Zealand beers, especially real-ale and micro-breweries. His other speciality was German beers, his wife was from Bavaria!

We tried several beers, no spitting here! I tried a malty Harrington Razor back first, very toasty. Lynn had a Mata Manuka beer, brewed with honey. The owner then gave us a glass each of Croucher Bohemian Pilsner which had delicious light fruity flavours. Next up for Lynn was a Mata Artesian beer, quite light, but still 5%abv. I had an Emmerson's Bookbinder, a new world beer that smelt of peaches and even slightly tasted of them, it was delicious. If you are ever in Warkworth, hunt this place out. I'm pretty certain that the food will be good too.

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