Coromandel Forest Park, or a long drive
Getting back to this obsession I have with travel guides, I was searching for some activities near Cathedral Cove for a day trip on Sunday. Not far from the beach I read about a horseback riding tour. For only 40 bucks we were all pretty excited to try something a little different. After a generous breakfast at a French creperie we called the ranch but there was no answer so we decided headed towards the ranch anyways. Half an hour into the drive they called back and said they could accommodate us at 2:30pm. The drive through Coromandel Forest was fun and scary. The roads were paved, but they were very mountainous and the speed limit was 100 km/hr so some people were going pretty fast. Now and then we’d get a spectacular view from between trees or the top of a range. Take note parents, bring blood pressure medication when you come visit as Andrew and I would love to take you to Coromandel. It’s a peninsula known for it’s many beaches and varied landscapes, great scenic views and there are ample things to do; fishing, hiking, relaxing and other activities galore.
We got to Rangihau Ranch a little early and munched on some pb and nutella sandwiches. The ranch was pretty rustic, but the horses looked well taken care of and the owners were friendly. We all strapped on some helmets and met our new best friends for the next hour. I was paired with Honey, an older horse, but friendly horse. Unlike a tour I did with my family a long time ago (I think it was in Missouri?) these horses required a little more coaxing to go in the right direction at the right time. They knew the path, but very early Honey learned that she could yank on the reins and grab a grassy snack. We went up and then down a mountain, and for a bunch of beginner riders, we were a little nervous when the path got steep. Kathy’s
horse, as well as mine, also gave a us a taste of horse jumping. Over a decent puddle the horses decided to sprint a few steps then jump over the puddle. The path took us past some kiwifruit groves then through the rain forest to the top of a mountain on the east coast of the Coromandel peninsula. The ranch was located in the outskirts of the Coromandel Forest Park in Coroglen. At the top of the mountain we took a quick break, the tour guide snapped some pictures with Jed’s camera, Andrew’s saddle was adjusted, then we meandered through some cow and sheep fields back to the ranch. The road was much straighter, so I dared to snap a couple of pictures at this point too. Honey was much better behaved now as well. It was a fun excursion and a great perspective on the countryside.
After the ride, we decided to head back to Auckland as we didn’t want to get in too late as Kathy and Jed were flying to the south island very early the next morning. I suggested we take road 309 to cut across to the west side of the peninsula and change up the view and scenic road a bit. Road 309 was named because in the olden days, it took 309 minutes to get across on horse. The road is VERY twisted and curved around with lots of ups and downs on hills and mountains. After the first few minutes we debated turning back. Andrew was driving and there were no guardrails. Finally, I convinced the gang to give it a try. It’s a 21km road, with two very popular touristy pit stops and bunch of other sites too, how bad could the road really be? Sadly, the first stop we wanted to take at the oldest kauri tree grove in the country was closed. The are trees over 600 years old and these trees were once all over the peninsula and island before they were nearly wiped out in the 19th century. The largest tree at the site is over 6m in circumference! The path to and through the grove was closed due to the instability of the site. Shame. Hopefully they’ll be able to repair the path so we can check it out another time. We got back in the car and drove up another 500m to Waiau Falls. A 10m high waterfall not 2 minutes from the road. Awesome!
After some time we continued the 2 hour drive back to Auckland. We grabbed some kebabs, a local Auckland favorite, played a few games and called it a night. We never made it to Cathedral Cove, but I’m sure we will another time. Cathedral Cove is near the hot water beach (dig a hole and you get your own hot water bath…) and it sounds like another fun day trip. So much to do, so little time.