After the brief stop at Ezy we rushed out of the city as quickly as we could. The traffic was heavy but moving and we fairly easily negotiated ourselves out and onto the Pacific Coast Highway. Gemma took driving in the city and on the motorway completely in her stride. Even while we've been away her confidence in her driving has come on massively. I no longer have to answer yes or no to every single intersection and roundabout, she assumes to go straight on unless I say otherwise. When I do say otherwise I can do it just before a turn off, rather than having to give about 3km notice. As my eyes aren't telescopic and can't see signs that are 3km away this is a pleasing development. As her experience and confidence have come on so has her shouting at other drivers. A sailor in the cab of our van would probably blush at the language sometimes used. Gemma is white van man. Admittedly her outbursts are normally justified, and caused by her trio of hates; people getting too close behind her, people randomly changing speed in front of her and non or incorrect use of the indicator. She hasn't yet developed a hatred of drivers wearing hats but I sense that it is only a matter of time.
Out of Auckland we stopped in the small town of Clevedon, with Gemma raging after following a scenic route sign and finding the road to be nondescript to the point of being dull. I treated myself to a venison burger while Gemma grumbled about signage. Continuing along the highway we found ourselves skirting the Firth of Thames. The area has mudflats and is very good for birdwatching. Indeed along the way we saw quite a few wading birds tucking into the things that live in the mud. After quite a long days driving by our standards we checked into Miranda Holiday Park. This was equal in the running for most expensive holiday park in New Zealand. The park had a swimming pool fed from the thermal springs next door, this possibly being the reason for the expense. In keeping with the other really expensive park we'd stayed in, which had a spa and sauna, the hot water related delights were overrun with children. Normally I don't have anything against kids, but you can't relax in the pool with a million kids running about. I saw that it was adults only later in the evening so bought wireless Internet access and tried to upload some photos. The wireless connection was flaky in the extreme such that I managed to upload about 3 photos in 2 hours. The rest of the time saw me tilting and repositioning the laptop, even walking around the park angling it every which way to see where the signal was best. I think Gemma was bemused by my constant mutterings, '12%, 0%, 3%, 6%.' By the time the kids got kicked out of the pool my pointless wrestling with the computer had driven not only the will to swim, but the will to live out of me. I went to bed.
Gemma had the foresight to set an alarm for 06:30 the next morning, the time of the pool opening for an adults only hour. This foresight did not extend to realising that the last thing either of us wants to do at 06:30 in the morning is swim. A futile attempt to get back to the not very good nights sleep I was having ended with us getting up and ready and away from the camp at our earliest time yet. The only hot water was in our tea and in the showers.
The day didn't get much better. Although reasonably buoyant to start with my mood began to become as grey as the sky was. We drove up the peninsular which on the west side is as flat as Norfolk. I was looking forward to a coffee at a café that the guidebook bigged up. This was an 18km drive up a spur from the main road to the town of Colville, popular with hippy Buddhist types. When we got there and discovered the café closed down I started to get properly moody. A coffee back just outside of Coromandel town did little to lift my mood.
At Hot Water Beach, a place where hot springs under the beach mean you can dig a hole in the sand and have your own little hot tub, we found the tide was in. The hot springs are only accessible for 2 hours either side of low tide. I had a bit of a rant about geothermal springs and if I wanted to sit in a pool of hot water I had a perfectly good kettle and bucket in the van.
I decided we better just get checked into the first van park we found. Finding one turned out to be easier said than done. We drove past a couple accidentally and because I had a full on temper brewed up I wouldn't let Gemma turn around, berating the owners for their poor signage. Eventually we turned off to Waihi Beach and found the Top 10 park. I almost cried when I saw that the shop over the road didn't sell beer. I had to make do with the newspaper and a cup of herbal tea instead.