New Zealand: The 309

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Boxing Day.  For some it means sales, others a hang-over and a general feeling of “I ATE TOO MUCH YESTERDAY!!!”, others it’s the annual Boxing day races, for us its picking a route that will avoid the most holiday traffic possible while still showing some stunning Coromandel Peninsula scenery.

Scanning the map we locate a windy gravel road from just before the seaside town of Whitianga slicing its way through the Coromandel Mountain Range to Coromandel town.  The mountains here are not so much tall as they are tightly knitted densely forested knobby mounds that require a quick reflex in the wrist to navigate without running into on-coming traffic or off into a crevasse on the other side.  Our conquering today would be of “The 309”.  With such a catchy name was there ever any doubt we would pass on this opportunity?

Leaving our temporary summer accommodation at Pauanui, we head inland to Hikuai, and literally across the river to the seaside town of Taiura. We pass hoards of holiday traffic already on the move, laden with kayaks, boxes, and booze for the coming new year’s celebrations.  The gentle sweepers of Highway 25 suddenly become hairpin turns better suited on a racetrack than a main arterial road pumping tourists into the plethora of beaches and campgrounds in the region.

The curves of the 25 start to straighten out, which was the first indication, we were getting close to the 309 turn off.  Our reliable Garmin didn’t let us down, and navigated us to the beginning of the gravel narrow almost goat track of a road called “The 309”.  Turning off onto the 309 we allow ourselves to take a quick stop at a mine closed for the holidays which also marked the end of the sealed road, then on to the gravel.  As we ascended the windy road cutting its way through the Coromandel Mountains the signs of people became fewer and fewer until virtually nonexistent.

The 309 winds itself along the Mahakirau stream to a summit of 306 meters before descending like a vicious elevator ride that has had its cable cut with a few twists along the way for good measure.  Once we reached the base of the ranges we had the fortune of meeting a bee keeper and his bevy of wild pigs he rescued.  Flora was able to meet on pig in particular up close and personal.  This was a gentle reminder that half of our travel is to experience the local people as well as the landscape.

Back on the bikes, we re-join the sealed Highway 25 and enter Coromandel Town, luckily finding some parking spots right in front of the intended lunch destination.  As it was Boxing Day, the Copper Tree cafe had a 20% surcharge which turned a somewhat overpriced meal to begin with into a meal that might require you to have a meeting with your bank manager to finance.  Of course that didn’t stop us from desert!

Full, hot, and high off of caffeine we head back on Highway 25.  Taking the seal offers us a speed that was un-obtainable on “The 309” as well as some amazing scenic vistas.  The glaring summer sun beat its rays through the o-zone hole hovering over New Zealand and it was beginning to take its toll, and silently we both thanked the brilliant plan to take the technical route earlier in the day.  These musings made the twists and turns seem almost easy along the 25 which eventually gives way to long straights and gentle sweepers allowing us a relaxing ride into Marturangi Beach.
A holiday beach that rivals some of the best in NZ, we would have relished a nice swim in the ocean, yet somehow only had the reserve left to lay under the shade of a few trees, snap some beach shots, and don our sweaty Shoei’s and head South past Whitianga and back to Pauanui in time for dinner.

Just North of Taiura, my KTM’s reserve fuel light came on at a paltry 175km.  Determined not to fill up at the end, I ran it on reserve the remaining 30km home.  During that time Flora’s fuel light never came on, yet both were filled to the same level.  Reasons were going through my head as I was writing this, and planning the next ride.  Everything from me being a throttle happy hoon, to some sort of aura that makes Flora’s machine runs better.  Remembering the DYNO showing hers having more HP and Torque.  It’s something I will keep a close eye on in the future, yet probably won’t attract my attention as much as the next spirited ride through the Coromandel region.

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