1
146 Manakau Heights Dr

Well hello to those of you who have been invited and arrived or to any others who have stumbled unwittingly upon this blog and remained.

This is where I plan to let you know what I get up to and how I fare on my cycle trip down the North Island of New Zealand beginning at Cape Reinga on November 7th. This opening page is probably going to be a little long winded and is mainly for me to try out this blog site and make sure I can actually operate it and add in the things such as photos, videos and data from the other apps such as Strava and Komoot that I will be using. On the trip itself the updates will most likely be more concise as I’ll have less time and let’s face it, a lot less energy. Thank god I hear you breathe as you gaze at my rambling stretching on ... and on below.

A little about me, for those of you who know me, there’s nothing much to say apart from thanks !! for still being here, for those of you who don’t, well to be fair, there’s still really nothing to say 😂. I’m just a guy in my 40s who has had a long held dream to cycle through rhe country since I was 11 or 12. I’ve had a particularly rough ride with depression and discovered along the way that while it isn’t curable and is always there waiting to rise up and strike, it is manageable with thought, planning and mindfulness. For me personally, I need to be active, meeting new people and seeing new places and experiencing new things. What better excuse then to finally set out and achieve what many times over the past few years I thought I’d never attempt.

For the past several months I’ve been training when time has allowed and today I hit my target of getting 2000km behind me before setting off. The first 600 on my old bike and 1400 on the new one shown below. I’ve managed this with only 1 day to spare as my bike will head off up to Kerikeri on Monday, a week before I do, hopefully to be reassembled and ready for me when I arrive on the 6th.

Here she is in all her glory and fully loaded

I’ve had a few issues with the rear rack and it’s been adjusted forward from this position. I remain convinced that it will not make it the full distance, though my bike shop assures me it will. Time will tell who is proven correct and let it be said that I’m most willing to be proven wrong ...

I agree with those of you thinking “ he’s crazy, that’s a hell of a load of gear “ ... it is. The sad part is that this is the reduced amount haha.

On board I’m carrying my camping gear in the bright yellow rear bag, consisting of my 2 man tent (A Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 - Mountain Glo - for those of you interested in such things). I have an inflatable pillow (Yes I’m soft), a thermarest inflatable bed mat and a Marmot Electrum sleeping bag.

My panniers are all Ortlieb and the front are loaded with my cooking gear and a variety of freeze dried meals and various other food & drink related items. In the Rear Rollers I have my clothing and toiletries on one side in a separate Eagle Creek packing cube with jacket and waterproof over pants on top and on the other is all my electrics, chargers, spare tyres and tubes and bike tools. There is a fairly elaborate medical bag and other odds and ends that may or may not get mentioned during the trip. The handlebar bag is my favourite and though it looks small it actually contains a great deal, including my glasses, sunglasses, sun cream, battery packs, wallet, GoPro, bike lock, bike lights, snacks and often used tools. Again, I’m amazed at what fits in there.

All of this is packed onto my bike and here’s where I give you my first confession, it’s an e-bike, but don’t let that fool you. Sure you get assistance when going up steep hills or into a howling headwind but to those of you who think it’s a free ride where I just sit and gaze about whilst the bike ploughs on ahead like some cruise control in a car, let me assure you this isn’t the case. If I don’t pedal then I don’t move.

The bike is a Scott e-Scale 920 and has a Bosch motor with a 500w battery (2 actually, as I lashed out a horrendous amount for a spare after beginning training in earnest with a fully laden bike). It has 4 different assistance settings (economy, touring, mountain bike and turbo). For the most part I try not to use it until absolutely necessary and thereby conserve my battery. In all my training I’ve not used the last 2 settings apart from the first day when of course you try these things out to see what they can actually do. For the most part I use economy on a hill unless it’s a bit of a bastard and then I move to touring. The poor bike is a hell of a weight, being 23 kg unloaded and then my 5 panniers combined adding another 24 kg not including the handle bar bag which is probably another 2. Slap my not unsubstantial self on top of that (another 92kg ... (which will hopefully decrease as the journey continues) and you can see that combined, we are a bit like a Mac truck rolling along.

So today was the last training run (unless I find some spare minutes tomorrow) and it turned out to be the nastiest day I’ve trained in. To add to the fun I’m full of a cold with a non stop cough and a throat that feels like it has a rusty barbed wire fence coiled around inside. Anyhow, armed with a fresh pack of throaties and very little energy I headed out into what began as a light drizzle and eventually turned into a steady rain. In a way it was good as I’d not really struck much wet weather in my prep and it tested out my jacket and shoe covers, both which performed admirably.

Manakau - The area where I live

Otaki Coastline

About 3/4 of the way around there was a downpour that was so heavy I could barely see ahead and I contemplated stopping to put on my waterproof overtrou but 3 thoughts stopped me, 1) My shorts were already drenched through, 2) by the time I got them out so would 1/2 the contents of my panniers be, and 3) I was so cold that if I’d stopped I would have more likely been tempted to put up my tent and crawl in my sleeping bag. Thankfully it eased after a few minutes and returned to a more normal rain. I had planned to knock off my last 60 odd km in 2 smaller rides over a couple of days but decided to get it out of the way today and leave tomorrow free.

The magic goal of 1400km which took me to 2000km training in total.

Here is a link to my Strava recording for the day, please feel free to add me on the app if you have it and follow along, I will endeavour to turn it on each day before I set off.

https://strava.app.link/zFT6Q5pUlR

I was hoping to embed the actual Strava recording with all the stats it provides but it seems as though I can only provide a link.

I can embed the pic but I guess it’s just as easy for those who are interested .. if any, to click the link and see the full deal which allows you to zoom in etc

Anyhow, on we go and I will now plop in my 3D version of today’s ride from another app which I really like called ’Relive’. To view this, touch (or click on it if you are on a computer) and there should be a faint white arrow to push/click near the centre to make the video run ... took me a few goes to see it and get it to run myself.

For those of you struggling .. hi mum 😉, click the following link and it should run automatically

https://www.relive.cc/view/1929244969

Ok, so lastly in this overlong first entry, I’ll provide a link to the other app I will use regularly. Komoot is a great app I found that lets you preplan a route and get voice guidance in my earphones or through the phone while cycling. You can even add in bike paths and off road routes and it’s proves most useful. Here then is the link to my entire North Island route

https://www.komoot.com/user/662547670566?ref=imk

Just in case you’re struggling, my Komoot user id is 662547670566 please feel free to add me.

Lastly this blog is apparently available as both an app and a website so again feel free to follow along and add (polite) comments or questions when you feel like it, I will do my best to reply.

If you made it down this far then you really are an insomniac like myself. I fear however I’m alone and that was enough to put anyone asleep.

Next entry will be on November 6, hope to see you there ...

2
Kerikeri

Greetings from Kerikeri, yes I’ve arrived and got through the first day, don’t get too excited yet though as it really wasn’t under my own steam but sitting aboard 2 aeroplanes.

I was up just before 7am, and those who know me can attest to this being some form of miracle. I blazed around the house showering, emptying the dishwasher, throwing on a load of washing and generally trying to leave my usual bombsite in a slightly better state for my mate Kevin who has been tasked with looking after the place and my 2 dogs for the first 3 weeks I’m away. To sweeten the deal I threw some ingredients at the bead maker and set it for a delayed start in the hope that the nice smell of fresh bread would take his mind off the rest of the things I hadn’t got to .. such as making up a clean bed for him to sleep in.

\240My poor dogs were also bewildered at getting \240fed a deal earlier than usual but as usual weren’t going to decline a feed no matter what the hour.

A little less happy when I left them behind

I manage to get away just before 8 and realising I’ve not had anything myself, I try out the new BP app and order a coffee from Otaki. Bloody brilliant service, not only am I up to my free one but I arrive to find it waiting and piping hot, in and out within a 2 minutes and a very happy chappy.

Next stop is Lower Hutt and I pick up Kev who is ready and waiting. A quick detour to ‘spark’ to grab a new phone screen protector and what a performance. Trust me, they are just as bad in store as on their interminable phone service where you push 1 for this and 2 for that and end up on hold for 90 mins before talking to an unintelligible operator from an Asian country far away who isn’t slightly interested in assisting you even if you could understand what he was saying.

\240I finally manage to extract my screen protector from them after arguing that they had infact called me to say it was in store and waiting. It took 2 of them to locate it and a 3rd to load it onto their system so they could actually take it back out of their system and let me have it ....

Next stop mums and a few last adjustments to her computer so she can find what she needs while I’m away. She makes us a cup of coffee and in a last ditch attempt to stop me from going on this crazy idea of a trip, attempts to poison me with milk that is clearly off. It doesn’t work however as I’m wise to her wily ways and detect the plot upon first sip. Had I drank the whole cup I fear I would have been fully wind assisted from the rear for the next few days on the bike.

\240After a detour to pick up a trademe win for Kev, I’m finally at the airport and duly check my bags in. I’m busy congratulating myself on being so organised and on time when my phone begins to ring. It’s a distraught security man from Air NZ who begs me to return to the security area. I get back to find him with my spare battery packs for my phone and GoPro etc, apparently you can’t check these in and have to take them on board. I sign a sheaf of paperwork and thrust them in my already full backpack.

\240I take my seat and as usual am fascinated by those boarding around me. An elderly man with a cowboy hat that fills the aisle, a lady at least in her 70s with her hair full of glitter, the various tattoos on the most unlikeliest people and the usual array of self important looking businessmen of and business woman ... lest we forget this era of equality.

A pretty boring photo I agree, but at least it gave you a brief respite from my even more boring monologue.

I play the old game of waiting to see if you have someone sitting beside you and trying to pick which of the harrassed looking people it will be. I’m not at all unhappy when I lose my little game and end up with an empty seat beside me, pure bliss on any flight in my opinion. We are over 20 minutes late to board and I wonder to myself If all the other passengers have been chased down and handed back batteries or other items to take on board.

\240We duly arrive late in Auckland and my best laid plans to leisurely utilise a Koru Club voucher I’ve had for some time come unstuck. I arrive at a jog and manage to woffle down a sandwich, pasta (it was either that or sliced pencil eraser), some soup and a coffee before jogging back out with a brownie in hand. Boy, the standard of that place has dropped considerably over the years. The food today was barely edible.

\240 Onto the smaller plane bound for Kerikeri and the one1 air hostess is a hoot. She gives the generic safety instructions and finishes by saying “for those of you who didn’t listen, goooood luck”. \240She also advises that the inflight entertainment is herself and that she is available for an entertaining chat with anyone. The most embarrassing moment comes later as while handing out water she enquires if I’m on holiday, I explain my trip and within minutes she’s back up the front on her mic and informing the whole plane “we have a young fellow aboard who’s about to cycle the length of the country, I think he deserves a round of applause”. The passengers all oblige and I sink low in my seat hoping that the ‘young fellow’ description has them all fooled and looking around wildly in a different direction.

My adoring crowd before my stardom

Air NZ are having an off day it seems. This time it’s a discrepancy in baggage weight between what has actually been loaded and what is written on the pilots manifesto. The upshot is that every item of baggage is unloaded, reweighed and reloaded. A tedious 30 minutes on a stuffy plane later we are finally on our way with a wee square of salted caramel fudge to placate us. To be fair, it was better than anything the Koru Club offered.

\240Arriving in Kerikeri I lug my bags out and am the only passenger for the shuttle. What a lovely lady the driver is, she drops me to my accomodation and then offers to run me me to the bike shop and then post shop to send back my bags I’d bought my bike panniers up in. She refused to take a cent over the standard $12 fee. Most generous and very much appreciated as by now I’m running late. At the bike shop I discover my helmet is missing a piece and assumably is in the bag I’ve just posted. I sprint off back down to the post shop and yet another lovely lady locates the bag, skits it open and retrieves my helmet piece. She then tapes it all back up reposts it.

Another sprint back to the bike shop and I am reunited with my bike. I glean as much advice as I can for tomorrow’s beach ride. Let it be known that the team at Hunter Cycles in Kerikeri are friendly, knowledgeable and most helpful. Recommend them highly !

I decide that since I haven’t ridden in over a week that I’d better check the bike out with it’s new tyres, chain and brake pads and set off for a wee blat around Kerikeri picking up a last few items as I go, gas canisters and the like that aren’t allowed on planes. I end up out at the old stone store house before heading back to town and grabbing a takeaway roast for dinner.

Click above to see today’s feeble ride

https://strava.app.link/dOtkXWexCR

That was a better break from my drivel wasn’t it ...

Anyway, I’m staying at an AirBnB tonight, hosted by ex Pom Andy. He’s a terrific guy and has a lovely house within a minute of town. He makes me feel most at home and we chat over a beer before I go to repackage my gear. I then call Greg who will be shuttling me to Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island in the morning and he instantly joins the ranks of The Parramatte Eels, Rafa Nadal and John Lennon as one of my heroes. He absolutely makes my day by suggesting that he detour on the way up tomorrow and we drop off my panniers at the campground where I’m aiming for. This is an absolutely stunning piece of good fortune for me as my panniers weigh somewhere around 30kg combined and I’ve been fretting as to how I will get on travelling down the beach tomorrow with all that weight plus me onboard. This will solve everything ... hopefully ... touch wood and all that.

Well that’s all the news today and tomorrow it all begins. All my chargers are charging and I’m off to bed, see you tomorrow ... I hope

3
Ahipara

5.32am, that’s when I awake and sadly am unable to lapse back into what was a fitful sleep anyway. I lie thinking of the day ahead until an hour later I’m up and making last adjustments to the packing. Slurp down a coffee and before I’m done, Greg the shuttle driver is at the door early, 6.54am to be exact. Greg has been in the wars and has 1 arm in a sling having ripped the muscle off his bicep. This makes the long and windy journey a little more interesting than I’d imagined it might be. He knows the road like the back of his hand and thankfully for me, it seems to be the hand of his uninjured arm.

He has an imported Nissan van and it’s actually quite flash inside, electric sled shutting doors and all the bells and whistles. My bike fits happily in the back with my panniers strewn around it. Greg is a top bloke and has been up this way most of his life with fingers in many pies, he does shuttle driving, quad renting, a little building and seems to have turned his hand (when it wasn’t in a sling) to most things. He apparently moved up to Ahipara in his early 20’s, “came up for a surf and a fish and never left”. He loves the area and has an incredible knowledge of it that he willingly shares.

He also has a great sense of humour and proceeds to tell me the story of his fancy built in entertainment unit that came with the van. Absolutely bloody hopeless he informs me, I’ve tried everything to change it to English and all I get is this bloody Jap jabbering away at me (it has voice recognition and GPS) can’t get a radio or CD to work and every time I try it’s more effin gibberish ! He’s taken to yelling sayonara ya bastard at it and hammering the off button. Apparently he had a passenger one day who was Japanese and kindly went into the settings and changed it over to English for him. Went bloody brilliant for 2 days, he says, but then I left the bloody door open over night, killed the battery and the English guy in my unit, when I managed to get it going again the bloody Jap was back and has been ever since. After a detour to the Kaitaia warehouse to replace a lost drink bottle, well it’s not actually lost, it is now a kind donation to the freezer at my AirBnB, we pick up another cyclist heading to the top. She is a lovely Belgian girl who has cycled up to Kaitaia from Auckland and is also about to cycle down the country. She looks genuinely fightened as Greg heads off in his carefree manner, one good arm alternately swinging on the wheel and massaging his bad arm.

We stop at a roadside umm shed I guess I’ll call it for a spot of breakfast and also a sandwich for later in the day. The elderly lady who serves me and owns the business is a right crack up and insists I buy one of her homemade seafood pies. I’m a little hesitant as I have visions of it weighing heavily inside as I attempt to pedal along the beach. She won’t take no for an answer though and Greg chimes in saying I’ll never taste a better seafood pie. As it turns out, they are right, the pie is incredible and without doubt the finest seafood pie in existence today. Crammed full of scallops, shrimps, calamari and fish, it tastes like the finest seafood chowder within a fantastic homemade pastry. I could have demolished a second and might well have done had I not had to cycle over 100km very soon after. Instead I purchase a homemade mutton sandwich and pack it away.

Greg ordering his own seafood pie which proved challenging to eat whilst driving with one arm.

One last detour to Ahipara where I drop off my panniers at the local camping ground where I hope I will be returning this evening .. all going well. They are pleasant and helpful and store them safely away for me. Just over an hour and a half later we arrive at the top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. As expected it’s full of tourist buses and I’m surprised at the number who have made there way up to see, well to be fair, not very much. There is a pleasant walk down to a lighthouse, a lovely view and the sight of 2 great oceans meeting, but that honestly doesn’t seem a great trade off for what would have been around 5 hours or more in a sweaty, wallowing bus. Still, i guess no one is holding a gun to their heads, although they may want to themselves when they realise that this is all there is up here and they have lashed out mega bucks for a 10 hour return bus trip. I suppose they do get to blast along the beach for a little while on the way back, but still ...

Greg sees me off

I take a minute to organise the bike and then the goodbyes are said, only temporary as it turns out as Greg invites me around to his house for a celebratory drink that evening ... if I make it. He says dryly, if you’re not there by 7 I’ll drive up the beach and look for ya, I’m not sure if he’s kidding or not.

I drift bike down to the lighthouse and take the obligatory pics and end up taking several others for tourists proffering their cameras at me, I must look like a professional photographer and begin to panic that I may never actually get away. After taking several for an Indian guy who is particular keen to engage my sevices, sadly without a fee, I manage to make my escape. I don’t get far however before I’m accosted by an elderly German gentleman who is fascinated by my bike. Ahh Bosch Bosch he keeps saying, güt, sehr güt. It seems he has had a connection in his past with the Bosch company who made the motor for my e-bike. He then pleads to let him have a quick ride and against my better judgement I agree. He wobbles dangerously around in tight circles for a minute before making an undignified dismount and handing me back my bike unscathed. He’s beaming with pleasure so I suppose he must have enjoyed it. His wife had taken a video of the occasion and I’m not sure if he will be pleased when he sees it to be honest ... who knows

I cycle back up to the road and I’m off. It’s quite a surreal feeling to be heading into something I’ve dreamed of for so long and yet having such a vast way to travel ahead of me. Fairly soon I encounter my first steepish hill and After 10 days or so of not cycling, I’m wondering why I actually anted to do this. I gain my rhythm after a while and settle in for the ride.

An hour down the road I take the turn off for Te Paki stream. This is the part that has given me sleepless nights but it turns out to be not only a piece of cake, but a most enjoyable chocolate torte of a ride on a par in pleasure with the chocolate torte my Aunty Val is famous for. You actually end up cycling down the middle of a steam and from side to side, aiming for the darker patches which are more solid underwheel. I stop briefly to watch dozens of people sliding down gigantic sandhills and then not long after find myself all too soon at the top of 90 Mile Beach, which incidentally is only 82 odd km ... which at this time I’m fairly grateful for.

Te Paki stream - a most enjoyable ride

Te Paki Stream

Te Paki sand dunes

90 Mile beach starts off as a novelty, it’s huge dunes on your left and a wild roaring ocean on the right. You can cycle it for 2 hours before low tide and up to 2 hours after. This then gives you a 4 hour window to travel the 82 odd km which makes it more of a challenge than an enjoyable relaxing ride. There’s no time for stopping for a a cuppa and I demolish my mutton sandwich whilst trying to maintain a steady 20km/hr or more. The only brief stop was to wash off my bike from the ride down Te Paki steam which has covered the bike in sand.

\240For the first 45 km of the beach I quite enjoy myself. I’ve got my speaker belting out some music and when The Polices ‘Walking OnThe Moon’ comes on, I reflect that it’s actually very appropriate, I doubt I will ever be somewhere that feels more like the surface of the moon than this.

Apart from the odd tourist bus, several 4wd utes and the odd tramper, I seem to have the entire beach to myself. The day which never reached any great heights weather wise begins to close in but thankfully rain holds off. Somewhere during the first half of the beach, a terrible odour hits my nose. At first I think it maybe myself evacuating gusts of the seafood pie, but eventually I make out a shape ahead of me on the beach. As I get closer I realise it’s a rotting carcass and here for your viewing pleasure is a photo of said carcass

As you can see it’s quite a size and the size of the smell was I proportion I assure you.

By the 65km mark I feel like I’m hitting the wall and briefly stop for a snickers bar, it works miracles and I sort of understand how a diabetic must feel when they haven’t taken their meds or had some sugar, it’s a rapid recovery and I’m off again

Oh, I’ve just realised that most of you haven’t met Bob, my mate keeping me company on the trip. I’ll rectify that not for you

Say Hi to Bob

I was assured by several people who’ve done cycle trips that you must have a mascot and as eels are impossible to find, I’ve gone with a hedgehog as I feel it will suit my pace and prickly moods when things go wrong.

Anyhow, even though the snickers revived my, I have to admit that from that point in my eyes kept wandering to the speedo and I rejoiced heartily when every km clicked past, each one seemingly taking twice as long as it’s predecessor. To be honest, as novel as the beach was, 82km of it was a wee more than enough. It was with great joy that I finally reached the end and also a little relief as by 6.20pm odd, the ride was well on its way in and the once wide beach was now substantially narrower. Had I been weighed down with all my panniers, I may well have stopped at the 65 km mark and camped up in the dunes for the night.

Off the beach we go at Ahipara

Just as I exit the beach it begins to rain, not heavily but certainly enough to be annoying. I arrive at the campgrounds wet and proceed to check in, retrieve my panniers and set up my tent, never enjoyable in the wet. It’s now after 7.30 and I’m starving. I head to the highly rated fish n chip shop and to be fair it’s ok but not as good as reviews say, especially at the price.

Over the road is Greg’s house where I thoroughly wash the bike of sand and am handed several potent vodka and grape juices, not my usual but enjoyable enough all the same. I make my excuses early and promise to return for a coffee in the morning.

Back at camp I muddle my way around the tent in the dark trying to organise things getting more frustrated by the minute. Finally locate my charger and set the bike to charging while I head for a very long hot shower. Most enjoyable shower ever. It’s still raining which is a pain and makes camping much less enjoyable. I buy myself an icecream from the office to placate myself and settle down to write my blog and wait for the bike to charge, which is where you find me now. I’d much rather be tucked up asleep at 11.40pm but can’t leave the bike blocking the laundry and charging my bike with no access for all the other people to the washer and dryer. Goodnight all, I’m off to check and pray it’s done.

I will leave you with my Strava, relive and a few video of the day

https://strava.app.link/Of4vTOogER

4
Rawene Holiday Park

5.30 am seems to be my new body clock alarm for some horrendous reason. Can’t believe it when I check the time. Having drunk around 3 litres of water during my cycle yesterday and then demolishing a couple of coffees to revive me on arrival, I am in need of relief and perhaps it’s this that has woken me. I love everything about my wee tent apart from the zip on the fly when it’s wet. It clings and grabs and generally makes a pain of itself. My need for relief is becoming slightly more urgent by the time I win the battle of Ahipara and clamber my way outside over panniers and detritus I’ve left sprayed around in my haste to erect the tent in the rain. It’s still lightly spitting and my last urgent tug on the zip showers me with water soaking me all down my back, it’s also bloody cold after my nice warm sleeping bag. I decide the toilet block is too far away for a visit this early and decide to helpfully assist watering the closest tree instead. This done I stumble back into the tent and have another infuriating argument with the zip. Neighbouring tent sites may well have overheard some choice words as I told it what it was.

My Ahipara Tent Site

Surprisingly, I manage to drop back off until around 7.20 and when I reawaken the pitter patter of rain on my tent has ceased. I make a snap decision to pack up and move on while the weather is ok but having flung things everywhere in my haste last night, it takes quite some time to reorganise panniers and get my tent down. The tent fly is still soaked and so I shake it off the best I can and stuff it in a separate bag. Finally at 9.30 I’m ready to depart. It’s a shock to the system to be fully loaded once again after yesterday’s light load. The bike handles completely differently under load and it takes a little getting used to again. Just as I’m departing I get a call from Greg inviting me for coffee with him and his wife. As it’s on my way out of town and I’ve not had anything to eat or drink, I gratefully accept. His wife has gone to the trouble of making a Nespresso with even the frothed milk, it’s exactly what I need and I feel a bit guilty when I make my excuses soon after and hit the road. It’s not that I don’t enjoy their company but more the fact that I want to arrive at my next stop in plenty of time to set up camp in a more organised fashion and have a little time to relax.

I decide against music today and am just enjoying the scenery after the monotony of 80 km of nothing but beach yesterday evening. The road rises and dips through small valleys of mainly pine trees. At times there are steep drops away to my left with the odd pond and small lake, it’s all very beautiful and helps pass the km I’m a satisfying manner. I come upon a hill where there are what I think are turkeys sitting way up on a rise. A dog barks nearby and they all set off making a huge racket in response. I can’t help but laugh and decide I will set them off also, the following video is the result

Enjoy with sound

The thing I love most about cycling is just how much you see in comparison to blasting past in a car. Things you glance at out of a car window you can pull up to on a bike and take the time to wonder what the hell was someone thinking and what possessed them to do it, today for example I saw this gate in the middle of nowhere

I also saw a tree by the roadside covered with hanging dinner plates ... the mind boggles.

With only Greg’s coffee inside of me, by the time 12.30 has rolled around and with a few good hill climbs in my legs, I’m feeling decidedly peckish.There is only one town between myself and my destination and it happens to be the metropolis of Broadwood. I’m salivating at the thought of a decent meal, perhaps I’ll even shout myself a steak dinner or something early and have a light tea tonight. It comes as a bit of a shock when I almost cycle through broadwood and out the other side before I’ve even realised I’ve arrived. I hastily apply my brakes and skid to a halt outside it’s shop. That’s right, no plural in shop. It’s a one stop affair with not many options for the hungry passing cyclist. A huge sign adorns the window advertising crisp fresh chicken and chips. Not exactly what I’m after but what the hell, I’ll take it ... or at least I thought I would until the turbaned Indian inside informs me that they have finished cooking for the day. I look down at my watch in bewilderment and it confirms the time at 12.41, quite probably lunch time in most of the country but apparently not here in Broadwood. I do get the feeling that time would pass very slowly here and perhaps it was only 7am still in his mind. I let it pass and politely enquire as to what food he has to offer, he points to a sadly ancient pie warmer and some pies that quite probably were placed in it the very same day it was installed. With a sweep of his other hand he offers me an array of tinned goods and mentions that the baked beans are on special at $2 something or other a can. Not totally wrapped up in the idea of cold baked beans I dubiously decide on the pie. He seems pleased by my choice and is so delighted, I feel that if not already the boss himself, he may just have got himself a promotion. I also decide on a trumpet icecream as the humidity has been high and I need cooking off. It’s another error in judgement as in hindsight their freezer appears to be on the blink. With little choice in the matter I drink my trumpet first and on reflection later it was probably a good move as it lent a little moisture to the pie and allowed it to scrape down my throat, lodging somewhere not much lower for the next hours cycling. On the way out of town, a mere millisecond later, I took a photo of the main attraction of Broadwood for your viewing pleasure

Brodwood public toilets ... you must come to go

I’m possibly being a little harsh on Broadwood, but only slightly possibly. Soon after my gps guidance app, Komoot gives me the surprising instruction to turn right up what looks like a cattle track. It’s so surprising that at first I don’t believe it and continue straight on. It soon rebukes me though and orders me to make a U-Turn. I oblige somewhat dubiously and head back and up the track wondering if I was up a little late and feeling drowsy when I’d preprogrammed the route at home. Up and up I climb my legs beginning to burn and my mind wondering if I’m actually even going the right way. The condition of the track isn’t wonderful, a lot of unpacked gravel and potholes. Bob isn’t impressed and eventually decides to abandon ship down a bank. I’m even less than impresssd with him and tell him so. A few km later, still in a sulk, he jumps off the other side and again I stop to retrieve him. This time stern words are not enough and I put his seatbelt on ... a bungy cord wrapped around his guts. He doesn’t seem all that chuffed with being tied on only a few days after a failed Velcro operation, but at least he stays in place. Light drizzle begins and I wait for Bob to start complaining but it seems he’s learnt his lesson. I don’t mind either as it’s actually quite refreshing in the humidity.

Before the climb gets steeper and more rutted

The views are wonderful after a day of beach

We eventually coast down into Kohukohu and it’s everything I’ve heard it is, picturesque and quaint. Cute little houses line the foreshore and I cycle back and forth enjoying the views and arty shops. The cafes also look inviting but its well past lunch and they are closed. This was my intended destination for the day but as I cycle towards the campground I pass the ferry to Rawene that I’d be heading on tomorrow and decide that since it’s still only 3.30pm, I’ll cross now and be ahead of schedule in the morning. It departs on the hour and at 4pm I cycle onboard the barge and pay my $2.00. It’s great value with the surrounding views, even if the ride is only 10 - 12 minutes long. It’s also very popular and I feel sorry for the last car queued up that was left with no room on board, it will be another hours wait for them.

Rawene from the ferry

Once across the captain allows me off first as I’m the only bike, I cycle around the small town centre and then head to the campsite which is perched atop another damn hill. It proves worth the climb however as the views from my tent site are spectacular. I get the tent up whilst being eaten alive by the fiercest, most enormous mossies I can recall. Legs, arms and hands are bleeding from their Kamikaze dive bomb attacks. I finally manage to find my repellant and slather myself in the stuff. Thankfully it seems as potent as it smells and I’m left alone thereafter but still with red itchy lumps all over. Lesson learned, I now keep the repellant in my handle bar bag.

Rawene Campsite

Sensational view from my tent

Probably the other best part of this mode of travel are the great people you meet from all walks of life and the various countries. Today it’s Grant and his wife Claire, I meet Claire first as she’s having a swim in the pool, which is quite brave in my opinion as it looks a little chilly. I head up to the kitchen to charge my multitude of battery powered devices and cook my meal. I decide on pot luck and reach in to pull out the first freeze dry meal that comes to hand. Lamb fettuccine it is and it’s not half bad. Halfway through it another chap arrives at the outside tables to join me in enjoying the view. He’s drinking a beer and I’m a little jealous as it’s just what I feel like. He must read my mind, or perhaps my layer of drool and he disappears and returns with another which he places before me. It’s some form of craft beer and very expensive looking. It also tastes every bit as good as it look. We chat away for an hour or so and his wife joins us. They are ex poms who moved to Raglan 7 years ago. They have just sold up and decided to tour the country in a camper van before deciding where to settle next. Sounds brilliant to me.

My bike will spend its second night in a row in a laundry. It’s offered to me as a place to charge it and keep it safe and dry. I’m very appreciative as it possibly could rain again \240tonight and lord knows I need the charge for tomorrow as several other guests have informed me I’m in for a decent climb or 3.

It’s dark after I shower and heading back to my tent I discover that my guy ropes are luminous, a bloody brilliantly idea to stop you tripping over them all the time.

.

Proud owner of luminous guy ropes

As I sit here and complete this blog, the whine of mossies is intense. They are circling outside and the odd thwack onto the roof of the tent suggests they are sizeable. No early morning exits here without large doses of repellent I feel.

Well it’s time for an earlier night and as usual I’ll leave you with the days Strava and relive .. enjoy ... if you can be bothered :)

https://strava.app.link/lZMF4SSSFR

Yup ! 1318m of elevation and I can feel it !!

5
Dargaville

Greetings from the road and boy there was a lot of road today. However, as is my want, I shall ramble and bore you from the beginning as usual.

I managed a sleep in today ... until 6.40am that is, which is sort of a record for this trip so far. I awoke with a couple of throbbing aches which I soon realised were my legs and a huge whine in my ears making me think I was sitting at a nascar track. This turned out to be the mossies back in full force. Forewarned I rearmed (and relegged also for that matter) with my super duper repellant. I’ll give a plug to Kathmandu here as their repellant is super effective.

Miracle of miracles, it’s not raining and my entire tent is dry at last. Not wishing to tempt fate, I toss everything out and immediately pack it up. I’m a lot more organised today and it’s a whole lot faster than on previous days. I decide on another quick shower, mainly to assist my aching legs and head on over. There are only 2 showers at this campground and they back onto each other with not much deadening in between. An immense gentleman squeezes his way into the first shower just before me and I take the second stall. Almost immediately there are crashes, bangs and loud moans eminating from next door. He is either American or Canadian and I’d probably lay my money on American, I won’t give reasons in case any Americans stumble across this blog. Anyhow, the man begins to give a steady commentary, probably unaware that I could hear every word. To be fair to the guy, they weren’t the biggest of cubicles, but to also be fair, he’d come close to ranking as the biggest guy presently in the north island. Amid more clatters, bangs and roars of pain came such classic lines as, goddam how you even get wet under this goddam thing. Can’t even goddam turn around in here. This is a joke!! This goddam room is reeeeediculous, can’t fit on the toilet can’t get in the shower, and so on. He’s still struggling away several minutes later when I’m done and leave and may possibly need mechanical help to be extracted.

My day moves on though and I make my porridge and enjoy it with a coffee looking out over that magnificent view for the last time. As I’m trying to enjoy the peace, several other guests seeing me in my cycling gear enquire as to where I’m heading. When I outline my plans for the day most give me a mortified look and proceed In their own ways to tell me that the hill is a guaranteed trip to hell. I am fast getting a complex and by the time a Frenchman has told me ‘ees no posseeebeel on a boik, you must be heeechhike weeeth a trook, I’m starting to believe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I resolve to give it a crack anyway and retrieve my bike from the laundry where it spent the night charging and Bob gives me the silent treatment having been abandoned in their accidentally also.

Looking at my speedo I notice that the bike has now done a total of 1598km, the 1600th was an early morning wake up call and a little of the torture of later endure, the 1601st was the first of many highlights, blitzing down the other side. Roadwise it has literally been a day of up and downs. The early part of the morning was spent heading around and out of the peninsula of Hokianga and past what looked like mangrove swamps. Quite enjoyable scenery but not a patch on what was to come.

Breakfast

Heading off

The up and downs begin and for every downhill I know I’ll be paying for it soon after. Poor Bob has a traumatic moment when we come across a long lost relative of his on the side of the road, he attempts to give snout to snout but to no avail

Bob and Squish, his long lost relly

Even given the hills, the ride is immensely enjoyable for the scenery and things hit new heights as I decend into Opononi / Omapere. What magnificent little towns or bays really. The view to put it simply, are stunning and I just roll to a stop and take it in, sand dunes and a beautiful harbour, it’s a sight that you can just drink in for hours if you had the time. I don’t have a lot of time with the promised killer hill still ahead of me but I decide that the view is worth a longer look and since the pub I’ve fortuitously come to a halt outside just opening, I decide what the hell and take a seat to enjoy the view a little longer. It’s not very often, never before infact, that I indulge in a beer at 10.30am but given the view and the hard work I’d put in this morning, I decided what the hell it would give me Dutch courage for the main event coming up. It was money well spent as I was already sweating like an Olympic sprinter.

Opononi is the little bay and town famed in the 1950s by being host to a friendly dolphin. It can be read about by clicking here. Whilst Opononi still appears to be a thriving little community, the same can’t be said for its neighbouring little bay Omapere which boasts a huge but long since deserted petrol station/diner/ souvenir shop. Many places have for sale signs adorning the from fences.

Opononi

Two things that I’ve noticed about northland so far are the prolific amount of cemeteries dotted here and there, most often on little hillsides and the amount of burnt out cars strewn along the side of the roads. I have to have passed at least a dozen on my journey so far

The ups and downs continue but gradually grow a little steeper. I’m churning through battery but make no mistake, I’m still piling in a lot of effort and refuse to use anything past the 2nd level of assistance. By the time I roll into the little town of Waimamku I’m utterly famished. I stop at a little cafe, the only food place in town and order a steak, eggs and toast. It’s on special for $14, which I suppose isn’t bad. It’s a fairly greasy looking offering and the waitress does well to keep it from sliding from the plate when delivering it. It doesn’t taste that bad though and I demolish it fairly rapidly. The cafe is an interesting place for a browse with prominent and not so prominent past and present dwellers having written out little stories of their lives in the area and pinned them to a big board. Photos of past times and glories of the town are dotted around and make fascinating reading. I finally tear myself away and back onto the road where I’m immediately greeted by the devil hill. It begins to climb and then just goes on and on. Each corner you peer around hopefully only to have your hopes dashed and legs scream. Up and up I climb for kilometre after kilometre and just when I think I’ll have to pull over for a break I finally begin to descend. What utter relief though it’s short lived as I soon pull in and park the bike to take the short walk in to see Tane Mahuta. To be honest I’ve always thought meh, it’s just a bloody tree but today my mind is changed. After cleaning your shoes and washing the soles you proceed along a little boardwalk out to view an over 2000 year old kauri tree. It actually has a presence and aura all of its own that has to be experienced to appreciate. \240It is simply magnificent and rises up towards the sky with branches the size of large trunks growing from its canopy. A lovely young lady, Vanessa, from the group of volunteers, friends of the tree, gives those of us gathered around the legend of Tane and the significance of the tree and the meaning of it’s name and the known history of the tree. She takes photos for all and surprisingly I see no sign of a donation box or any form of payment for the useful role she provides.

Tane Hahuta

Tane and me

I eventually drag myself away and after another small climb begin the most exhilarating and elongated downhill blast of my life. Just as the climb up had seemed to take forever, so replied the downhill. If the sheer joy of hitting speeds in excess of 70km/hr wasn’t enough, the decents through the most wonderous of forests was an added bonus. Massive Kauris on each side of the road stood sentry above as I whizzed past with km after km now spinning over on my Speedo.

Video of the walk into Tane Mahuta

Video on the way down after Tane Mahuta

After a sensational run down I’m feeling pumped and ready for more, I can’t believe it when around the corner I find my intended campsite for the night. It’s only 2pm and I feel like I’ve plenty left in the tank despite the climbs behind me. I make the decision the carry on, when in hindsight I probably should have camped there. Whilst nowhere near as arduous, there are still a number of smaller climbs on the way into Dargaville, which is some 45 km further on. The roads being mainly straighter means that vehicles are whizzing past a good deal faster than earlier. In the main drivers are considerate and give me a wide berth, there’s always a few though and a couple come much closer than I appreciate. I ring my warm showers contact (Warm Showers is a brilliant site where people host cyclists for free) and even though I’m 2 days earlier than expected Carolyn assures me it will be no problem. She offers directions but unfortunately tells me Parore Rd instead of Parore West. She is profusely apologetic later and is so lovely that I hold no grudge for my extra 10km. When she finds out, she even goes to the bother of driving to meet me and collects me and all my gear in a Ute.

What a lovely couple Carolyn and Brian are !! Lifetime dairy farmers now in their 50’s they are as an active couple as I’ve ever known. Tales of recent adventures including 4 day canoeing trips down the Wanganui River, hikes and cycles abound NZ and each is a great tale told with humour. I feel so lucky to be immediately welcomed and treated like a long lost family member. We sit in the kitchen chatting and suddenly I’m looking and feeling a little feint. When I kneel down to read the offered password for the wifi off the back of their modem I become all woozy and nauseous almost feeling like I was about to pass out.. The 120km has left me a little dry and it takes 2 ginger beers and a cracking steak meal with freshly home made salads from their garden dotted with home made feta cheese before I’m feeling myself again. The sautéed mushroom and onions on the steak are amazing. Their local vet and good friend, another Brian, has joined us for the meal and brought with him not 1 but 2 cheesecakes for dessert. It’s a right royal feast after my past few nights. To finish off I’m made a hot chocolate with the freshest milk I’m ever likely to have. Straight from the cow with no additives. I help with the dishes but am feeling most guilty at the star treatment I’ve received with nothing to offer in return.

The conversation is so interesting that we talk for several hours before realising the time. The are up at 4.30 each morning to milk the cows and I’m left feeling even more guilty at having kept them up. I can’t begin to describe how amazing they have been to me. A huge room, with my own bathroom and much welcomed hot shower. All my washing done and dried and Brian even offers to swop the charger over to my other battery on the bike for me as soon as he’s up in the morning so it will be ready for me. They simply can’t do enough and my helping with the dishes seems poor recompense. As I lie on my bed now and hear rain beginning outside, I’m even more chuffed to have met them. Salt of the earth people !!

A few pics to finish off and the usual Strava and Relive. It’s a goody today ! Unlike this ramble tonight. I apologise for the quality of my narrative, it’s late and I’m exhausted. 6 hours and 53 mins on a bike does that to you :)

Strava - https://strava.app.link/3pK7UTiHHR

Relive ride from Rawene to Dargaville.

6
Paparoa

What a day yesterday was, I tend to feel my narrative didn’t quite do justice to the beauty of the ride. It was my first time through the area and is an incredible part of the country.

I’ve just awoken in a bed so large, soft and comfortable after the usual squeeze of my tent that I almost burst into a rendition of John Denver’s ‘grandma’s feather bed’. I refrain in fear of putting the cows off their milking. It’s 7.30 and I’d love to sleep in further but can’t seem to drift back off. Hard to get my mind around the fact that Brian and Carolyn have been out there for hours already. I can hear the cows lowing as I lie here reluctantly contemplating rising. Thanks for all the emails (goparra@me.com if you wish to communicate), Strava messages and other forms of communication. I appreciate them all (though not every 5 minutes mum .. I’m FINE 😉❤️) I’ll see you all tonight if my legs are still willing.

I finally arise and take another quick shower and shave. They have a mint body wash in the shower and it’s quite incredible stuff. Your whole body feels as though it’s tingling and has been brushed like a set of teeth. You’re also left eminating a powerful minty smell from every pore. Must get myself some if I can find it at home

I head out to enjoy a breakfast of toast with home made lemon honey and a few cups of Nespresso with milk from that morning. It froths up incredibly well in their little frother and I enjoy a couple of cups. I finally repack my gear and organise for my departure.

It’s hard to take leave from my hosts as they are just so engaging to chat with and have been incredibly kind to me. Brian helps load my bike and gear back on his truck and gives me a lift to the end of their substantial gravel driveway. I hope they take up my offer to return their incredible hospitality.

Carolyn

Brian

Back aboard my bike I sense I’m in for a torrid day with the wind. It’s a steady headwind without being outrageous, yet enough to be a considerable pain. My hosts property lies just over 10km north of Dargaville and I decide to head into town for a brief looksy and have my bike given the once over by the only bike shop I’m likely to come across before Auckland. The good news is that my concern over a loose spoke and the condition of my chain are unfounded, both are ok. The bad news is that my budget is lowered by $20 to find out this news. They do give my chain and cassette a clean and relube though, so I guess it’s not too bad.

In stop at the local BP for a power aid and end up taking the 3 for 10 deal, mainly to aquite the free drink bottle that come later with it. I will have enough electrolytes for the next 3 days at least and can get rid of the annoying warehouse that pops its cap with regular unreliability. Last night just before Dargaville it decided to pop off and head down a bank, leaving me to have to park on the side of the motorway and clamber down after it. I take my revenge today and happily plonk it in the BP bin. Whilst congratulating myself and remounting my bike (no easy task when fully loaded) I’m hailed by a couple I don’t instantly recognise. It turns out to be a lovely couple I met briefly back on my 2nd day in Ahipara. He is originally from the USA and she ironically was born not far from where I live in Levin, which I was specifically told not divulge, so I’ll apologise here as they now have my email and who needs hate mail. We have a bit of a chat and the poor lady asks if I have a blog and may she have it. Well not only does she now have it, but she and her partner now feature in it. I should have taken a photo as she did for her Facebook. I feel a little overwhelmed this morning as the bike shop also wanted a pic for their Facebook. Not sure I’m cut out for fame haha.

Summing up day on the bike only takes one word ‘trying’. I eventually head out of Dargaville and over the bridge onto Highway 12 at around midday. It’s a hell of a lot later than I’d intended but such is life. Almost immediately I’m assailed by a headwind and this one is much more vigorous than this morning. I do my best to leave the battery assist off but in the end succumb to the temptation of moving faster than my measly 8 or 9 km/hr. Even with the assist I’m only pushing it up to 15 but I refuse to use a higher assist level.

The road out of Dargaville is less than entertaining, it’s ruler straight and has very little to offer in the way of scenery or distractions. It’s dead flat paddocks all around, some with sheep, most with cows. The hard work of pushing into the wind seems more tiring when the view is never changing. The odd cow peers up from its chewing but I don’t hold their attention long and lower their heads back to the grass. When I’m just about to give up hope of the road ever ending, I reach a large rock and turn left at the intersection. Very suddenly I’m into an unexpected steep climb and my legs begin to moan from the previous days exertions.

The bridge out of Dargaville

Dargaville Foreshore

First scenery for over an hour

It’s a fairly solid climb around to the left of the hill in the picture above, what makes it worse is that all of a sudden I’m on gravel which in areas is fairly loosely packed causing many an anxious moment for a fairly weighted down bike. I ponder stopping to deflate the tyres a little for a better grip but convince myself the gravel won’t last long. I guess it all gets back to your definition of long but for me, just over 2 bloody hours was lonnnnnnnng !!! To make matter even more dicey, they camber of the road went in the opposite way you would hope for a steeply sloping road making it even more difficult to corner safely on the downhill parts. On a few occasions and one more than memorable, I thought I was on my way down for a slide and injury. I did what I can only describe as a ful sidewaysl slide on loose gravel with the front wheel and somehow managed to straighten up and move forward. It was a little dicey to say the least and I was moving fairly swiftly at the time. On another occasion sometime later a little hatchback came hurtling around a bend in front of me and hit a bump about halfway around. The car slid and yawed over towards me and it was as though time slowed down. I felt like this was it and actually saw the panic in the young drivers face. He managed to right it and sped past with volleys of swearing from myself following his receding bumper. Along the top of the hillside the wind which has picked up yet again and hits me side on. I’m a big target and it makes balance quite a challenge at times. The gravel goes on and on until eventually I hit a crossroads and it’s tarmac again. I do a little dance of happiness on my seat but it’s short lived as within 50 metres its reverted back to gravel. 20 odd minutes later at another crossroads it’s tarmac once more, this time I perform a reduced and cautious celebratory jig but again have my dreams of a smooth road dashed moments later. At the next little patch of tarmac I don’t bother with celebration, I know what’s coming, at one point the road is so rutted \240I feel I’m bouncing up and down on horseback. I eventually do reach a major intersection where full tarmac is restored. I have a strong desire to hop off and kiss the road bit my aching backside objects to moving.

I turn off to the right not far from here and head towards Matakohe. I’ve been told by several people about the Kauri museum here but wonder how much interest it would really have for me. I arrive at around 3.20 and am told I can have half price as closing is around 5. Well I have to admit I’m wrong, the place is not only fascinating but enormous. It goes on and on and most is well worth a look and read. It’s extremely well done and gives me a great insight into the lives of the kauri workers in felling, carting and usage. These early settlers had extremely hard lives and the ingenuity and bravery of the people of that period is incredible. There are so many rooms, displays and actual working models of the various machinery used. For any of you ever passing, I’d urge you to go. It’s well worth the entry price and I guarantee you’ll be in there for hours.

The above pics don’t do the place justice

Sadly I’m still there at closing and probably only managed a half of what I’d have liked.

I wind my way up a few more hills and then finally down into Paparoa. I’m absolutely starving by now and stop at the Paparoa pub. Great little pace and the pulled pork burger was a most enjoyable meal with its homemade kumara chips to complement it. Ranks as one of the best burgers I’ve had. Huge slices of pork belly with pulled pork and salad.

Having sated my hunger I make my way back to the Paparoa camping ground. After previous grounds this one appears a little tired as do it’s elderly owners. She signs me in for a tent site after a bit of an internal debate over a cabin for an extra $10. I scope the place out and decide on a spot close enough to the toilets and ammenities. Just as I’m setting up tent, a towering bloke lumbers over and introduces himself as Jens from Holland. He’s a very pleasant chap and we talk away like old friends. He invites me to dinner with his girlfriend but I decline after having eaten. I finish my tent and then head over for a coffee. The 2 of them are just starting dinner, homemade pizzas which look like something from a top Italian pizzaria. They insist I have a few pieces and the young lady is a sensational cook. It turns out they are 19 and cycling around both NZ and Australia although not sure how far they’ll get with limited time and money. I’m amazed when they say they are 19 as they are so mature I’d have thought mid 20s. We chat away until 11pm suddenly the lights are cut. Apparently no more power after 11. Panicking I bid my goodnights and rush to the shower determined to get some hot water out of it . Luckily the water heating remains on and I have a fairly substantial shower although not in the best of shower rooms. My new mate Jens had told me that he’d had to go down on his knees to get wet, even with his 6,4 frame I thought he was kidding until my turn came and he wasn’t kidding. I step in my self and the nozzle ponting at me sends a steam or spray into my upper chest. Poor jens must really have battled in here..

I sneak my bike into the laundry although it’s already got dew all over it. Hopefully I’m up in time to remove it better people begin to queue with dirty washing.

As usual I will leave you with my days Strava and Relive and a final video from my long journey on gravel

https://strava.app.link/kuiLy8vkJR

Up

And Across

Relive video

7
Wellsford

Good morning

From some of the correspondence I’ve had it seems that this blog updates as I write it and therefore yesterday some were confused at my cut off entry. I decided on a different method yesterday and wrote a little in the morning before setting off. Then a little during dinner and finally completed it in my tent ... quite late. Hopefully it makes sense now and you can always go back and catch up if you so desire.

Well the camping ground at Paparoa, whilst a little cheaper than others I’ve stayed at is also not nearly as well kept or positioned. The kitchen though adequate, is small and they array of utensils are a little worn and unkempt. The bathrooms aren’t a disgrace but they also aren’t near the standard of the camps I’ve been to. Still, hot water was plentiful, even if it did mean crouching down a little to be covered in it. My biggest issue is the noise. We seem to be very close to the main road, backing into it if the level of noise from my tent is any judge. At one stage through the night I awoke in a bit of a panic that a vehicle that was obviously travelling at a hefty pace and without its muffler was about to come through the fence and clean me up. It’s a very noisy site.

I wake up early after all my water and electrolyte drinking of the day before and decide to sneak in and take my bike back from the laundry where I’d snuck it in last night at around 11. The camp owners weren’t all that keen on me charging the battery let alone letting me leave it in there for the night. They give off the impression of having done this for a long time and would rather be retired and relaxing. Having got the bike safely back to the tent, I crawl back inside and am feeling so heavy headed from lack of sleep that I do manage to sleep another fitful few hours until now, just before 8am. I check my emails having had to alter an Airbnb booked a few months back as I’m now 2 days ahead of myself. Thankfully there is a reply and the kind lady has altered my date to tonight, no not that kind of date ... the calendar date,, I’m never that lucky. Another email is from a friend from Scotland providing me with a lot of useful information in cycling nutrition for throughout the day a few adjustments shall be made, thanks Alastair.

A few people who’ve stopped and chatted to me along the way have commented on my legs being very well suited for cycling. I’ve always been a bit self conscious over my leg size but had to laugh at a German guy who I met at the huge Kauri tree of Tane Mahuta, as I was gazing up at it he said ‘zo vitch iss Tane und vitch is Mahuta. I turned to him puzzled and about to explain it’s the name of the tree, when he points to my legs and suggests naming them in honour of the tree. Today however, Tane & Mahuta have a bit of a deep ache that suggests they have a little of the kauri dieback scare of recent times.

It appears as though it will be my hottest day so far given the sweltering heat inside my tent at just past 8am. Time to pack on up, have some porridge and lather on the sunscreen.

I have breakfast with my Belgian friends from last night, they also had noise issues and trouble sleeping. The day begins sunny and I get everything packed quicker than usual. Am about to head away when the camp owner lady accosts me and gives me a blow by blow account of the all blacks game last night. It feels almost like the full 80 minutes before I’m able to politely extract myself and head off.

The initial part of the day is enjoyable slow rolling hills on either side of me give protection from the sun and some pretty views on both wings. I ease up and down some small hills and then whammo I’m back onto gravel for a few hours. very soon later Income across a farmer herding his cows down the road ahead of me. He at once recognises me as an experienced dairy farmer after my night on a dairy farm in Dargaville and presses me into service. I’m asked to ride past the cows on the right and shut a gate further ahead. I’m a natural, past I go and the gate is duly shut securely. He thanks me and I’m a little disappointed that he doesn’t offer me full time employment.

Today the gravel is even less packed than yesterday and at times it’s difficult to control the bike. I’ve figured out that doing anything over 45km/hr down a windy hill is actually taking your life into your hands. Once the front wheel hits a loose patch it’s all on. The ruts and grooves in this road are quite bad and again I feel as though I’m a jockey for several long kilometres. I’m pleased with the bike and racks so far though as all seems in order.

Even with the gravel it’s quite a pleasant ride, I notice as I’m going along that the road I’m on is called Mountain Rd, later I get vast views down to either side over several small lakes. I eventually come to a little town called Maungaturoto. What a wonderful little area this is, some spectacular farmlands that look so well kept with some really lovely planted out areas and many lakes and smaller ponds. It’s quite a treat to cycle through.

Just out of Paparoa

Heading just out of Paparoa

My Cow Herding Skills

And so the gravel begins

Homemade Half a Rugby Field in Maungaturoto

Learning from yesterday’s gravel experience I don my sunglasses early on and am almost instantly rewarded when a 4wd Ute plows past leaving me in a cloud of dust that now runs for around a km ahead of me. Most other vehicle slow right down cause less of a storm around me. I’m so happy with Maungaturoto that I choose between its 3 good looking cafes and pull over for a feed. I get a kiwi breakfast and it’s devine. Poached eggs, bacon, homemade toast, hashbrowns and hand it chips with a homemade garlic aoli. It’s a terrific feed and the people are friendly. I sit at an outside table and as seems usual now, several curious people come up and ask where I’m headed etc. the nicest of these was an older Maori chap and his pakeha wife. They are amazed with my plan and he keeps saying what a shame it is I’m heading the other way as they are from Dargaville and would have loved to have me stay. They have a large Labrador with them and when the table between us depart inexplicably leaving behind an almost untouched kiwi breakfast, he puts it down for the dog who utterly demolishes it in seconds. A few other couples stop by my table and by the time I’ve explained myself to all of them my coffee is closer to an ice coffee.

Leaving Maungaturoto behind I cross onto yet another gravel road and am getting more used to the incorrect cambers and bike control required. When I reach a sealed road again it’s sadly SH1 and is the worse cycle of the trip so far. I’m assuming it’s busier than usual because it’s a Sunday and people may be heading home. If this is the usual traffic then it’s one busy area. For the countries number 1 highway it’s a sorry road, especially for those of us unlucky enough to cycle it. It does appear that they are in the process of widening it in places and boy does it need it. Many cars at least attempt to give me space as I huddle to the very side of the road but more than a fair share couldn’t give a damn and I swear some almost brush my leg. Truck drivers in the main seem most considerate and try to take a wideish berth but the sheer size and noise of the larger double trailered beasts up close is at times quite terrifying. The wave of wind that accompanies them also makes balance a challenge. It’s with more than a little relief about 15 km later when I’m finally able to turn off towards my AirBnB. I’ve booked and paid this one well over a month ago and even though I’m 2 days early the kind lady allows me to change my dates at short notice. It’s a lovely remote building on their farm and the surrounding area is beautiful and peaceful. They even have their own lake down below with a rowboat. Having arrived earlyish at about 3.45, I immediately wash the bike, tighten a few nuts and lube up the chain. Pleased to have that out of the way I enjoy a hot shower and tuck into some complimentary yoghurt and bananas. I take a short cycle around the lake below and then plonk myself into a gorgeous rocking chair from which I’ve barely moved the past few hours. I will now extract myself with a groan and go to all the trouble of preparing a gourmet meal ... that is, boil water

It may look a mess but damn it’s fine

Apple crumble for dessert

These freeze dried meals have come a long way, both are damn fine and I’d not complain being served them in a restaurant for flavour. The only complaint I have about this place is that the internet is all but non existent. That’s not a major though, just means that the pics and videos probably won’t load until tomorrow and you’ll have to return if you care to see them.

Entering Te Hana

Highway when quieter .. usually non stop today

Quiet night in front of the telly then bed early, I’ll leave you with the Strava and Relive as usual

Strava https://strava.app.link/JxExTlIJKR

Strava

Relive

8
Kaukapakapa

Greetings from what is possibly the most comfortable bed in Wellsford. I’m not sure why I’d pre planned and booked this AirBnB but am so glad I did. I think it’s probably because as I was planning I was worried about some longer days on the road and this was roughly halfway between 2 points in the wonderful book by Jonathan Kennett in which he outlines the best routes through NZ whilst staying away from the dreaded stage highways. He also points out the best places to stop and points of interest, I’m not quite as keen on his penchant for rough gravel roads but agree that they are a better bet than the highway.

I’d promised myself a big sleep in this morning but wake at 5.15 and only manage to doze until just after 7. Hopefully my body knows what it requires and I did get to bed by 10pm for once.

Bob is excited this morning as he received his first fan (e)mail from my sister and I’m also grateful to get it. Bob has proved a great travel companion thus far, aside from the morning he kept trying to abandon ship. He puts up with my moans about gravelly hills wrongly cambered, my sore rear end as I jockey over bumps and any other niggles. He never disagrees with my opinions and decisions and has even now embraced his seatbelt. Thanks to all who have whatsapped, messengered, snapchatted, txted, vibered, emailed or called. \240my very favourites are those of you who stop me in person and make my day with a small chat and encouragement. I’m constantly amazed by the number of cars who honk madly on their horns and wave out to me. I’m wondering how I’ve had time to move forward at all with all these varying media to navigate 😂

Last nights tandoori was a magnificent meal but it’s had the unfortunate side effect of making me wind assisted this morning, to put it bluntly I’m farting like the Lone Ranger, battery usage may not be required this morning. I’ve found that a hot shower in the morning helps loosen my leg muscles and today as a treat for any well wishers I run into today, I liberally apply the supplied ruby bay sunset body wash and emerge smelling like a pungent vase of flowers. I confess it’s not quite my choice of scent, I preferred smelling like a peppermint stick on leaving Dargaville earlier this week.

Ok so that was another longish day of gravel, dust and hills and a fair dose of each. The last couple of days has all been a bit of a detour as the original plan had been to go down to Pouto Point and take the ferry. Slight problem with that in that the ferry no longer goes.

Bob is a little upset this morning as due to my Lone Ranger evacuations I took to calling him tonto and gave a hearty ‘hi ho silver’ each time I felt the need arising, which was rather more often than he felt necessary. Personally I feel he just ought to be grateful that he has a front row seat rather than what may have been an awkward position at the rear. At one stage he threatens to leave the trip and join another tour.

Bob jumping ship

If the roads were a little rough yesterday then they are slightly worse today. There are also a few more serious hills but my legs seem to be getting used to those. The main problem with gravel is that you need to keep a close eye on the road ahead to avoid coming off the bike via loosen gravel, a large rock, bad camber or a multitude of other hazards. It doesn’t give as much time to take in the surroundings, especially on the downhill runs. On my second downhill of the day I run into the first issue with my bike. I pull hard to the left to stay out of the path of an oncoming truck when I hit a largish pothole and am suddenly left sitting a foot lower. The seat adjustor seems to have malfunctioned and my knees are suddenly passing my ears with each rotation. I pull over, wait for the dust to settle and begin to fume when I realise it’s a cable I pointed out as a concern to the bike shop at my first service. The little clip had come out and by some miracle had remained lodged behind the cable. For some reason the cable refused to work and I have visions of a few days cycle to the next bike shop to have it repaired. I try the lever again and again but the seat refuses to lock at the proper height. I loudly complain to Bob with a few choice words thrown in and he suggests that hedgehogs sort these things out by letting the problem know who’s boss. I take his advice and give the cable an almighty frustrated yank. Incredibly it locks the seat and so I hold my breath repush the lever and adjust the seat to the right height. I give the cable another huge yank and it locks once more. I breathe easier and resolve not to touch it again until I reach a bike shop.

The scenery today is mainly rolling hill farm country with many sporting humourous letterboxes as seen above and below

It’s the small things like this that make cycling so much more enjoyable, as I’ve said, things you most likely would not otherwise notice. Rounding a corner I come across an otherwise ordinary farm fence sporting the following carving

This made my day

Not much past this I hit probably the worst road I’ve struck so far. It was not so much gravel as a half and half mix of mud and gravel but it was the huge trenches and holes that made it such a trial to negotiate. I managed to slip the GoPro on during a less traumatic part of it and will post it below

Poor Bob is having less than a happy day by now and when I stop at the bottom of this hill on the other side after a downhill that ridded me of the last remnants of tandoori, mainly through fear rather than bumps, he complains of his own problems with his backside. To be fair he has a point as loose muddy gravel has flicked up covering his underside in a pebble dash finish. I manage to brush it as clean as I can and he’s not impressed with my offer of a plastic bag nappy.

A little later, seemingly in the middle of nowhere as I’m gazing up a hillside, I spot a small wooden fence surrounding what looks to be a grave. I’m compelled to go and have a look as it does seem to be miles from anywhere and all out on its own. It is a grave to a couple from the 1800’s and their children. Although it gives names and ages, there is nothing about there lives and I have to remain curious as to why they ended up here and their significance to the region.

The lonely graves of Richard & Alice Melbourne Newcombe

All day I’ve been hoping for a little bakery or cafe for a sandwich and maybe a scone. For the first time I simply come across nothing until I reach the little town of Kaipara Flats. Here there is a closed down butchery with an interesting little history written on a board outside and next door is a trestle table lined with jars of all sorts of pickles, jams, preserves and the like. On the end is a basket with a selection of home baked cookies. Everything on the table is $3. Being famished from my climbs I eagerly search my wallet for $3 and come up with a $50 note and $2.80 in coins. After a short deliberation I make the decision to offer myself a small discount of 20c rather than leaving a $47 tip. Bob calls me a cheapskate and so I don’t offer him a cookie, which by the way are exceedingly good. They are infact so good that I now have the guilts over my 20c self obtained discount and therefore will offer some free advertising here to make up for it. To the 3 or so of you who actually read this blog and the 1 of you who persevered this far. Mum if you happen to be passing by Kaipara anytime soon and feel like a nice biscuit, make you stop and buy some from the little table next to the long gone butchery! There, I feel better now.

Brilliant Cookies Next Door ➡️

Somewhere up one of the last hills of the day I pass my 500th km of the trip. It’s hard to believe I’ve traveled that far, sure doesn’t feel like it.

Finally I head down into my destination for the day, a small town just north of Auckland called Kaukapakapa. Try reeling that one off 5 times fast. My Warmshowers hosts for the night, Steve & Lynda have informed me that they won’t be home until 4pm. As I pull into town it’s only just turned 2 and so decide to stop at the first food place I find. This turns out to be the pub l, which in closed. Next up is the fish n chip shop which is also closed, as is the hairdressers next to it. Infact the only shop open in Kaukapakapa is the local dairy / Superette which thankfully advertises fish n chips and burgers. On entering I’m told that they only cook for dinner and I’m left staring at a rather elderly looking pie or a dried up pork riblet in an even dryer bun. Reflecting on my last inedible pie from a few days back, I go with the riblet and am rewarded with a chewing workout.

I wait the 2 hours out on a table outside the dairy, once again fielding questions and chatting to locals interested in my plans. Finally at 4 I \240head on down to meet my hosts who turn out to be every bit as welcoming as the Dargaville people. What a wonderful site Warmshowers is and what unbelievable people I’ve been privileged to meet. I’m welcomed straight in and treated like family. Steve has the coffee on before I’ve barely sat down and then is out oragnising me a hose to wash down my bike. Everything is laid on once more. He offers me the use of his laptop as he cooks his apparently famous cyclist restorative meal of pasta. Combined with the pasta swirls and mince are a firey blend of spices, chilli beans, garlic and onions. Having only just recovered from one lengthy period of backfires I fear I’m in for more. A couple of loaves of garlic breads to compliment the meal seals the deal and all washed down with a couple of cold beers. The generousness of these people I’ve never met before this trip is unbelievable. They open their homes to complete strangers and never expecting anymore than a thank you, which sadly they inform me, they don’t always get. Steve and Lynda are not even cyclists themselves but just like to meet people and help out.

After dinner we watch a little tv and discuss our various travels around the world. It’s a most convivial evening and again time flies past and it’s near midnight when they head off to bed. Both have to be underway to work by 7.30 and are comfortable for me to lock up the house for them before I leave. Breakfast items are pointed out before they retire to bed and I couldn’t be more grateful to them for such wonderful hospitality when I’m little more than a stranger.

More turkeys

Downhill run

Dust bowl

Now just past midnight, I’ve finally made it to bed, here is the Strava and relive for the day .. nighty night

https://strava.app.link/KxvIBojAMR

9
Clevedon

Howdy from a little, well actually quite large cafe next door to the Avanti Cycle shop in Westgate on the outskirts of Auckland. Dwayne is a fantastic chap and drops everything to take a look at my bike and try to fix my seat post issue. If he can’t get it sorted he says he will lock it in place with a fixed post and send the other parts back home to be dealt with when I get back. He will also check out my chain and brakes etc to see all’s well.

I was up at 7.20 this morning, lord knows when I’ll ever catch up on my sleep and after a massive feed at this cafe I just feel like crawling under the table and dozing off. I’m not sure anyone would even care as apart from myself there has only been 1 order for a takeaway coffee. Being in the proximity of Auckland and from the size of the place, rent must be astronomical. It will be a miracle of they survive and I’m sorry for that as the people are nice and the food was cracking good.

Break into a rendition of ‘All by myself’

Yup, it was as good as it looks

It’s a little bit of a treat for myself as the ride in was a little traumatic. Traffic was consistently heavy even though I took the advice of my host Steve and didn’t depart until after 9. The roads from Kaukapakapa aren’t really designed with the cyclist in mind and some vehicles come dangerously close. It doesn’t exactly help ones frame of mind when 4 to 5 signs along the way proclaim High Crash Area !!! We somehow make it to West Auckland and poor Bob is still traumatised. This morning we have seen more roadkill than possibly an entire year back home. Possums, birds, rabbits and of course the odd poor relation of Bob. The only heartening thing for him is that the ratio seems to be about 10 to 1 in favour of the possum. I do my best to try and cheer him up by looking up a little poem I used to listen to as a kid. I’ll will link it to you here (Mum .. click on the word ‘here’ in blue. It doesn’t seem to help poor Bob and his mood remains morose as we pass more and more tyre ironed wildlife.

It’s not only roadkill we pass, what a disgrace this country is becoming ! Right from the very top of Cape \240Reinga where we began, litter is strewn along the side of the roads, beach, and gravel roads. It seems the further down we come, the more heavily laden our gutters and paths become. Cans, bottles, coffee cups, plastics of all kinds, nappies, fast food wrappers and god only knows what else. Today has been the worst so far, barely a few metres go by without some form of litter blowing along, caught in bushes or simply lying aside the road. Clean and green ... yea right ! It’s all very disappointing.

I forgot to mention that Dwayne got my seat repaired by replacing the cable and realigning it through the bike, all is now hunky dory and he gave my chain and brakes a clean bill of health. He’s a terrific guy and I fully recommend Avanti Westgate in West Auckland. We chat for half an hour before I realise the time and head off.

Right then, I’m back and you’re damn lucky I’m back cause it’s been a hectic day. I reached central Auckland at about 3pm. It’s actually an enjoyable ride in after getting off the roads and onto the cycle way. Lovely views of the city and harbour out to my left

The path continues all the way in to upper Queen St, where I need to make a decision. Do I stay at my friend Luke’s or head on out of the city. I keep calling but he must be tied up. To kill time I cycle up the Mt Eden lookout and the day is stunning which makes the views all the better.

I finally get hold of Luke but he will be out for several hours. He kindly offers to tell me where the key is, but a bit rude having only got hold of him the night before and don’t like just barging in when he’s not even home. I decide to push on to Clevedon, another 53km. Unbeknownst to me at the time, bloody Strava stops recording somewhere along the way and resumes sometime later. I’m absolutely filthy at it and it takes wise counsel from Bob to calm me. Luckily I was recording on Komoot as well and will throw that up at the end. Here then is what Strava gave me

https://strava.app.link/ym2lWEX7NR

Yes, that’s right, I cycled a direct bloody triangle through the outskirts of Auckland. Mumble grumble ....

Anyhow at least kamoot worked, bit in 2 different stages as I’d planned to do this area over 2 days.

https://www.komoot.com/tour/51760589?ref=itd

Komoots first stage recording - 56.7 km

The cycle out of Auckland is nowhere near as enjoyable with bloody traffic everywhere, even on the backroads I’m following. Everyone looks grumpy and in a hurry and few have time for a fully laden cyclist trying to weave his way through. I’m convinced that my panniers are going to scrape a car before I’m out of the place but by some miracle I get through. The worst area is down through Onehanga, what a nightmare. Bumper to bumper and a narrow and long road. I swerve around car doors opening, buses pulling in front of me and god knows what else. I feel something akin to the little steel ball in a pinball machine and am hugely relieved when I’m through and out the other side. There’s not much to say about Auckland, I’ve been there dozens of times already and on a bike, it’s best to be gone.

Ironically as I’m peddling out the other side of Auckland, I run into my 2 Belgian friends from the other night at Paparoa. They are pedalling furiously out of Auckland as well but we ride alongside each other for a bit and catch up. We plan to meet again at Miranda. I commend them on getting so far as Jens girlfriend has been battling a little not having ridden before. They tell me they got a bus down the other day ... and people say I’m cheating with an E bike ... Let me tell you that I feel every one of those kilometres !

Komoot tells me that the 50.7km to Clevedon will take me just over 3 1/2 hours. It’s dead flat most of the way and I bang it out in 2hrs 39min, this including a stop for greasies for dinner. Another recommendation is the fish n chip store at Clevedon, a right bonza meal and great fish, even after cycling with it for 5 minutes and then spending another 15 deciding where to camp. Whilst waiting at the chippy I meet another lovely family who have driven quite some way from Auckland for these very fish n chips. We chat away while my meal cooks and out of nowhere my front pannier falls off. The damn screw ha come out and it takes the X-ray eyes of the young boy with the family to spot it, for which I’m very grateful. It would have been a right bastard to fix without it. I get it tight enough to get to the camp site and fix it properly after dinner.

There is a scout hall here which is being used by around 15 Samoan lads over here to work for 9 months. Today the water has run out and inchag with the man sent to fill it. He allows me to fill my billy and a bottle from his truck but says it will be hours for a hot shower. Given that it’s already 9 by now, I think I’ll leave it. The toilets have not been flushed all day either and the Samoan lads have donated plenty to each one. The smell is a little overwhelming and bob is not best pleased as I explained to him that he has to remain here with bike tonight and guard it. Guess that will make 2 of us quite keen on a shower tomorrow.

I crank up my little stove and kettle and have a well earnt mocha. It’s actually fairly peaceful here and at no cost is a bargain .. even without showers or toilets.

My wee collapsible kettle and cooker

Tonight’s spot

Poor abandoned Bob on guard in the shower block

Here then is the second Komoot of the day, from central Auckland to Clevedon

https://www.komoot.com/tour/51762525?ref=itd

50.3 km and no bloody diagonal riding there ...

So then, a grand total of 107 km for the day, meaning I’m now 3 days ahead of schedule. This will skip back in the next few days though, when I go to see my old 82 year old mate Pete in Tapu over in the Coromandel. I met Pete during a very low spell in my life a few years ago and he helped me through some tough days with kindness and wise words. Will be great to catch up again now I’m in a better frame of mind.

I will leave you with a Relive as usual but don’t blame me that Strava stuffed it up ... send them the hate mail ! felt like Friday the 13th instead of just the 13th today at times. Would have loved a shower but oh well, nighty night.

I guess the bloody diagonal cross country does look amusing, still annoyed though 🤬

10
Miranda Holiday Park & Motels

Greetings from Camp Sladden in Clevedon, home of the worlds most annoying dog that has incessantly barked with a high pitch yap from around 7am. As it’s now 8.15 the mutt has some lungs and doesn’t appear as though it’s going to run out of steam any time soon.

It’s one of those days you wake heavy headed and struggle to rise and function. I’m fairly tempted to roll over and sleep some more but am aware that I’m in a public park and the gates are now open. For such a small town, this park is proving extremely popular with many dog walkers and hikers heading up a little track towards a hill. I will check it out before I leave .. only so that you dear reader are not left hanging with suspense. For now though, it’s off to check on Bob and make a coffee.

The walk itself was lovely, some great kiwi bush and an incredible boardwalk and stairs up to the summit. It really is a well thought out and beautifully executed project. The stairs climb up and up before petering out into the odd stair and tree root used as a stair. In all there are 726 flash new stairs on the boardwalk and another 191 of the older rough and ready among the roots (Bin asked me to count them on the way down). I don’t wish to be held responsible for my numbers by the stair police and so if your limit is 725 new stairs or 190 old style, then please don’t go as I may have miscounted by a couple and don’t wish to be sued.

Panorama shot that probably would be more impressive blown up

I feel a little like Jack heading up the beanstalk as I climb and climb and climb. Tane and Mahuta are more used to cycling and offer the odd complaint but manage to plough on admirably. I’m quite amazed to be overtaking so many Asian tourists also on the way up at such an early hour. It’s barely 9am and the track is quite full. I’d not thought Clevedon to be such a tourism Mecca. Along with the tourists is a steady stream of young ladies jogging up with their dogs in tow and I wonder if perhaps it’s the regular Wednesday morning outing for the ladies with leotards and dogs society. A few have music blaring from their phones as they pant their way past. I almost ask if they’ve not heard of earphones as It tends to lessen the tranquility of the forest when gangsta rap blares past you cursing and ranting. Stairway to heaven may have been acceptable.

It’s a shame the day has started cloudy with a few spots of rain as while the view is indeed pleasing from the top with a 360 degree vista ranging from Manakau around to the coast, it really would be something special on a fine day.

A little encouragement on the way up

Panorama shot that probably would be more impressive blown up

I jog back down to the obvious surprise of some well dressed asians still timidly stepping their way up. Once down it’s back on the bike and into Clevedon briefly to try and get some water.

Video on my decent and I’m counting .. not panting !

Well who knew that water was going to be such a luxury in Clevedon. I ask first at a superette where the Indians refuse me, and again at the dairy where more Indians refuse me and offer a small bottle for $4.80, I politely refuse ... well I refuse anyway. Looks like a dribble in my camelback and 3/4 of a Powerade will have to surfice until the next town. The issue with this became that there was no next town for around 50km and by that stage I was parched. There’s a few small hills into Kawakawa Bay and then a few nasty buggers getting out of it. To increase my joy there was a headwind to plough into. Happily when arriving out to the coast my luck changed for the better, it’s a lovely deify down and around to right and then lo and behold not only do you have a fanstastic coastal view for the rest of the day but the terrain is flat and the wind behind you.

Down to Kawakawa Bay

Kawakawa Bay

Out to the coast

I finally arrive at Kaiaua Bay and the first shop some 50 odd km since leaving several hours ago. I just have the energy to roll up to a stop at the pink shop. This is a little oasis in my desert of a day. The lovely lady has run it for the past 15 years for 7 days a week and although she says she’s now feeling it, it doesn’t show in her dedication and service. She’s a one lady band and is careering around the shop making pizzas, burgers, milkshakes and the like as well as serving people buying groceries and other items. I add a cold drink, coffee and a toasted sandwich of ham pineapple and onion to her list of activities and retire to an outside seat in the shade. I’d also mentioned the possiblity of perhaps getting a little water for my pack. Blow me down, she’s outside with my food and one of the best coffees I’ve had in some time before I’ve hardly blinked. She bustles away with my camelback bladder and returns with it full of ice water. What a Wonder Woman. I chat with her during a quieter moment after eating and am amazed at her dedication to the business.

Bob causes an uproar in Kaiaua. I’m happily munching away on my sandwich when a scream nearly shatters an eardrum on my right where my bike is parked. Bob has been keeping guard and is apparently doing a fantastic job. A largish lady gives me a glare and accusingly snaps ‘I thought that thing was real’. As you’d expect Bob is most indignant and I give permission for him to use his quills as he pleases on her exit. She wisely skirts us on the way out though.

Not happy with this little episode, Bob then begins to attract all the local birds. No tinder required for our Bob as 2 or 3 succumb to his charm and land on the front rack next to him. I dash his pride by telling him they are just using him for my crumbs.

Resting up at the Pink Shop

Back on our way, it’s now only 11 flat km until the campground at Miranda where I suffer a wee heart palpitation when I’m informed that it’s $28.50 to raise some thin nylon over 2 metres by a metre \240for the night. She peers down at me as I raise myself up off the floor and extract my card, too frightened to enquire further as to the cost of a cabin.

In all fairness it is a nice campground, modern, clean and well run. The young lady tells me to bring my bike back to the office when I’m set up and she will charge and store it overnight. I’m also given a lovely private little area surrounded by trees. As I’m finishing off the tent, my Belgian friends reappear once more. They have cut accross land instead of following my long trek around the coast but apprently battled the horrendous headwind all the way.

I opt for an hours soak in the thermal pool before dinner and am almost immediately accosted by a lawyer who has given up hos practice and is full of the woes of life. Steve is the first person all tour that I just want to get away from but the man is like a magnet fastened to steel with the added bond of superglue. Each time I come up with a brainwave and new reason to escape to other parts of the pool, he immediately reappears next to me and moves on to his next life tragedy. His wife left him (who could blame her ... for me it’s more a case of why did she marry him), his new girlfriend (how did he even manage that) is a raging alcoholic (no surprises there) and no one wants his reinvented self as a tiler. On and on he goes until I leave the pool for dinner a little earlier than I’d anticipated before I drown either him or myself. As I depart with a wave, I notice he has already attached himself like a limpet to the next unsuspecting victims.

Resting up at the Pink Shop

Back on our way, it’s now only 11 flat km until the campground at Miranda where I suffer a wee heart palpitation when I’m informed that it’s $28.50 to raise some thin nylon over 2 metres by a metre \240for the night. She peers down at me as I raise myself up off the floor and extract my card, too frightened to enquire further as to the cost of a cabin.

In all fairness it is a nice campground, modern, clean and well run. The young lady tells me to bring my bike back to the office when I’m set up and she will charge and store it overnight. I’m also given a lovely private little area surrounded by trees. As I’m finishing off the tent, my Belgian friends reappear once more. They have cut accross land instead of following my long trek around the coast but apprently battled the horrendous headwind all the way.

I opt for an hours soak in the thermal pool before dinner and am almost immediately accosted by a lawyer who has given up hos practice and is full of the woes of life. Steve is the first person all tour that I just want to get away from but the man is like a magnet fastened to steel with the added bond of superglue. Each time I come up with a brainwave and new reason to escape to other parts of the pool, he immediately reappears next to me and moves on to his next life tragedy. His wife left him (who could blame her ... for me it’s more a case of why did she marry him), his new girlfriend (how did he even manage that) is a raging alcoholic (no surprises there) and no one wants his reinvented self as a tiler. On and on he goes until I leave the pool for dinner a little earlier than I’d anticipated before I drown either him or myself. As I depart with a wave, I notice he has already attached himself like a limpet to the next unsuspecting victims.

Thermal Pool at Miranda

I take a shower before my meal and am horrified to note that you have to push a button on the outside of the cubicle to gain 6 minutes hot water. Twice a sneaky sunburnt arm can be seen out and around the door to permit a well deserved 18 minute rinse.

Dinner is hand crafted and served by myself. Eat your heart out Masterchef, my lamb teriyaki is a knock out and I whip it up in 10 minutes flat.

All jokes aside it was bloody amazing

Post dinner no return to the pool to glean every last cent of value out of my $28.50. Lord help us but my main man Steve is still here and though looking like a prune after a few hours, has still managed to bale up another unfortunate couple and is midstream in recounting the tragedy of his life. I can fully imagine he was successful as a lawyer with the jury just going his way to get the hell out of there.

I sneak carefully around in the shadows and plant myself in the darkest corner of the pool. Unfortunately these waters seem to be a magnet for morons this evening as moments later a backfiring muffler free car roars to stop and th pool gate clangs, nearly coming off its hinges as 5 20 something tossed burst in. No respect for others they are smoking and swearing at the tops of their voices, each trying to outdo the others with their tales of bravado and woman attracting abilities. Each describes the copious amounts of alcohol and weed they can handle and it’s so obviously a bunch of lies that I’m reminded of Monty Pythons ‘4 Yorkshiremen ‘skit, which you may listen to HERE if you don’t know it. (Yes you click the blue Here again mum :). I’m \240only hoping that they get a dose of good old Steve before they depart, when management promtly arrive and order them and their bottles & fragrant ciggys out. Apparently a bunch of local louts who show up from time to time. I’m impressed with the way they are handled.

Alone at last ... ahh the silence

There’s something in this thermal water as both Tane and Mahuta feel the best they have since Cape Reinga, though it’s usually in the morning that they have an ache or two.

Strava https://strava.app.link/iWqq544KPR

Another shower (got to get they $28.50 worth) and then bed

Apologies for the longish ramble today, but hey no ones making you read it 👌 but I appreciate that you do 🤓

11
Tapu

Woken at 5 am by the noisy packing up of the campsite next to mine. I couldn’t make as much noise packing up a tent if I was beong paid to wake the entire camp. The gentleman issued orders to his poor wife/partner at the top of his voice, berating her if she didn’t follow instructions to the letter. I’m amazed at the noise that can actually be generated by tent poles and nylon. Finally they depart and through sheer exhaustion I manage to sleep around another hour until 7am.

It’s probably the most tired I’ve felt upon waking and by now it’s light and I know I’ll not manage to get back to sleep. Instead I stagger my way to the shower and have another 18 minutes with 2 sneaky extra button pushes at 6 minute intervals. I now feel I’ve somewhat extracted my $28.50 worth from the stay. I have a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee and then quietly pack up my own tent. I retrieve my bike from the office where the staff are having their morning meeting. The 2 older ladies are a bit of a hoot and invite me to join the meeting. I politely decline saying I have to hit the road but perhaps I could attend the next one by video link.

I head around to bid goodbye to my Belgian friends but decide to give it a miss when I hear the noises coming from their tent.

The weather is hot today but a steady breeze keeps things cool although once again is running frustratingly against me. It’s a very flat ride today, basically just following around a coastline. The first half is utterly tedious as I follow a gravel cycle path for around 30 km alongside a canal on my left and vast plains of mainly empty paddocks on my right. For a couple of hours it’s basically all I see apart from a quick detour off for a coffee and burger lunch at bugger cafe. The coffee and complimentary curly fries that come with the burger are not too bad but the burger is best summed up by the cafes own name.. it’s actually a novel idea for a cafe and the many decorations are amusing and worth a wander around. Posters, cartoons, photos and video screens of humourous ‘bugger’ moments, models slipping on the runway, golf carts driving into bunkers etc, they have a vast and entertaining selection. It’s also in an obviously popular spot as the car park Is full as I arrive and reamains full as I leave. I’m not sure if it was an unexpectedly busy day but the one Indian guy trying to do everything was not quite up to the task.

Gravel cycle trail out of Miranda

Bugger Cafe - Quirky decor .. poor food

Bob entertains himself while I eat

Bob on buggers tractor

Video of the endless path

Mentally I’m battling a little today, I know I need a bit more sleep and will attempt to do so tonight at Pete’s. Being a flat easy cycle on a dedicated path has its disadvantages as I don’t have to concentrate as hard on traffic nor psych myself up for hills. I tend to drift into thought which is never a good thing for me. Possibly the hardest few hours on the trip thus far and it takes a bit of an effort to snap out of it. Thankfully the scenery finally changes as I enter the Coramandel and the sweeping ocean views along with the pretty little bays I endlessly sweep around with the wind now at my back help restore a more positive mood.

Almost at The Coramandel 🤒

There it is

Cows take a huge interest in my passing

Thames signals the halfway point for my days cycling. It’s so hot I stop at the first dairy for a cold drink and an icecream and my interior thermometer having been restored to less worrying temperature continue my ride around some spectacular pohutakawa tree lined bays. It’s a glorious day and several times I pull over to just gaze at the sparking ocean lapping into gorgeous little bays, each with their own individual little beaches. Easy to see why the area swells in size over the summer months while people flock in for the holidays.

Not that way obviously

Beginning of the bays

One after the other

Tapu where my old mate Pete lives is a glorious 30km cycle further on and each bay I pass is more spectacular than the last. Must try and get a decent pic of the last few tomorrow as I head back out. As I draw nearer Pete’s, an annoying squeak develops on the bike from what sounds like the front rack or panniers. I try to isolate where it’s coming from as I’m easily and highly aggravated by such things. I stop several times, dismounting and wiggling various parts trying to determine the origin. Finally I take off the front panniers, unpack and repack them all to no avail. Thoroughly frustrated now I stop for about the 5th time and finally realise that it’s coming from the carabiner clip I used to hold the rear bag on. It’s rubbing on the rear rack. I adjust it, swear at it for good measure and am rewarded with blissful silence once again. Finally I turn up Pete’s street a little apprehensive as I’ve not seen him in around 5 years and was at a pretty low ebb when Inlasr saw him. I needn’t have worried, he greets me with a big hug before I can even dismount.

Pete is 82 now and has been away for a few years and returned to disaster at his lovely piece of farmland. He left his son in charge while away, even giving him power of attorney to make decisions and returned recently to find absolute chaos. The poor guy is still devastated, all his savings gone, his house a terrible mess and his land a disaster. His son apparently began to hang around a bad crowd, do drugs and Pete’s lovely piece of paradise became a hangout for lowlifes. He had no idea and has returned to be almost broke. His car was written off and dumped, and the house trashed. The land has been let go and to make matters worse his son was arrested for drugs and taken away. To his credit and my amazement, Pete has worked like a Trojan with the aid of his grandkids and daughter to restore the house and surrounding land to its former self. He is almost penniless and I’m embarrassed to accept his generousity with meals, showers, washing and bike charging. He survives now on the pension only, and has done amazingly well to get the place back into order. He shows me around the land and evidence of the neglect are still showing with piles of rubbish where he’s managed to pile it up awaiting the funds to get it to the tip. He has his garden back in order and and it is filled with Veges of all kinds. I can only hope that should I reach his age, that I have half his energy, drive and positive outlook on life.

His daughter has given him a 2 week old kitten and it’s his pride and joy. He’s devoted to it and the wee thing trots around after him like a puppy. I’m. I’m not much of a cat person myself but have to admit that this is one cute kitten. Pete has been busy for my arrival and pours fresh juice from his own trees and then an entree of a fresh salad and ham followed by fried chicken and a range of vegetables all from his garden. Mum will be pleased to know that my intake included lettuce, tomatoes, radishes, fresh eggs, silverbeet, broccoli, cabbage and potatoes, all picked that morning. Still recovering from that onslaught he produces 3 tubs of various ice creams from the freezer and insists I have a scoops of each. His neighbours, apparently pleased to see him back and knowing something of his troubles, drop him the odd gift to help him out.

Entree leftovers

Pete readying the veges

We later sit in the lounge chatting away and catching up. Evidence of his son & friends destruction is still all around. Snapped window latches, couches and chairs covered with blankets as the coverings have been shredded. The once lovely kitchen table has been used for god knows what and is now gauged and scratched. It’s like a pack of wild animals have been through. The carpet, new when he left, is now in a terrible state. Apparently even his appliances such as fridges and washing machines etc had been sold for drug money. His daughter, by no means wealthy herself, has helped him out with some second hand items. As positive as he remains, it’s easy to see the hurt as he describes his disappointment in his son. He keeps saying ‘that’s not the boy I raised’. I feel incredibly sorry for him.

Pete’s an early sleeper and early riser. He heads of at 9 and I stay up a little later to write out my usual drivel here. I have no way of uploading it until tomorrow as out here there is not only no internet but no cellphone coverage either. For those of you who think I’ve been run over by a lorry ... no such luck I’m afraid. I did prewarn mother of this likelihood and thereby saved the emergency services of NZ a lot of frantic calls.

Strava and relive will be added once internet service resumes. Until then, I’m off for my earliest night on tour 10.15pm

Strava https://strava.app.link/QGGT961hSR

Strava

Relive Video

12
Paeroa

Yes yes, I’m here, just been having a fantastic night in Paeroa, but let’s go back to the beginning of the day.

I managed to sleep until around 7.30 which wasn’t bad considering I had my earliest night of the trip and was asleep by around 10ish. Pete is already our watering his substantial garden and already has my washing out in the sun. He’s a right trouper and hard to keep down. He notices I’m up and charges in to fix me a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs on toast. Whilst I’m eating him out of house and home he makes me a couple of humongous ham and salad sandwiches for the road later on. Knowing his position I feel guilty and offer to leave him a few dollars to cover costs but he won’t hear of it. I do persuade him to accept my little backup gas stove as his son also destroyed his own one. He seems mighty pleased but it’s the least I can do.

Packing is becomes a game for his kitten who jumps in my panniers, rolls items under the bed and generally makes a cute nuisance of herself. Finally I’m off and Pete seems genuinely sad to see me off.

Pete’s kitten

I ride back around the bays on another gloriously fine day. It’s every bit as beautiful coming from the other direction and again a flat easy ride. It turns out to be my easiest ride of the trip all day.

The Hauraki Rail Trail runs from around Miranda to Thames, then down to Paeroa and finally through to Waihi. For the most part unless you’re a huge fan of fenced off, rolling green empty paddocks you aren’t going to be super thrilled with the scenery as it’s fairly tedious viewing for hour after hour along a gravel track that aims dead straight for tens of kilometres. On a hot day like today it becomes a bit of at trial with very little shade along the way to give you a break from the beating sun. I do manage to find a small stand of trees at about 1pm and stop to eat my sammie’s. Not a lot further on I come accross the cheese barn and stop in for what I feel is a well earned iced chocolate and a sweet snack.

Leaving Tapu

Early afternoon snack .. for energy purposes only

The Cheese Barn is quite pleasant without being as fabulous as reviews led me to believe. I sample a few home made cheeses and the relax in the shade with my iced chocolate and tart. All too soon I’m back out in the heat pushing forward down the arrow straight path towards Paeroa. The only little break in proceedings is to cycle up and over the 25 bridges dotted between Thames and Paeroa. I arrive at about 3 and buy the obligatory can of L&P to swill out at the famous photo opportunity that is the giant L&P bottle.

Video of one of the 25 bridges

Bob after some L&P

I call Robyn my warm showers host for the evening and he gives me directions to his shop which just happens to be a bike hire shop specialising in e-bikes for the very trail I’ve been on all day and will continue on tomorrow. He apologises about the lack of scenery today and promises a much improved day on the second half of the track out to Waihi in the morning.

Robyn closes his shop early for me and guides me to his house where we drop off my bike and set off in his car on an impromptu tiki tour of Paeroa and it’s surrounds. Firstly it’s to a quaint little maritime museum where he just happens to know the curator and gains me free entry and a fascinating private tour around a quite incredible assortment of model boats, photos, news stories and various relics from a great variety of boats. The history of some of these makes great reading and though I’m happy for my hour, could probably been happy for another.

From here we drive on to a memorial for the furthermost inland trip Captain Cook made from the endeavou, some 16 miles up the Thames river. It really is a beautiful spot like something from an old English countryside painting, with rich green fields broken by a clean meandering river.

Next we head for the hills and I’m driven up a winding narrow road to a incredible spot with vast views out over the township and the gently curving river that divides the many paddocks. It’s breathtaking and so satisfyingly quiet up here photos will not really do it justice

Finally back at his home he asks if I’d be ok with dinner out tonight and thinking that I owe him for my short notice of arrival and the impressive tour around town, I agree to heading out for an Indian meal. I’ll tell you straight that this was the best Indian meal I’ve partaken in for many a year. The cheesy garlic bread and my mango chicken are stunning both in presentation and taste. Embarrassingly, Robyn hustles up to pay and refuses to accept my offer of at least half each. It’s not a cheap place and I feel guilty once more for the 2 beers I’ve enjoyed with the meal. He is a most generous and engaging host.

Back at home he goes to the bother of logging onto his computer and pointing our the best attractions and ways to head tomorrow when I move on. With hospitality like this, I’m not sure I will move on. To round out my night he produces a brand new bike lock for me to replace the one I’ve lost earlier in the tour. I’m both speechless and grateful for his over the top generosity and kindness. These Warmshower hosts just continue to impress and outdo each other to almost embarrassing levels. We chat in his living room comparing musical taste and our views on the world before both of us begin to flag and sense that a sleep is needed. He is off to work early and has left me instructions on how to lock the house.

It’s now just past midnight and I very much need that sleep. Here then are the Strava and Relive for your perusal.

Strava https://strava.app.link/ZneSRKjfTR

Relive

My eyes need to clos, night all and apologies for the drab descriptions of my day within.

13
Katikati

Here we go again, strong coffee and you’ll make it through another episode of my life on the road.

So today I wake up in a little room in a converted garage in Paeroa. It’s quite well done and quite comfortable. Robin is already up and unfortunately for me has settled into the bathroom, possibly with his own post curry issues. My own are getting ever more urgent and I’m at the point of no return when he finally emerges and I burst pass him with a gritted good morning not a moment too soon. I’m sure you’ve all experienced the immense relief and so I won’t head into a blow by blow account suffice to say that Guy Fawkes himself would have been proud of the ensuing explosions. I give his air freshener a decent blast and hope that it’s not going to be a worrying day on the bike.

I’m left to my own devices as Robin departs grumbling for work soon after. Apparently not keen on the day ahead filled with paperwork and possibly regretting the words ‘make it on the hotter side of medium’. Judging by the sweat he had on during dinner, they took him at his word.

I take a shower, pack my gear and head to the post office to send back a little extra weight that I’ve sorted from my panniers. Just over a week into the trip and I’m confident I won’t be using trackpants, waterproof overtrou and a couple of other items.

I stop by Robin’s work and shout him a coffee, the least I can do after his generosity the day before. Finally I’m on my way, about an hour later then anticipated. I’m soon back on the Hauraki Rail trail and as promised the scenery is immediately more to my liking. Most of the day I follow a winding river which often drifts peacefully down towards me as I ride up current. Every so often there are varying degrees of rapids and the scene changes from corner to corner. It’s an incredibly beautiful ride as both banks are often lined with some beautiful tree offering a lot more shade over the cycle path than yesterday.

In what feels like a very short time I reach the Karangahake Gorge and follow the narrow path along to the Windows Walk where I find that today of all days there is the annual marathon taking place. The variety of people taking part amazes me as all shapes, sizes and ages from both sexes tread past with various rates of speed and looks of discomfort. I’m most impressed with the number of ‘big boned’ people giving it a crack, there are several who you wouldn’t think would ever be out there jogging around a steep sharply winding gorge and good on them I say. To be fair, if I was going to run a marathon in my life, then this one would be the one I chose. The scenery is stunning and enough to probably take your mind off the pain thudding through the body. It really is a breathtakingly beautiful area and I’m not surprised when a volunteer tells me that several hundred are participating.

Hauraki Rail Trail

A little further on I’m treated to a small but picturesque waterfall. There are several people swimming and I’m sorely tempted but eventually choose to move on. I’m not sure which tree, bush or shrub is giving off the perfume but in several parts of the track a distinctive pleasant smell is an added bonus.

At Karangahake Gorge entrance

I’m offered to leave my bike at the marathon pit stop table where volunteers are handing out cups of drink to passing runners. I’m offered a cup but decline as I don’t feel deserving not having run.

I walk down over a swingbridge giving way to passing runners. A steep flight of stairs leads up into a dark tunnel and the views can only be described as spectacular. It’s called the Windows Walk as rough windows have been hewn through the rock tunnel affording incredible views down into and along the gorge from high above. Some give the impression that you are hanging right out over and above the gorge. Photos again will most likely not do the areas justice to its beauty.

Stairs up to the Windows Walk

Along to the Windows Walk tunnel

Entering the tunnel

Inside the tunnel

Window view

Window view

Gorge from a window

Along with a hundreds of marathon runners are mingled dozens of tourists. It’s a crowded day to say the least but still most worth it. A real hidden gem. The tunnels are actually old gold mining tunnels where the carts used to run back and forth. The entire walk is only around a 20 minute loop and though there are longer tracks available I opt to pass due to high traffic volumes. Perhaps on the way back I might if time allows.

Back on the bike the track remains interesting without ever reaching the highs of the gorge again. I pass the old gold battery ruins and stop to read some of the history of what would have undoubtably been an incredibly hard life.

Hauraki Rail Trail

A little further on I’m treated to a small but picturesque waterfall. There are several people swimming and I’m sorely tempted but eventually choose to move on. I’m not sure which tree, bush or shrub is giving off the perfume but in several parts of the track a distinctive pleasant smell is an added bonus..

At the station cafe I briefly stop in for a coffee and bite with Bob particularly interested in my lemon cake. Returning to my bike I find a small group of tourists surrounding it and giving it the once over. I then run an impromptu e-bike conference, fielding questions from all sides about comfort, range of battery etc etc.

The trail eventually comes out just short of Waihi township and I follow roads down into Waihi beach. I stop here and call old family friends I’ve not seen since my fathers funeral some 22 years ago. I’m not expecting much but am immediately invited to stay the night and catch up. Trevor was one of my fathers best friends and I have many childhood memories from times spent on his farms dating back to the age of just 4 or 5. A few of the clearest I’m lucky didn’t cause me trauma for life. I was with my father, the local vet, one day and was finding the proceedings long and boring when Trevor’s uncle Len, seeing me getting restless, asked me to help him off with \240with his boots. “You need to give them a really good tug“ he encouraged me and taking my best 5 year old grip I hauled for all I could. You can picture for yourself the look on my face when his whole prosthetic leg came off and I tumbled back with it thinking I’d pulled his actual leg off.

On another day I was proudly let drive the tractor around and around a field all by myself, a big deal for a 7 or 8 year old. “Go anywhere you like but just steer clear of the chicken shed” I was instructed. The chicken she was almost dead centre of the paddock with plenty of space on all sides for me to circle. To this day I’m not sure what happened to cause me to plow through dead centre and demolish it with horrified squawking chickens in my wake. My first unhappy experience with electric fences also came from Trevor’s farm.

The extra 16km detour to their house proves well worth the effort. Hours fly by as I’m told not previously known stories of my father. Never having known him as an adult it helps give me an alternative aspect of him from the one I’d known as a child. It helps me find a better balance of who he actually was and is quite emotional for me. Photos come out and I’m amazed at how much time has passed. Trevor’s nickname is ‘The Bear’ and even now at 85 still looks as strong and healthy as I always knew him. It is always a magical treat to be transported back to your childhood and hear long forgotten names and be reminded of things that have laid dormant in the memory for so long. Please excuse my rambling nostalgia, I will attempt to keep on track with the trip.

Bonus tunnel cycling video for staying awake

As is become \240normal on this trip, I’m treated like a royal guest upon arrival. The showers I take after arriving is seriously the best I’ve ever had. I like a strong water pressure and this thing blasts me against the shower wall and pins me there. I’m in love with the thjng and will take a pic of the shower rose tomorrow. Pre dinner drinks and snacks, followed by another wonderful meal and dessert. This is rapidly becoming a luxury tour and I’m thinking perhaps I should keep going until I’m able to pedal no more,

Hauraki Rail Trail

Waihi Beach

Bob heads into my lemon cake

Here are the Strava and Relive for the day, apologies again for my selfish rambles.

Strava https://strava.app.link/wyIixPHTUR

14
Te Aroha

A late start to the blog tonight, so hopefully I can remain awake to write it, let alone you staying awake to read it.

Today I have the luxury of waking in a comfortable double bed at my family’s good friends in Katikati, not only this but I am lavished with a fine breakfast of Nespresso coffee (11 strength to boost my pedalling) and also eggs on toast. It feels a bit soon to leave (well for me, maybe not for them) after not having seen them for so long and having a terrific catch up the night before.

Photos are taken, much to Jenny’s dismay and then they offer to cycle with me for the first part of my journey to guide me through a short cut. With all my panniers onboard I feel like an ocean liner being escorted by a coupe of tugboats, it’s nice to have a bit of cycling company for a brief time

No finer people in Katikati than these

I find myself retracing my path from yesterday as it’s my only option to get back to my intended route. Around half an hour later my friends pull in ahead of me and get me back for taking photos by taking a couple of me all loaded up. Soon after we are both back on our various ways. For me it’s along State Highway 2 for several km before veering off towards Waihi. My plans for joining the cycle path part way through are thwarted by 2 electric fences and freshly renewed memories of what they offer. This combined with the fact that my bike is pretty well unliftable cause me to have to do a big loop around into Waihi town and back to the start of the trail. It’s actually not so bad as I detour along the main street of Waihi, which is actually a quaint little place to visit. Elderly buildings and the odd stair depicting early life in the town, make it an interesting little diversion. I also cycle up the path above to take a look at the view down on NZ’s biggest gold mine, Martha. It looks like the remnants of a bomb blast from World War II to me, but I’ll let you decide

Before I forget, I did say that I’d bring you the amazing shower rose that beat every scrap of dirt off me last night and as a man of my word ...

Behold the Felton shower rose that guarantees a pummeling

I was offered another shower under it this morning and right about now I’m regretting I didn’t. However I digress. From Waihi it’s back onto the lovely cycle path of yesterday and as you’d expect, it’s no less lovely today. If anything it affords slightly better river views today as I pass in the opposite direction. Having stopped at most places of interest yesterday I tend to blast past today until I reach the windows walk where Bob insists on me taking him for a look as he was left behind yesterday and I raved about it so much. We lock up my bike and walk the loop once again with Bobs vanity being appeased with several pics

With no marathon today, it’s easier to take a little more time and enjoy the views, although there are again large numbers of people doing the rounds. There are also a lot more cyclists on the trial today and some are not quite as considerate as you’d hope. Several of the ’look at my Lycra & spaceage sunnies’ brigade come thundering along without any apparent awareness that anyone else maybe using the track and heaven forbid there be any walkers. The speeds at which they appear or disappear around blind corners is ridiculous and I’m sure people along the trail must have been wiped out in places. The other mild annoyance is the oldies brigade who appear to not have been near a bike for many a decade. They totter along in the middle of the path going so slowly that they have to wave the handlebars side to side to maintain any balance. It’s most disconcerting trying to get past as they veer from side to side. Some today had absolutely no clue, most bridges on the trail are barely wide enough for 2 unencumbered bikes but with mine fully loaded tend to stop before the bridge and give way if I see someone approaching or cycle on if it’s all clear. Twice today I’ve been halfway accross a bridge when a gaggle of wobblers have appeared from the other side and just headed on to meet me at the 3/4 mark. It would be obvious to a 5 year old that it’s going to be a struggle for us to pass but they are full of smiles and nods as our 2 bikes enmesh and scrape together as I delicately try to manoeuvre past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for every generation getting out and enjoying the paths, but for goodness sake have some courtesy or just use common sense. To be fair, it’s not all the elders and many are going great guns.

Back through the Karangahake Gorge tunnel

View from the opposite direction today

I finally reach Paeroa once more and veer around to head down the last portion of the Hauraki Rail Trail towards my destination of Te Aroha. You may notice a distinct lack of photos from this portion of the trail and this is because there is stuff all to see. It’s an almost exact replica of the stretch of paddocks between Miranda and Thames tha sent me to sleep a few days back. A monotonous gravel path that my rolling tyres makes sound like a continuous pan of frying bacon in plenty of oil. The only distraction for some 30 odd km is some cattle being moved to a fresh paddock. I shall share that thrill with you now as I’ve nothing else to provide from the area.

Video for cow spotting enthusiasts

If I may just offer one more complaint about this section of the trail, and let’s face it, who’s going to stop me, it would be the way in which it crosses a very busy state highway in the most ridiculous of places. The first is basically crossing on a blind bend where cars come whizzing around well in excess of the legal 100km/hr. You simply take your life in your hands, wait for what you pray is a gap and cycle for all your worth to get accross. The next couple of these types of crossings convince me that the designer had a deathwish and a deep hatred of all cyclists. There is a hump or rise in the road to the right making it impossible to see what’s coming. Once again it’s a case of choosing what you hope is a break in the traffic and pedal like buggery.

2 of the crazy crossings across busy highways, blue line is the cycle path

Again I stress that whoever designed these needs their head read. I will wait news of the first death, assuming that there hasn’t been one yet.

Several times it threatens to pour with the occasional large few drops splattering down. Just as I enter Te Aroha it comes down for real in a heavy passing shower. Luckily I find myself heading past the historic railway station and stop under shelter until it passes. A brief sweep through town convinces me I probably don’t need a second pass (sorry Kath) and I make my way 3km out of town to the campground. This turns out to be somewhat disappointing and for what it offers in comparison to previous campgrounds on this trip, fairly heavily priced. $22 for a night in a tent is to me a bit of a rip, especially given the limited resources this place offers. I pick the most private sheltered spot I can find and then minutes later an RV decides to plonk themselves almost on top of me.

I cycle back into town once I’ve unloaded and set up camp. I’m interested in the thermal spa centre but rapidly lose my enthusiasm upon viewing the prices and establishing that they only have small private pools rather than a large one. I cycle around the town once more and buy a few items from the 4 square. It reconfirms they whilst not dead, a couple of pumps from a defibrillator possibly wouldn’t go astray. I’m possibly being unfair as it is only a Sunday late avo many may just be shut

Back at the camp I head to the kitchen area to charge my battery and sort out my next freeze dry meal. After 3 boomer ones in a row, this one is an absolute dud. Honey Soy Chicken with rice and veges is promised and god only knows what it was that was delivered. It’s the first dissapointing meal of this sort so far. A lovely and frankly brave young German girl is cooking up a substantial and good looking meal in the kitchen. We get chatting and she very kindly offers me the rest of her salad for which I’m very grateful. Her English is superb and she relates that she has just graduated from high school and come out here to cycle for 3 months. She’s done well today, clocking up 80km with a not so great low gear. she is only 18 and I’m impressed with both her maturity of conversation and courage to follow her dreams. We continue to chat in the warm thermal spa in the campgrounds and agin back at the kitchen area. More Germans are here and I reflect that most people I’ve met so far are either Belgian or German

Welcome to Te Aroha

Long days of gravel paths

My site for the night

Tomorrow I may or may not crush another 2 days cycling together, it will depends on the weather .. and maybe my gluteus maximus which is a touch tender but usually rights itself by morning. For now though, I’ll leave you with my Strava and Relive for the day. Strava threw another wobble today and stopped working again for a few km, thankfully nothing major but still an inconvenience.

Strava https://strava.app.link/84pBgV2zWR

If anything else comes to mind from the day I’ll pop back here, if not then nighty night, I need some \240zzzzzz

15
Little Waipa Reserve

Good evening from Little Waipa, an unexpected yet pleasant stop along the banks of the mighty Waikato River. I’ve managed to roll another 2 planned days cycle into 1, which is a good thing as I now plan to detour to Taupo to see another old family friend.

It absolutely poured last night in Te Aroha and although my towel, togs and a few other items got an extra rinse on the line where I’d left them hanging out, they were sipping wet still this morning. Grey clouds still threatened and so I managed to pack quite rapidly and get the tent, though not the fly, away fully dry. The wet stuff I threw together in a dry bag to try and lay out at the next stop to dry.

The Te Aroha campgrounds kitchen, bathroom and lounge facilities are small to non existent. The kitchen is crowded, predominantly with cyclists and the odd camper van tourist. The limited kitchen crockery and utensils have all been claimed and so I forgo my planned porridge and settle for a coffee.

My bike has survived its first night out and for that I’m thankful as a couple of other cyclists have lost items stolen from the kitchen. Mainly battery packs that were left overnight to charge. Not sure what it is about this place but it just gives off that sort of vibe. I’m just finishing packing when my new German friend Johanna cycles up and asks me if she can join me for today’s ride. I have no objections and we set off once I’m packed.

She’s only 18 and very slightly built but manages to cruise along at a steady 20km, which is what I try to average on the road. She does battle up the hills a little bit this is more due to poor gearing in her bike than any lack of power in the legs. She is looking to get it adjusted at the next cycle shop. We make good time to Matamata, my planned stop for the night as their were mineral pools and I decide I will push on further towards Arapuni.

My gears are playing up a little today, who knows if someone had a little fiddle last night when it was left out, but I find it strange that all was well when I left it and they are playing up from the first this morning. I’d been told there is a good bike shop in Matamata but after a fruitless search, discover from a local that it’s been relocated to Tauranga. By now I’m starving and so decide on a big breakfast from a pleasant looking cafe on the Main Street of Matamata. It’s a great decision and I feel much the better for it, if not slightly heavier. Bacon, eggs, hashbowns, tomato, sausage and creamed mushroom on toast is great cycling fuel.

As we depart town a few heavy raindrops becomes a quick shower, then it’s a burst of sunshine before yet another shower. It really is a strange weather day. What began as a \240slight tailwind this morning has turned into a hefty headwind as we plough on down Highway 29. It’s not a pleasant 8 or 9 km ride with double trailered trucks and a never ending procession of cars thundering past and giving little room for us doing our best to hug the edge of the road. It’s with some relief that we finally turn onto State Highway for a brief moment before heading down to the start of the Waikato River Trail alongside the beautiful Lake Karapiro. We follow the river along until we reach a pretty little campsite called Little Waipa Reserve. Joanna decides this will do for the night and encourages me to stay also. As it will save on camp fees I agree and we set up tents close by the river. It’s quite an ideal spot. A few camper vans are also around but well away from us.

I’m quite low on water and query a chap who’s packing his mountain bike into the back of his Ute as to whether there is any around. He kindly offers me a lift to the closest town to fill my camelbak pack up. It’s very decent of him as this turns out to be around 7 or so minutes each way. The only shop in town, a little cafe, is closed and so he continues on to the bowling club which just happens to be having a tournament today. They are only too willing to let me top up and also get the luxury of a ginger beer for me and a coke for Joanna. Back at the campsite it’s becoming a little commune of ex Te Aroha campers as another couple we were chatting to last night have arrived and are setting up their tent. They are English and have been touring around the world on bikes. Both are quite pleasant and we join together for a meal and chat at the only table around. My fancy offering of the night is another freeze dried effort of cottage pie. Once again I wouldn’t actually swop it for anything. For add boiling water and wait 10 minutes, it’s a mighty fine tasting meal.

As it’s errr cooking, I call my mate Kev who’s looking after my house and guide him through sending me a file off my computer I need. I’ve promised a copy of the cycling NZ book I have to a few people and need it emailed to me. The issue is that the phone connection to Kev isn’t great and I’m looking like a complete moron wandering up and down a hill yelling computer instructions as I try to gain better reception. I can hear Kev perfectly but he’s obviously struggling to hear me as I get instructions of “stay there”, “can you hear me ?”, “Scotty are you there?” \240I’m here, I’m here I keep shouting and I’m pretty sure the rest of the people within a 5 mile radius know it by now. Finally the email comes through and I try to get in my goodbyes but by this stage the connection has given up.

Bob sunbathing after a torrid day in the rain

As soon as the sun goes down it’s actually bitterly cold here. I head towards my tent thinking I’ll pop on my trackies when I remember that they are by now on their way back home via courier post. Good decision Scott. Still, if I’d kept them it would have been boiling and I’d have carried them all that way for nothing. It’s an early retirement to bed and rugged up in the sleeping bag.

Today’s achievement is the reaching of the 1000km mark since setting off. Bloody Strava gave me grief once more and I believe I’ve discovered the issue. It has a setting called auto pause which stops the recording each time you pull over or take a break. Problem is, it doesn’t always restart itself and by the time I realise, 20 odd km have passed. Thankfully the trusty Komoot backed me up again and so will feature below as proof of my efforts

Strava https://strava.app.link/cSDkVK35XR

The true distance

16
1 Lake Rd, Mangakino 3492, New Zealand

Crikey !! That was some sort of day. I have not had the time to grab my GoPro footage off the camera but will add it in here once I have the time.

Firstly an apology to those of you in the grammar police, of which my mother has been president since I first began school. It isn’t all that easy trying to write these things out at the end of a long day on the road whilst cooped in a small tent. I do my best but sometimes am going so fast that autocorrect autostuffsup and I don’t pick up on what it has changed my original meaning to. Such is life ... deal with it 👌

Today began as most others ... early, too early for me but I’m becoming more used to it ... I think. Around 7.30 I find myself doing my least favourite part of each day, packing and balancing my panniers. I don’t spend as much time on the balancing today and pay for it later in the day on the trail. The English couple are off early, don’t know how they get up at 6 but they are off as I’m getting up.

The Rhubarb cafe, about which I’ve heard so many good things is not open on Monday’s or tuesdays, woe is me, there goes my hot coffee and eggs. I exchange this for 2 barley sugars as a breakfast to let me until early afternoon in Mangakino. Actually I do also find another snickers bar later in the day when I’m all but done in and about to heave my bike off the side of a bluff and walk. More on that later.

The days riding begins easily enough on the Waikato River trail, with a few little climbs and sharp turns not enough to detract from the glorious early morning views down onto the mighty Waikato River.

Morning views from the bike

Boardwalks make life easier

Easy going in the morning

Fairly soon we arrive at the bowling club which I visited yesterday and Joanna and I fill up with water. Unfortunately she leaves hers behind but has several more to get her through the day. We decide to cycle separately as I push up the hills a little faster with the assistance of Mr Bosch. As the cycle trail through this stage is graded expert, we’ve both decided to take the alternative road route that rejoins the trail at a later stage. There’s several decent climbs but nothing I haven’t experienced before. Tane and Mahuta have become complacent after the ease of the last few days flat cycles and they are a little unhappy at the \240first few climbs before settling into the familiar rhythm.

We cross the huge swing bridge at Arapuni and then continue past the dam into familiar rolling hills, farmland and cows. I’d hate to count the amount of cow eyes that have looked up and gazed at me, mouths half full of chewed grass as I glide by. Later in the afternoon after some steady long climbs, I’m finally rewarded with an exhilarating and pacey decent into Waipapa and over a high up bridge that looks way down into a fast running stream. I manage to hit my top speed of 72km/hr once again but cannot break my record. It’s a thrill puts the joy back into the day after the laborious climb up.

Arapuni Swingbridge

Video from the Waipapa bridge

Fairly soon after here I see the cycle path heading off to my left and figuring I must be past the difficult stage, decide to rejoin it. What a mistaker to maker. It’s a disaster from the word go. Almost immediately I’m decending down switchbacks with nasty sharp 180 degree turns on a narrow little track that is rutted and lined with protruding rock, roots and branches. It would be no mean feat with just a mountain bike, but on a fully loaded hardtail it’s akin to hell. Fairly soon in the piece I realise that being clipped into my pedals is fairly much a deathwish as you need to get your feet down in a hurry at times to avoid heading over a steep cliff or into a bank. My front Tyre slips and slides off rocks and my worst moment comes when I hit the side of a punga branch lying accross the track and slide precariously close to the edge of a steep drop that neither Bob nor I are keen on taking. I get the full view down to what I presume would have been a decent amount of pain had I survived. Some tyre ruts along the path also make things impossible as you simply cannot steer out of them without tipping over. The angles of both decents and accents seem crazy with the turns factored in. Hats off to all the mountainbikers who can careen down these tracks but I’d love to see them try it with the load I have on.

My panniers are bouncing wildly and it’s a testament to orrliebs design that they remain onboard. Bob thanks me for his seatbelt and suggests that a cushion and some airbags would be appropriate.

Bob looks back from whence we came

Over the hour and a half odd that I’m on the track, I experience nearly every emotion available. Exhilaration, joy, anger, terror, happiness and frustration, it’s all there. Several times I think my days are done as I try to push the speed to get through and nearly come flying off. After a a particularly tricky downhill I come across a climb that I’d possibly not make in a helicopter. I finally discover what my turbo setting is for on the bike and even then I’m still battling due to the rough nature of the track. I congratulate myself on making it up, little aware that it’s the starter for 3 more. Only on the last one am I defeated. ‘Warning, extra slippery rocks’ blares a sign at the bottom of a cliff that has one thinking more of rock climbing equipment than a fully laden bike. Encouraged by my previous successes I rip into turbo and give it a crack but epicly fail at around the 3/4 mark. The front tyre skews away to the side off one of the forwarned slippery rocks and my pannier catches the side of the narrow path I’m travelling through. I crunch into the brush but luckily there is no cliff on either side of this section. Pushing my bike for the first time on the entire journey is no mean feat either. It’s still a mean climb and the bike plus panniers way a ton. I skip and slide my way to the top and spit out a curse at the track, not very loudly as I’m all but done in. I txt Johanna to warn her of the upcoming terrors but it turns out she has stuck to the road and is only around 5km from Mangakino. My GPS tells me that I’m 8km away. Mercifully soon after I cross paths with the road once more and don’t give a second thought about rejoining it. At about 1km from town I catch up to Johanna and we cycle to the shops together, both fairly hungry for a hot meal and drink.

Bob with his blue ribbon for bravery on the trail

We aren’t exactly spoilt for choice in the fine dining department in Mangakino. There is a slightly dodgy looking burger bar and an equally dodgy looking umm bakery/roasthouse run by an almost unintelligible Italian. We choose the bakery roasthouse and I have pork on rice, mainly as it’s the $5 special, and a mocha. Johanna has fish n chips and a cup of tea, the first of which is emptied on my foot by the apologetic Italian. To be fair, he’s very friendly and very kind, even bringing us a photo of his Wi-Fi password on his phone for us to access it. As we dine, the rain comes down heavily and the forecast is for hail. Outside the bakery I’m immediately accosted by a special looking gentleman who introduces himself as Gerry... several times. I politely make his aquaintance and then try to edge away. Gerry is having none of it and overhearing my phone calls to various lodgings, suggests that his boss sometimes lets people stay the night. Another shop owner has come out to give us some suggestions as to lodgings and recommends that we don’t pursue Gerry’s offer as he’s from the local psychiatric ward. I agree that it’s probably best avoided as they may not let me go in the morning. I begin to look for other options of a roof for the night, not all that thrilled at the prospect of camping in hail. Last night was cold enough. $100 is the cheapest I can find and so I condecend into looking at the camping ground, thinking that at the very least it will get me away from Gerry’s persistence to check in with him.. By this stage the rain has stopped and the skies are clearing and so we both decide to pitch tents.

I call Garry, the owner of the Bus Stop Cafe in Mangakino, right on the lakes edge were we camp. I’d previously called him when planning my trip and he’d offered power for $5 for the night from his shop. It’s his day off but he generously arranges to meet me here at 5.30, open up and make some dinner. Yet another incredibly decent person I’ve met on the trail. Not only turn up smack on 5.30 but then even offers to let us put up our tents under cover on his outside dining porch with roll down plastic windows around us. We gratefully accept and no sooner have we moved out tents and gear in than the promised hail begins to hammer down. I bypass his suggested pizza, who needs to see that after 18 years of making the damn things and settle for fish n chips. He takes a couple of photos of myself and Johanna for his Facebook page and those said social media may find them already loaded under the Bus Stop Cafe Mangakino. Yes yes I’ve become quite the social media personality and Bob is most put out at not being mentioned, let alone photographed.

After dinner Garry even waves the $5 dollar fee for power and suggests I charge my bike, phone and everything else for free. A top bloke is Garry and I suggest you all drop whatever you’re doing, which is obviously this blog, which you’ve probably dropped several times already through falling asleep in sheer boredom and book to come to Mangakino and have a meal with him or camp on his porch. That was a cracker of a sentence wasn’t it, eat that grammar police...

Garry is also a bit of an engineer and entrepreneurial man. He tells us of his feats of home building complete with solar panels and a windmill. He pays for power no more. He’s also designed a wonderful little shower in a caravan that is parked next to the public toilets here. For inserting a $2 coin the lucky punter can enjoy 4 minutes of terrificly hot water through a rain showerhead. It’s his own design and build and let me tell you it’s a cracker of a godsend to a frozen tired cyclist. I spend $4 and lap up every one of the 480 seconds of pure bliss.

Shower instructions

Back to my indoor tent and Gerry has turned up out of the blue. I’m a little concerned for Johanna Garry has warned that Gerry is quite keen on exposing himself and has been in trouble with the police. He asked me to txt him if he appears and so I do so and soon after a car from Gerry’s accomodation arrives to take him away.

Johanna has made me a hot chocklate which is a lovely way to finish a tiring but exciting day. Tomorrow it’s off to Taupo, a bit of a detour from my original plan as I’m going to catch up with another family friend who was possibly my fathers old best friend. To be honest I was petrified of him as a kid as he had a booming voice. I now know him as a gentleman with a heart of gold and look forward to catching up.

Johanna with our tents

Inside tenting

Evening view of the Lake

Another Lake view

Strava https://strava.app.link/jSz2JEvQZR

Bloody elevation was doubled on that trail

That’s all folks ...

17
Taupo

The 2 week mark finds me ensconced in luxury in Taupo. Not originally part of my tour, I’ve detoured down here to catch up with another of our long time family friends, The Preston’s. It’s funny how life works out, I’ve not seen either the Burgesses nor Preston’s in over 20 years and have now suddenly have caught up with them both with in a matter of 3 days.

The morning is another bitterly cold one and I’m immediately grateful to Garry once again for letting us have the use of his covered outdoor dining area to put our tents in. It rains heavily several times during the night and I’m pleased to be able to pack the tent away dry. To be honest, it was a rough nights sleep. Most nights I’ve been pitching the tent in an area that is away from others so I can make a little noise, listen to a bit of music or whatever. Having our 2 tents side by side makes me incredibly self conscious and trying to keep my every move silent after dark is quite stressful. My sleeping mat and sleeping bag seem to create a deafening noise with each slight movement no matter how hard I try to be quiet. Writing the blog last night was a right task as I can’t seem to get in a comfortable position to write for long periods and change from side to side and elbow to elbow. Oh the ways in which I must suffer to provide you this .. umm ... prattle.

\240Anyhow, at some time much earlier than my body is wanting I hear Johanna asking if I’m awake, in all honesty I’m not sure if I am or not. My head feels heavy, my toes frozen and I’d love a few hours more to rest, though I known it makes sense to get underway a little earlier today and try to beat the predicted storm. Garry arrives as I’m finishing packing and offers me a free mocha, who am I to refuse a nice hot coffee on a bleak cold morning. He really is a top bloke and I urge you all to head to Mangakino and support his business as soon as you finish reading this.

Johanna is keen to get underway and takes off around 20 minutes earlier than myself at around 8.30. I enjoy my coffee and a bit of a chat with Garry. I finally head off and manage to catch up with Johanna along the River Trail. She’s had a tough start to the day once again without a decent climbing gear and a few steep hills early on which she’s had to push her laden bike up. It’s no easy task and I admire her perseverance. I’m so pleased that she didn’t follow the track yesterday as I did. She is keen to head out to the road to continue but a group heading the other way assure us the worst is behind and this proves to be so. Even so, I’ve managed to give the battery a decent work out for so early in the day.

Once out on the road we are almost immediately faced with some fairly steady and lengthy climbs. It’s also bitterly cold and Johanna politely insists that I head on at my own pace and not wait for her. As guilty as I feel, I finally agree as I’m finding it hard to wait at the top of each rise. You build up a sweat when climbing so hard and when it’s as cold as today you soon turn frozen when stopped and waiting. For me, long distance is all about getting in a rhythm and keeping it going.

Some early morning views

I remain in touch by txt and forewarn her of what’s up ahead. Today has seen the first half dozen of the ridiculoua barriers that were the bane of my life last year when I cycled the twin coast cycle way. Designed to keep motorcyclists off the trails, they also have the same affect for the very people the trails are built for, the cycle tourist. Their is simply no way to get a fully laden bike past other than lift it over (not an option with the weight of mine) or apply the rear brake, haul the bike upright onto its back wheel and try to keep it all balanced as you roll it through the barrier on its back wheel (no mean feat let me assure you). To put it bluntly, whoever designed these abominations ought to be lined up and shot ... several times and not fatally !

An absolute pain in the arse !!!

Once off the trail the roads are fairly unspectacular along to Taupo, just more rolling hill farmland and many more cows. Once again the traffic is fairly considerate apart from the mandatory couple of morons who speed past with barely the width of a towel between us. A couple I offer both the fingers and some choice words to, as there is simply no need to come so close.

Says it all ...

I’ve seen nearly every appliance there is, just dumped on the side of the road on this trip. Today it is a 14” tv but on other days I’ve seen microwaves, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, vacuum cleaners, computers, stereos, an iron, heaters, a toaster and even toilet bowls. These are left sitting in the most unlikeliest of places usually in the middle of nowhere.

Obviosly wasn’t much on

As I roll into Taupo it begins to rain steadily and I take shelter at the shops already a little soaked. I take the bike in and have my gears adjusted, and some cables realigned. Not overly happy with his charge of $40, but I guess there’s not much left that isn’t expensive today.

The path around Lake Taupo affords an amazing view from every angle as you make your way around. It’s dead flat and even on a cold Greg day like today, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of the North Islands most famous Lake.

Finally arriving at the Preston’s, I’m once again treated royally. A hot shower is gratefully accepted and my first shave for over a week leaves me feeling a lot fresher and clean. We sit over a few beers and reminisce once again on the past and catch up on the intervening years. It’s hard to believe over 20 have passed. As with the Burgesses last week, there is something just comforting and heartwarming to being in the company of such kind people who you’ve known since childhood.

After another feast and more talking, they are off to bed as ex farmers do at the early hour of 8.30 Early to bed and early to rise makes you handsome, wealthy and wise, quotes Mick. I now see where my life went so wrong ...

Strava has once again stuffed up today but here it is ... \240around 5 km short

https://strava.app.link/2tm5J5eq1R

And here is the Relive

18
Taupo

My first rest day and it feels kind of strange to not be packing and moving on. I still wake early, well 7.30 is early for me and I get to wake to this

It’s not a bad way to start the day

The day is fine as those of you who watched the video above would have noticed. After breakfast, I take a short cycle into Taupo to have a brief look around at how much it has grown since I last visited and it sure has.The shopping area has swollen and all the major players are now here. I have a bike shop look at my brake pads but they assure me all should be ok for the next stage ... let’s hope so.

I head back for lunch with my hosts the Preston’s and then am treated to a tour around Taupo in the V8 Lexus SUV. It’s some vehicle, smooth and quiet with all the bells and whistles. We drive around the Lake to Kinloch, an area of Taupo I’ve not visited before. It’s really quite a stunning area and I’m gonsmacked at the amount of subdivisions and houses being built. Taupo must be the most growing area in New Zealand without a doubt. On the way back be pass the Huka Falls, always a childhood favourite of mine and still as enjoyable today

Huka Falls

Huka Falls

Huka Falls Video

Huka Falls Video

Once back home, I decide Tane and Mahuta deserve a treat, so hop back on the bike and head to the De Brett’s thermal pools. Cycling with no gear loaded on the bike is a whole different ball game and the bike feels like a different machine. I literally whizz along and cornering is a breeze.

De Brett’s is another one of my childhood memories from family trips to Taupo. The pools have been upgraded and expanded though and with the onset of PC New Zealand, all sorts of new rules and regulations are now in place. Security cameras are everywhere and there are no less than 3 full time staff staring on at all times. I’m not sure if these guys are lifeguards, bouncers or what their purpose is, but they don’t really add to the atmosphere of a relaxing carefree zone. You constantly have the feeling that a riot is about to break out as they strut about perhaps searching for terrorists. I arrive at around 4 and there are only around 10 people scattered around, by the time I depart at 7.10 that has increased to at least 60. Not a bad earner at $22 per head, though I’m sure maintainance and bodyguards come at a price. the pools themselves are still great with the various temperatures allowing you to find one that suits for a long soak. I like to go back and forth from hot to cold and back again personally but the addition of an area at which you lie and be massaged in the warm water by variously pressures jets has me hooked for a good period. The private pools are still here also but one is not allowed to just go there and try out the various temperatures any longer. Instead you have to swop them something of value to hold in return for a key to a set temperature pool. \240The hours literally flow past and I get a shock when I ask one of the bouncers the time, not because he can speak, but because it’s already 7.10 and I’m supposed to report back for dinner at 7pm. I hurriedly shower, change and blast back On the bike to arrive half an hour late.

I feel quite guilty as they have waited to have dinner for me, even though I’d said not to. It’s another big meal of Pork, chicken, chips and eggs followed by a mass of strawberries and icecream. For the second night in a row I can barely move from the dinner table. Mick doesn’t look all that well sadly and retires to bed early. I stay up and chat to Valda before heading off myself.

My apologies for this being a dreary entry today but My energy levels have ebbed away as I lazed about in the pools. I will consider myself reprimanded and rectify the matter tomorrow.

I won’t bother with today’s Strava and Relive as they aren’t all that exciting

19
Mangakino

Hello and welcome in to the day that was mine. My internal 7.30 alarm is as active as ever and although I try to shut it off and enjoy my nice comfortable bed a little longer, my head is having none of it and quickly begins it’s daily whirl of thoughts. Realising that any further sleep is merely a fantasy I decide on a shower and head out to breakfast, where I get the impression that my hosts have been waiting for me for several hours, the old early to bed and early to ride makes you handsome, wealthy and wise thing. Personally I think that a 5.30 rising would make you cranky, surly and tired but I suppose being long time farmers that they are used to it.

Post breakfast it’s back to the familiar task of collating my gear and distributing it between panniers to maintain a balance. As ever I’m fully packed and content with my ratios when I discover an item not packed. This is a daily annoyance that I’m now so used to that I don’t even throw a tantrum at Bob for not pointing the offending item out to me. Then it’s time for the photo call and off into the blue yonder that is Taupo this morning.

My terrific hosts for a couple of days in Taupo

Glorious Taupo Morning

A quick deviation into town for a few items at countdown turns into a 1/2 hour stoppage as I get chatting to a Salvation Army donation collector at the exit. She has kindly kept an eye on my bike whilst I grab some bargains. A coleslaw with dressing, a fresh fruit salad mix and a bottle of Pepsi Max Vanilla, all on sale and for the princely sum of a $6 total. I was a little worried over the fruit salad packaging and the manner at which I had to cram it in my bag, but am pleased to report that it survived the journey and now rests contentedly inside me. The Sally lady is lovely, as all Salvation Army people I’ve ever met are. She is genuinely interested in my trip and questions me on all aspects of it. She notices Bob and as several people now have, actually thinks he’s real for a moment. Oh she says, I thought you were taking the little fellow into our shelter. My look must have given the impression that she was slightly off her rocker because she hurriedly explained that in Taupo, they actually do have a real live hedgehog recovery centre that people take only partially flattened relatives of Bobs in to receive life giving attention. Bob, the Salvation Army lady \240and I kid you not ! Here is proof that it exists http://hedgehogrescue.net.nz . Bob is beside himself with delight and begins to insist that we re cycle our entire route to recycle all of his ironed out rellies. He has a cunning plan in which I would insert my bike pump and reinflate them to a level acceptable to the hedgehog hospital for admittance. It is with deep regret that instead I have to deflate Bob, put on his belt and move on.

The ride back to whence I came, namely Mangakino is for the main part uneventful and indeed slightly easier than the reverse journey the other day. There is less traffic and the hills easier to cycle back this way. On one section of Poihipi Rd I stop to look at a bike which turns out to be a memorial to a cyclist killed here. I’ve been warned that this isn’t a happy road for cyclists and am happy to get off it soon after.

Memorial to cyclist Jane Farrelly

The other bike we pass is 3 metres high and designed to raise the awareness of cyclists. It must be doing its job today as I’m given a decent wide berth by all who pass me. Sadly the bugs and bees aren’t that smart today and instead of avoiding me, many zzzzzzzplatt into my forehead which acts as a windscreen for the early part of the afternoon. There are a prolific amount of bugs out today and I spend long periods wiping my forehead clean of shattered bugs \240and spitting out semi inhaled insects.

Bob thinks I ought to swop bikes

I find myself back at Garrys Bus Stop Cafe by 1pm which I feel is pretty good going. Garry is in full swing with lunches but gives me a warm greeting and without even asking a coffee appears next to me where I’m resting outside. I probably mentioned what a top bloke he was last time I was here, but too bad, you’ll have to hear it again. The man is a TOP bloke. Again he invites me to use the inside area once the last dinner patron has departed. I park my bike by his bus and head over to the lake for a swim. It’s a hot day and I feel a cool dip after sweating all morning will be a nice reward. A fancy new boat with four 20 something year olds comes hurtling accross the Lake in front of me with a sound system that could possibly be heard back in Wellington. The quiet ambience of the Lake and its surrounding forest is shattered by the incessant boom from the inconsiderate ignoramuses onboard. They tear back and forth across the lake and without doubt can be heard for miles around. Finally head away down and around a corner with the noise I assume they regard as music, slowly fading behind them. I enjoy my swim and infact get in and out twice more inbetween periods of lying in the sun dozing. At about 5pm I head back over to Garrys bus and order, of all things, a pizza for dinner. For those of you who don’t know me, I owned and ran a pizza parlour for 18 years / 7 days a week and there was a time I thought I’d never face another pizza in my life ... Garry’s satay chicken isn’t too bad to be honest, though not having had any lunch may have increased my enjoyment. He also throws in a massive container of chip and yet another coffee. On top of this he gives me a $2 coin and says that he’s shouting me a shower. I’m wondering whether I smell that revolting but decide that as I had a good shower this morning that it’s just Garry being a top bloke yet again. When I tell him that I’m feeling guilty at the amount he’s throwing my way, he asks me to just pay it forward in the future. Top bloke !

So with my bike and phone plugged in and charging, I head over to sit with my Belgian friend, who have shown up again out of the blue and a friendly Swiss guy who has been absolutely blitzing it around the north island on a road bike which he has managed to navigate through several mountain bike trails. A Japanese cyclist joins us and it’s an interesting multi national conversion for an hour or so. The moon comes up and there is a rush for photos for some reason and so if you can’t beat them ...

The moon appears

Post swim

Glamping Again

Waikato River Trail

Strava - \240https://www.strava.com/activities/1979848906/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1542934738

Relive

That’s about all I can think of to tell you apart from the bee that his my head and survived. I was flying down a hill in the mid 60s (speed wise) when a bee crossed my path and somehow lodged itself in my helmet. I originally thought it had bounced off and flown away and so got a shock when a moment later there was an agitated buzzing from the interior. I literally skidded to my quickest halt ever and proceeded to wrench the helmet from my head and shake it out vigorously. Thankfully I wasn’t stung and the offending Anthophila (pretty good huh !!) flew away looking somewhat dazed by the experience. As it’s now midnight, I think I will head off to my own zzzz land. Night all

20
Pureora Cabins

How nice it is to wake up dry while it’s bucketing down outside. My little ‘glamping’ possie on Garry’s veranda has saved me from a soaking tent to pack away. I actually wake at 5.46 to hear the first heavy drops begin to hammer down. I manage to roll over and actually manage to get just over an hours extra sleep. By 7.30 though, I’m up and packing away my gear. Part of me considers hanging around here another day but the weather is supposed to improve slightly late morning.

Garry arrives around 8.20 and busies himself setting up his kitchen. By the time I’ve packed my gear away onto the bike m, there is a steaming hot coffee and a bacon and egg roll waiting for me. The roll is so good that I order a second, possibly the best thing I’ve tasted for a breakfast ever. We sit around chatting whilst the rain continues to steadily fall. Gradually we are joined by the Belgians, the Swiss guy, ironically called Roman and the Japanese guy who’s name I can’t pronounce, let alone write for you. The Japanese guy has been here a yearncucling around. I ask if he’s been picking fruit or other work to support himself but he’s says no, just cycling. He looks forlorn, telling me he’s down to his last $500 and when I ask how he will return home, he says he has no idea ... last night he disappeared into his tent early saying he needed sleep. As it was only just after 7.30 we all looked a little surprised. The was then some strange grunts and odd shadows eminatkg from his tent as the rest of us sat at a picnic table close by. I assumed he was doing Taichi or yoga or something and commented this out loud. ”Yeeeeeeesss”, says Jens (The Belgian), ... ”or something”. This causes Roman to begin to giggle and pretty soon the entire table of us are in convulsive laughter. I think you had to be there ....

Eventually the rain begins to ease and it helps make up my mind to move on. That and the fact I’ve got a cabin booked at Pureora tonight and a lodge booked for halfway over the Timber Trail for tomorrow. Roman has also decided to head off but in the direction of Rotorua where he has booked a hostel for 2 nights. The Belgians aren’t keen on being wettened further and as their tent leaked last night are heading up to an Airbnb in Managakino town for the night. None of us are too sure of the Japanese chaps plans as he just smiles toothily and mentions his last $500 again. The last I see of him, he’s back inside his tent.

A watery sun appears through dense cloud and I give a heartfelt thanks once again to Garry for all he’s done. If he treats even half his clientele the way he has treated me, then he will be broke within months. He only charges me for one bacon and egg roll and neither of my 2 coffees. He’s been amazing and very very generous.

As I pedal up the hill out of Mangakino, the light drizzle returns. I don’t mind this so much as I find it quite refreshing. Several kilometres on I take a left onto Scott Rd and reflect that I’m Scott on a Scott bike on Scott Rd.

‘Scott to be done

Komoot telling me to head onto my Rd

As I cycle along Scott Rd I reflect that this road that is named in my honour very much reflects my own life. It begins level enough and I’m travelling along quite nicely for a while then all of a sudden life’s tough. I’m heading uphill and the drizzle has turned into a downpour. There are several uphill battles with the occasional downhill coast where you think your luck is about to change, only to be dashed by another steep challenge around the corner. Much like my own life I just plow on the best way I know how turning to music to assist my mood. My wonderboom speaker gets its first real workout since the long trek down 90 Mile beach.

I had 2 cycling options this morning, the track through the forest and along paths that undoubtably would now be muddy and perhaps flooded or the road option. The track would have been around 58km and with some incline up to 950m, the road a hell of a lot shorter at just over 30 km and only half the incline. I desperately wanted to do the track but common sense prevailed and I went on the road. By the time I arrived both soaked and chilled to the bone, I was more than elated with my choice. Another couple of cyclist memorials along Scott Rd, again makes me well aware of the risks on these roads. A poor sodden Bob also spies another few relatives in various non original shapes.

Video of one of several types of almost tame birds on Scott Rd

Up Scott Rd before the downpour

It was also a first for my Goretex jacket today and I’m pleased to report that the guaranteed to keep you dry in any weather label is 100% accurate. The only issue is that every other part of my body was soaked to the bone and frozen to the core. My key has been left in the outside fire hydrant as promised and as I open my door I am pleasantly surprised at the cabin appearing large and well appointed but at the same time bitterly disappointed to not see a shower or toilet. I then notice a second key on the ring and woth heart in mouth try the next door down the ramp. Woohoooooo inside is an immaculately clean row of showers and toilets. I hurriedly unpack the bike and rush shivering to the shower. Now the shower would have to rival the Burgesses from about a week ago for power, the difference being that I need not feel guilty at using up valuable water and can stay in for as long as it holds out. I seem to be the only one at the entire row of cabins and therefore feel even less guilty at lapping up the hot water. After about 10 minutes I begin to feel my toes again and then remain another 15 just raising my temperature and soaking under glorious beating hot water. I feel I’ve had my money’s worth before I’ve even made use of the cabin. After drying and changed, I’m curious as to another door next to the showers. As it turns out my key opens it as well and I find myself looking Into a vacant storeroom with 2 PowerPoints. That’s the very job for me I think, and my bike is now happily charging inside with the speaker also plugged in for some juice.

Cabin 2, My home for the night

Pureora Cabins

Bed for tonight

My kitchen

Making sure Bob can’t complain to the RSPCA

I systematically lay out my drenched clothes on a seat in front of the heater and blast them full bore. Bob sits on top which I feel is only fair after making him wait for my half hour in the shower. At this stage just Bob and my shoes have any sign of dampness left.

The rain finally subsides into the lightest of drizzles again by 3pm and I decide to take a quick look around to see if I can get any phone or internet coverage as I know mother will be panicking and sending off 100 or so txts that I will receive in a burst tomorrow. I come across a small gravel road with 4 houses on it and try my luck for Wi-Fi. Each of the 4 houses has it but although I try the obvious passwords (being the Wi-Fi username, admin and password, sadly none lets me get online. Until sometime tomorrow at the top of a bloody mountain climb, I am alone in the world with no contact.

Back at the head of the Timber Trail I come across a lone hiker from Canada, he has all the gear and safety equipment but I still feel it takes special individual to walk the entire length of NZ alone as he’s doing. We chat briefly but I get the indication that this guy is both happiest and used to being alone. He trudges off into the gloom and I cycle a Km up the track to see what I’m up against tomorrow. Although there is a storm due to hit in the morning, it appears as though I will be partially sheltered in the forest. The path is muddy though and I fear that Bob, myself and the bike will be in for a long wet ride. The track is already showing signs of mud and puddle, it will be a challenge. Having said that, the surrounding bush and scenery look quite amazing

Quick preview of the Timber Trail

Beginning of the Timber Trail

Back once more at the cabin, I discover a small novel left behind by a precious occupant. Only 158 pages long, I finish it in 2 sittings punctuated by an hours Nanna nap as I felt quite exhausted. I initially held out great hopes for the book as it described a daring WWII escape. Only a few pages in I realised it was a poorly written cheapo akin to a D-grade Hollywood flick. I persist with it, mainly though a lack of options and finish it by 5pm. Well and truly raining again now, I prepare my spectacular meal of spaghetti bolognaise (freeze dried) and follow this with a 3 berry cheesecake (also freezedry). Neither are the best I’ve ever had but both quite filling and adequate

Slag Bol

Don’t rush out to buy this one ...

A cup of hot chocolate later and I’m feeling quite content. I’ve lubed up the bike and will probably have another shower to pass the time. Also managed to charge all battery banks and reorganise the panniers. Only left to hope that tomorrow isn’t as bad as the met service made it appear it will be.

Scotty the bike happily chariging in his own room

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1985337465/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543201739

Relive

21
Blackfern Lodge

Crikey !! What a ride that was, but more on the trail later. I awake at 5.10 and it’s the rain that’s caused it, literally splattering down on the roof with a consistent drumming that hums in the ears. Somewhat surprisingly I manage to drift back off until 7.15 when I wake once again and this time for good as light is creeping in through the kitchen window which has no blinds.

I lie and listen to the rain hammering down, wondering whether to move on again today or stay put in the comfort and dryness of the cabin with the added bonus off a brilliant shower next door. Eventually I summon the required energy, mental more than physical, to rise up and flick on the jug. Coffee and porridge is the mornings rations and I somberly partake whilst watching lakes form outside the window. Having emptied all my panniers last night, I reorganise and pack them to assist with balance on the bike. Lord knows I’ll need everything in my favour if I set off in this deluge. Once packed to my satisfaction I notice that the onslaught outside has eased to a steady drizzle. I reason with myself that if I were to go and take another long shower, then it may well have ceased all together by the time I get out and dried. To be honest, it’s just a combination of procrastination and ensuring that I get total value from my $40.

I come out a winner on both fronts ! Not only is the shower pure bliss once again, but as I emerge from within, lo and behold the drizzle has eased back to nothing and taken away my only real excuse for remaining put. It would be beyond optimistic to conclude that the days moisture has passed completely as the entire wide sky around me is a patchwork of very dark greys indispersed with thunderous looking shades of black. I pack the panniers onboard, strap a freshly dried Bob onto his front seat and then gaze longingly back at the warm cabin. Ordering myself to harden up, I pedal off through little rivers and lakes formed overnight down the track that leads to the Timber Trail. I’ve only sloshed my way 1km in when the light drizzle reappears and steadily increases in velocity until it’s rattling down on my helmet.

Entrance to The Timber Trail

Historic Caterpillar Tractor

To be fair the scenery is spectacular, it’s only bush and trees but what a fantastic array of plant life and so incredibly lush. If I’m this impressed today when mud, water and filth is splattering me, then I imagine it’s doubly impressive on a sunny day. Rain aside it’s a tranquil ride with the path reasonably wide and much easier to navigate than the Waikato River Trail was. Things become more dicey though as the track becomes steadily wetter and more boggier. In some of the more steeper sections, little streams trace their way down to greet me and it becomes Russian Roulette when heading through the lakes formed on the trail. I pick a line, flick the electrics up a gear and pedal like crazy which works to a point. The front wheel skews viciously from time to time and I find my heart in my mouth on several occasions. I’m constantly amazed at how far sideways my front tyre can slide without me crashing over. I pedal furiously and somehow retain balance ... in most but not all cases. Trying to cycle 1 handed whilst turning the GoPro on and off becomes a definite no no. It’s amazing how just a short distraction can lead to some incredibly tense moments and early on I learn to stop before performing these functions. Some footage I would very much like to have captured goes begging as at times it’s just a lot safer to keep on moving through difficult terrain.

The early part of the ride is pure climbing although not nearly as steep as I’d presumed it might be. There are no tight switchbacks which is an absolute blessing as these are horrendous with my load on board, even in the dry. Part way up a more serious incline, I slowly pass a couple who are pushing their (unladen I might add) bikes up. I give a polite “good morning” as I slowly slog past only to be told “that’s not cycling” in an abusive tone. I presume he is referring to my e-bike and quick to temper in this weather, I retort, “well neither is that, but I’d rather be ON my bike than pushing it, you might as well have left it at home and walked!” He has no reply and I flick the bike into a higher gear to prove my point, spraying mud backwards as I fly onwards and upwards leaving them to their tramp.

These are the only rude people I encounter all day, infact all trip thus far.. Most are polite and even complimentary that I’m attempting to cross the track fully loaded. Damn good idea says one young lady who is battling along on a road bike, going to get me one of those. The majority of people I come accross are hikers doing the entire Te Araroa walk through NZ, a few are European but in the main it seems to be Americans and Canadians, all of various ages ranging upwards to their 60s and usually alone or in pairs. All are looking sodden but upbeat and cheerful.

Video before the rain set in

First swing bridge

Onto the bridge

The longer it pours, the more difficult cycling becomes. It’s hard to see where best to aim the front tyre for traction and I find myself constantly slipping and sliding sideways each time no less scary than the last. Amazingly I only come off once for the entire day. I hit a water filled rut at what I thought to be optimum speed, which is just a little faster than slow. This had been working for me for several hours in similar situations but on this occasion my tyre skewed away quickly and I ended up doing a sideways slide that gave Bob a snoutful of water and my leg a minor graze. Worst off were my right side panniers which instantly tumed from yellow to dark brown. They took the brunt of the slide and amazingly on inspection were not at all damaged but just filthy. Poor Bob was less than impressed with my abilities as his seatbelt hadn’t restrained him and he was unceremoniously dumped in the mud. When retrieved he was now double his original weight and I belted him on more tightly. I’m constantly surprised how many peoples actually think he’s real, several more today have exclaimed in surprise that I’d take a pet hedgehog on such a trip only to look sheepish once I’d explained.

The track is well signposted and warnings are given for steep decents ahead and other such obstacles. At every kilometre there is a post with the number marked. The magical number for me today is 35, for its where I will turn off to head to The Black Fern Lodge, my destination for the evening. As I head into the 20s my upper body is feeling it a little more than usual. Most days it’s Tane and Mahuta that do all the work, but today it takes more upper body work to keep the bike upright. I also find myself standing on the pedal a lot more today which gives me slightly more control on the downhill corners. Once again I can’t really explain how unnerving it is to slide sideways on a bike when there is a drop below you on either or both sides. I’m sure that in the dry the track would be a lot easier to negotiate, not to mention if you had no load to carry.

Just short of marker 35 I come across a large tree stump that used to be used as a dwelling for foresters many a year back. The entire track has little boards and notices with interesting facts and stories to read

The tree stump house

The tree stump house

The track is consistently well marked

Woohoo, I’m soaked and cold

Finally marker number 35 rolls into view and it’s fair to say I’m quite chuffed about it. If I thought my hard times were over for the day then I’m seriously misguided. The next 6 km are easily the worst of the day and somewhat akin to nitemares I faced back on the River Trail before Mangakino. I’d read some rather less than complimentary reviews on this path that came back to me now as I flailed around desperately trying to stay upright. How I managed to do so is anyone’s guess and I put half down to sheer luck and the other half to battery power. Excuse me for a minute while I get to my knees and bless the battery gods ...

I am totally convinced that the extra power and thrust that you get from the motor in these situations are the only reason I didn’t come a cropper more often. This is later confirmed by an Australian couple who had to be picked up by a 4wd trying to access the same path. They came in looking exhausted and drowned saying they just couldn’t negotiate the 6km path. After discussion we agreed that it was the traction the e-bikes power gave me, that got me through. To give you an idea, I set off at around 9 and got in just after 1pm. They set off at 10 and and were picked up 1 km into the final 6 at around 5.20pm. Excuse me one more minute while I give up an offering of a barley sugar to the battery gods ...

Start of the 6km nightmare

Into the unknown

Getting a little grubby

Some poor bastard didn’t make it

Trail to the lodge

It’s a little more than a challenge to be fair ...

I’ve yet to see how the GoPro footage came out but will add it in here at a later date

Finally arriving at the office, I breathe a sigh of relief and head up the stairs to checkin, having paid the friendly lady, she then informs me I have ‘a wee way to go’. There must have been an involuntary look on my face as she quickly adds, oh it’s not nearly as bad as the ride in.

For all the difficulties one has in actually reaching the place, The Black Fern Lodge pays you back tenfold. It is an idyllic piece of land as you’d ever hope to find anywhere in New Zealand. Breathtakingly beautiful native forest with a crystal clear river winding its way through It, every corner of which is filled with regenerating trout. The Black Fern Lodge is a nature reserve and are doing their best with Docs help to regenerate the forests and rivers in the local area. Through the trapping of pests such as stoats, rats, wild cats and the like, to the relocation of fully grown eels to areas where they won’t eat the eggs of the rare blue ducks that are beginning to increase in numbers, the work being done here is having a positive effect.

An easier part of the track in (video)

Poor Bob isn’t as impressed as me

I’m given a lovely little cabin that was apparently the original workshop of a timber mill worker. It is quite amazing and very cosy. All the walls are rough sawn timber and the smell is indicative of that.

My room as I write this

From the outside

As I arrive a party of locals is setting off to check the eel traps for the relocation efforts. I’m invited along, and being an eels fan, who am I to turn down the chance to see them in action. In just one trap they have 9 eels, some of which are almost as thick as my arm and quite a bit longer. Theee are all put into a damp sack whilst the little ones are thrown back. The larger ones are moved to an area well away from where the blue ducks are breeding.

Go the eels (video)

Eels

I’m shown around the lodge, bike storage area and given directions to the waterfall and various bush walks. Again I reiterate what a wonderful set up they have here and the scenery is simply stunning in all directions. I park up my bike and use the available hose and brushes to give it a decent clean. I also hose off the panniers and watch them change back to their original luminous yellow, still not believing that there is no damage from my slide earlier today. Completing my work by lubing the chain, I decide that since I’m alredy wet, I might as well explore the area before my shower. I head off in the direction of a huge roar which a carved wooden sign indicates is the properties waterfall. While there is quite a noise eminating from ahead of me, I’m not expecting the volume of the falls that come into view. It’s spectacular and must be even more so on a fine day. High above in the forest a torrent of water cascades down to a rocky ledge where the water hits and flows over into a beautiful lake below. What an absolute treasure of a swimming pools and what a volume of water it holds. Bob and I sit for several minutes just taking it all in.

Video of Black Fern Lodges Waterfall

What a swimming hole

Bob considers a dip

From here we make our way back and down to the trout feeding area with supplied bread. I tear little pieces off and no sooner have they hit the water when there is a flash of speed and the bread disappears before you can blink. No matter in which direction I throw the bread, there are hungry trout snapping it from the surface.

Trout feeding video ... wait for it

Here also reside 2 tame eels, one of which named Charlie has been here for years. He is so tame that he comes right to shore and allows you to pat him, much to Bobs consternation.

Bob and Charlie (you’ll need to zoom to see Charlie)

Charlie coming in to shore

Having walked a couple of bush tracks the rain begins to settle back in and so I head for a well deserved shower. I’m literally covered from head to toe with mud from the ride myself. Although it seems to take around 5 full minutes for the water to eventually gain some heat, it eventually spits some out just as my arm is about to freeze off and I’m about to give up. I spend long enough in their to raise my body temperature back to normal and then head off to the huge communal area to see if anyone else has arrived. As it turns out, I’m the Lone Ranger and Bob is Tonto. The Aussies are still a few hours away and the other couple that were coming, apparently turned back after 7 or 8 km and rang to say they’d flagged it.

With little else to do, I challenge Bob to a few games of pool and whip the quills off him every time. He’s a gracious loser however and so I give him the best seat in the lodge next to the heat pump whilst I cook my pre prepared dinner. All is awaiting me in the fridge along with instructions to preheat the oven and cook on 200 for 30 mins. I manage this quite capably and am rewarded with a major feast of potato bake with cheese, an array of vegetables with cheese sauce and a need hotpot strew with crumbed topping. It’s both tasty and filling and I’m barely able to stuff in the dessert of 2 cream lamingtons. Halfway through my dinner the rescued sodden aussies arrive and join me at the table as their own meal cooks. They are in their mid 60s and have just spent 4 days cycling the bridge to nowhere track and kayaking the Wanganui river. After dinner they are bushed and head straight for bed. With little else to do on my own I likewise retire and here you find me, writing this just for you as I’ve never gone back and reread anything I’ve ever written, which quite possibly explains the multitude of grammatical and spelling errors.

Trout feeding area

Spot the bee with my incredible photographic skills

It’s now been raining non stop for hours and I fear the track tomorrow is going to be a major challenge once more. Outside my wee cabin small rivers are flowing past and I dread to think how the actual track is faring.

Video of the small rivers formed in front of my cabin.

Once again tonight I’m without the luxury of wifi or internet in general. This means that Strava and Relive for the past few days cannot be loaded until I’m back in coverage. So until then I bid you adieu and will leave you with my dinner

Bob and I get to know each other better

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1985337537/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543211701

Relive

22
Taumarunui

If yesterday’s ride was a challenge, then lord knows what today’s was ...

As is my want (actually want isn’t exactly correct) I wake before 7 and doze until quarter past. Unable to resume slumber I reluctantly try and coax some hot water through the shower. Once again it takes an eternity to arrive but is welcome when it does. I’ve been spoilt with my showers at previous stops but here it’s a battle to get wet, let alone warm. Still, it’s the only complaint I can make of the place, the owners are fantastic, the food in copious quantities and the setting unbeatable. I make my way to the kitchen for breakfast and am surprised to see the Aussie couple already there. They had hinted at a sleep in until at least 8.30. Apparently the sun peeping through fairly dense cloud has them inspired to eat fast and move on. Last night they were contemplating a shuttle out to their rental van as the track in almost beat them, so this is a real change of heart.

Eating breakfast rapidly proves to be a bit of a battle as so much is provided. A bucket each of mixed cereals and home made muesli, a gallon on home made yoghurt, fresh pears, toast and eggs with coffee almost has me considering a lie down to let it settle. I respond to their hustling through as they have convinced the owner to give us a lift to the top of the drive. This is no small offer after yesterday’s traumas. The lift up is only 3 of the 6 km, and although the worst hill is covered, it still leaves a muddy path to negotiate before I’m back at marker 35 and on the Timber Trail. By this stage the skies have amazingly cleared and it’s full blue with sun, a brilliant change from recent days. We agree to go at our own pace and I head off somewhat faster than they do. It’s only 8.55am and as the day is so bright and cheery I’m not really pushing the pace and unlike yesterday, stop to enjoy the informative signs I’m passing along the trail that describe local history and more especially the timber industry that was carried out in these parts. The Timber Trail follows the old rail line used to haul the logs out to mills and transport workers to and from the worksites via jiggers. It’s all quite interesting and very well done by those responsible for the track. The trail itself is very well signposted and it’s hard to go in the wrong direction.

Even though I’m not pushing the pace, I head past several other cyclists and many Te Araroa walkers. They are a hardly bunch and I have utter respect for their fitness and determination after chatting for a while to one guy who averages 35 - 40 km a day with a massive pack on his back. He’s a bit of a hard case and I enjoy his tales of the road before finally moving on.

Marker 35

Yes there is some blue sky

Now I have to be fair, the start of the day is magic, the trail is magnificent and it’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting in which to cycle. The weather is fine, the track drying and all is well with life. Even the 25 km climb is gentle and nothing too arduous to warrant much use of the battery. I reach the longest swing bridge in New Zealand and spend a bit of time admiring both the view and the engineering feat in creating it.

The massive swing bridge

I cycle across after another chat with a few more hikers who had paid $190 😲🤪 each to stay at the new lodge on the track and get out of last nights horrendous weather. By all accounts they both found it worth the cost as they cleaned up copious amounts of complimentary food and had wifi for the first time in a week.

Things start to go sour at around marker 46. Dark clouds loom and the entire atmosphere changes with a suddeness that comes as a surprise. One minute I’m warm and enjoying the scenery the next I’m thoroughly soaked and slipping all over the track. Hoping that it’s just a passing shower I make my way on but instead of easing the rain comes down in force. The track, which also copped a fair bit of rain yesterday, is suddenly awash with little rivers and lakes. Time after time I find myself with heart in mouth trying to maintain balance to stay on the bike. It’s now difficult to see through the rain and select a line through the lakes formed on the track. Several times I feel as though I’m riding on a 45 degree angle as my front tyre slews wildly out of control and it takes a fair effort to haul the handlebars back up. The weight of all my panniers isn’t helping matters and it’s only a matter of time before I’m down and in mud. Cursing I remount and attempt to go faster to find some shelter but this is now Russian Roulette on a bike. Having looked forwards to reaching the top for so long to enjoy the coast downhill instead it has become a treacherous nightmare.

Several times I pass people huddled under trees or if they have been lucky enough, inside one of the little shelters scattered along the track

Track Shelter

I eventually stop to swop from my light Jacket to the Gore Tex full monty model that is getting its first outing. Although an immediate improvement, it’s still too little too late as I’m already soaked and frozen to the core.

Track beginning to get wet

As is often the way when these things happen, you are in so much of a hurry to get out of the situation that you don’t stop to think that it would make a brilliant picture. I think I have some GoPro footage but will have to go through it and upload it later. I reach an empty shelter myself and briefly take cover to wolf down the lunch provided by the Blackfern Lodge. It’s a wrap, nuts and raisins, a few lollies and a muesli slice. I wolf it all down and then accepting the rain is here to stay, decide to keep moving before the track gets even worse.

Trying to go fast is a mistake I ought to have learned off earlier. Again I unwittingly choose a poor line, slide viciously sideways and take a dive, landing heavily on my right side. Bob is cast clear and found floating in the lake of a puddle that covers the whole track for metres. He is no more impressed by this weather change than myself. I attempt to go slower through the deeper parts but this in itself causes major issues, especially in the areas with thick clingy mud. It’s literally a game of slip n slide for km after km and for what seems like an eternity.

Before the rain

Heading up before the rain

I’ll get back with some GoPro footage of the slush later.

Several times I think my life is done when I career wildly through mud with little to no control. It’s only luck that keeps me upright at times and eventually that luck runs out again as I round a corner way too fast, hit another slippery mud pool and enter an unexpected tunnel going sideways and plough into its wall shoulder first. I’m quick to check my jacket and am pleased to see no lasting damage. The right hand panniers have also survived but alas my Ergon handlebar grip has been broken off in the accident. My shoulder is also aching like hell. I use the phone on my torch to locate the handlebar piece and pocket it to attempt a repair later. I pass several more people sheltering and wonder if I ought to do the same but at this stage I’m so cold I just want to get off the mountain. It’s now hailing and although partially sheltered by the overhanging trees, when you come into the open areas, it’s not at all pleasant. Once again I try to increase my pace and whether it’s luck or I’m becoming more adept at maintaining balance, I manage to stay onboard for the most part. I’ve also begun cycling without my shoes clipped into the pedals which allows me to get a foot down far more hurriedly.

After what seems like a decade I finally hit the bottom of the track and wind my way around to the camping area where a bike rental business is set up. I walk in looking like a drowned rat and the lady states the obvious, “be a bit tricky I’m this weather”. I just nod, too cold to coherently reply. I couple of younger cyclists who are camped at the site come over to inpect the state of my bike and myself and suggest that I hose it off with the bike rental businesses hose. The lady doesn’t object and so I do just that while chatting to the couple. They are from Auckland and have decided to leave the track for a less rainy day. Just as they tell me this, the rain eases and stops and then bugger me if a watery sun doesn’t appear. Before long it’s absolutely scorching and I find myself steaming and drying.

My new friends become best ever friends by offering me chocolate. It’s pure heaven to be sitting in the sun and munching on some Whittaker’s chocolate. The Blackfern Lodge shuttle driver arrives and spying me, comes over to ask the whereabouts of the 2 aussies I’d \240originally set out with. \240I explained that I’d gone ahead soon after reaching the trail and not seen them again. I waited another hour with him and as they still hadn’t turned up, I had to leave. With their bikes and the condition of the track, I dare say he was in for a bit more of a wait.

Now almost dry and in the most glorious of sunshine, I begin to make my way from Ongarue to Taumarunui. It’s been suggested by all present that I steer clear of the motorway and stick to the gravel track to Taumarunui. This I do though the going is rather slow. Eventually I reach town and am sorely tempted to lower my standards and head into the local McDonalds as it’s the first building I pass. It’s past 6 in the evening and I’m both exhausted and starving. The variable weather continues as I move further into town and rain once again comes down heavily. Abandoning the idea of camping I take shelter under some shop awnings and search google for alternative accomodation. The cheapest I find in town is over $130 and after ringing a few others I’m no better off.

In another decision that proves my mind was scrambled from the ride, I head into New Word to buy food to cook for my evening meal. Why I didn’t just go to a restaurant or takeaway I’ll never know. I emerge with a large steak, an onion, salad and potato salad. As I reach my bike the phone rings and it’s a hotel 6km outside of town calling me back to see whether I’d found a place for the night. When hearing I haven’t, she offers me a room for $80. It’s not long before my aching and once again wet and cold body is pedaling down the highway in search of the Mahoe Motel.

Upon arrival the lovely owner takes in my muddy disheveled appearance and bursts into action. A couple of clean towels appear as does a hose for the bike and a couple of old sheets which she places on the floor in my room. “Just take your bike inside when you’re done love” she offers. It may not be the flashiest place I’ve ever stayed at but the service is exceptional.

A little mucky

End of the trail

Bobs not enjoyed his day nor his unexpected dip

Dry and warm at last in the Mahoe

I thaw out in the shower for what felt like an hour before emerging to cook dinner. Again I curse my stupidity and not just getting a takeaway as I really was far too muddy to dine out. I cook up a storm on the pan bought to me by the owner in the rooms little Kitchette. Famished by now, I demolish it all and then finish with a huge apple turnover filled with cream that I’d not been able to walk past at New World. I then turn on a tv for the first time in weeks and flick through a multitude of channels showing nothing but crap. And so endeth my day, definitely not my longest ride but by far the most taxing as a huge bruise on my shoulder reminds me.

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1985406903/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543212001

Once again Strava craps out mid ride

23
Ohakune

Don’t you just hate it when you’ve hard a toughest day, decide to outlay a little extra for a comfy bed in a nice dry room and then can’t sleep. I was still awake at 3am and then to improve matters, I still manage to wake up at 7.15 when I’d set the alarm for a hopeful 9. As nice as the lady who runs the hotel is, it can’t make up for being situated right alongside State Highway 4. You’d easily be forgiven for thinking the room is actually on the white median line of the road as trucks hurtle past at all hours quite literally shaking the room to its foundations. A couple of times I actually head for the doorway in the belief an earthquake has struck. This and the thought of cycling alongside said trucks in the morning are enough to delay sleep. Currently have the heat pump on full blast in a futile attempt to start off with dry shoes. With thunder and lightening predicted for today, I’m possibly wasting my time. Will use the rear lights tosay and hope for the best ...

I use up every last minute of my 10am checkout before wearily heading out onto State Highway 4, all of 3 metres away. My body has little to offer today probably through lack of sleep. Even my old faithfuls, Tane and Mahuta are lacklustre today. As I round the first bend to face a sizeable climb out of town, every muscle groans and it’s a mental battle to force my legs to pedal. Pedal they do and with the assistance of the battery gods and encouragement up front from Bob we crest the first rise only to be greeted by wave after wave of elevations. It’s my second biggest day of climbing for the trip and I had to pick a day when I’m feeling beat. Views from the vantage points I climb to we’re worth the brief stops as much for my legs as the photo opportunities they provide.

It’s a bright clear day to start

Just out of Taumarunui

I meet a fellow cycle tourist at the top of the first rise, British this time and with a lot less gear on board than me. He seems to be breathing heavily but then explains that it’s the second time he’s climbed up this hill today, having left something behind the first time and having to go back and retrieve it ... I give Bob a meaningful look, having gone back a few km to rescue him yesterday. I no longer offer to cycle with others I meet as invariably I’m either to slow or too fast to suit their pace. I enjoy going at my own rate and maintaining a rhythm. My problem today is that I can’t find a rhythm. At first it’s my legs complaining and then once they’d sort themselves out, my rear end cand find comfort on the seat. Eventually that becomes numb and the shoulder ache returns. I sound like an old grumbled but it was just one of those days.

The scenery is pleasant without being spectacular, I’ve no complaints, it’s just nice to be on a paved surface and no rain in sight. Even the traffic is being kind and taking a wide berth around me, I don’t feel threatened by it at any stage today. I’ll make special mention to the truck drivers who go out of their way to head wide whilst passing me, at times it appears to me, to the risk of themselves or oncoming traffic. In gratitude I give a friendly thankful wave to each and every one that gives me the courtesy.

As is often the case in my life when the going is tough, I turn to music to get me through. I fire up the wonderboom and with little concern that anyone but the cattle I’m passing will have any complaints about the volume, I crank it up and treat them to Andrew Fagan of the Mockers and myself singing ‘Shield Yourself’ at the tops of our voices. A standing ovation from every cow in the vicinity and a seated ovation from Bob encourages me to hit repeat and provide an encore performance. From then on it’s random play and my aches, pains and negative thoughts recede into the background, still present but no longer the focus.

After a few hours of singing and nonstop pedaling I promise myself that at the next sign of coffee or food I’ll be in and ordering. My breakfast of a banana is now registering empty on my internal fuel tank. Every little place I pass that in a previous life was a cafe, coffee shop or tea rooms is now boarded up and abandoned. Many of the smallest North Island towns or villages I’ve cycled through seem to be struggling to survive with shop after shop either for lease or sale. Some appear to have just been left as they were when trading, as though the previous owners just stopped bothering to turn up one day and never returned. I can recall travelling as a kid and my father pulling into places that do Devonshire teas. I wonder if there are any of these left anymore, somewhere to be able to sit down and served tea in a pot and a tray of fresh scones with butter, whipped cream and an array of jams.

Eventually a sign assures me that in 6km time, the finest food and coffee in the area will be available to me. With this promise in mind I find renewed vigour and count down each km on my speedo until rewarded with the village at National Park appearing beore me. I hone straight in on the cafe and beeline towards it I’m just parking up my bike when my name is shouted from an outside table below and a small figure races up the stairs to greet me. Amazingly it’s my young German friend Johanna who has worked her way around here from Taupo. She seems genuinely thrilled to see me and we catch up on our travels since parting last week. The advertising sign was correct and both my coffee and breakfast burger are top notch. Fairly soon it’s a League of Nations of touring cyclists sitting together swopping tales from the road. The British chap I met this morning rolls up, followed by a French Canadian and a Malaysian. Before I know it, almost an hour has passed and I need to move on. The others are all staying here to do the Tongariro Crossing in the morning. A round of handshakes is followed by a huge hug from Johanna, it’s been nice to catch up see her looking well.

Johanna, The Pom (seated) and French Canadian

As I’m departing a local chap gives me a tip for a back road into Ohakune, my destination for the day. It turns out to be the Old Coach Rd which is a part of the mountains to sea cycle trail I’d not planned for. I take it and though not as easy as he made out, it’s worth the effort to see the old remains of what used to be the main railway line through the North Island. The grand old viaduct remains are still visible and the area is well posted with information on its history.

Old Viaduct

New Viaduct

The old tunnel

The trail takes me straight on in to Ohakune where I discover the price to tent is an outrageous $28. I try my luck at a backpackers and discover a bed in a shared dorm is $26. There’s a first time for everything and I checkin. The chap running it is decent and gives me an area to hose off my bike before locking it away charging in his shed.

Down towards Ohakune

At this stage the only other person in the dorm is an American lady, which is pleasing as it’s a small room and 4 would be a cram. As it is I’m not used to this arrangement and glad it’s only for a night. I prefer my privacy and space.

Not much room in here .. another bunk is opposite

I take a shower and as towels aren’t provided, do my best to make myself less damp with my already soaked towel which hasn’t dried from my last use. The shower revives me to an extent and I head into town for a meal and look around. It’s not a huge place but has many options for a meal. I settle on a pub cum cafe and order the ribs and a beer. The ribs are good and I eat them whilst watching the New Zealand cricket team get skittled by Pakistan. Afterwards I take a brief walk around the highlights of Ohakunes shopping area. Several Mongrel mob members are present and a gang car with the Mongrel Mob patch roars our of the local BP. \240I head back to the backpackers and sit with a bunch of Germans watching a Tom Cruise movie and writing out this mini novel for you dear reader. The movie is only average and so you got the better deal, although you may not think so if you’ve managed to read this far and are cursing the fact that you’ll never be able to get that time back ...

Hope no one had curry on the menu

Going to attempt an early night, for me at least. It’s 10.40pm and for the first time I have a few aches and pains from the ride. My knees and shoulder have given a little grief all day and now are quite achy. I’m sure a decent sleep will rectify all, should I manage it.

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1986966617/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543290964

24
The Flying Fox, Retreat Accommodation on the Whanganui River

Now THAT my friends was a day ! I mean to be fair, in all honesty I think I was owed it. After a couple of rainy days on the Timber Trail and an uphill the size of yesterday’s, it was brilliant to have a day when nearly everything went right.

I guess I should head back to last night briefly to when I left you was heading off to bed. Well I was about to head downstairs to my dorm room when up the stairs clattered a herd of late arriving Chinese. I kid you not, it was like a takeover, it felt like an entire plane load of them had turned up. I waited patiently whilst they flowed up each carrying 2 or 3 bags and cases. First came the kids of which there were 3 or 4, then mum and dad and all the aunts and uncles, grandma and grandad were next and just when I thought the flow had ceased, up staggered great grandad and great grandma. Now when it comes to noise at 11pm at night, it would take a bit to beat this lot. Chattering away in their native tongue like machine guns, the kids pump up the tv with maximum volume and beteen them they seem to amplify any noise they can make to extreme levels. From my room below I can hear every thump clatter and bang. I’ve no ids what they are doing, perhaps a rebuild and refit by the sounds.

I’ve found out my dorm mate is actually a German with an American accent. “I am a late sleeper” she tells me as I finally spy a gap down the stairs, “I will make the little noise when I come to bed”. Not that I could sleep anyway, given the Chinese assault upstairs, her entry to our room was less than quiet. The door has a self closing mechanism that she obviously forgot about and nearly clatters off its hinges as it blasts shut. Shitttt she half whisper shouts. She then performs an elaborate and noisy getting ready and into bed routine before letting out a long sigh and begging to snore almost immediately. The Chinese meanwhile continue to refurbish the rooms above until sometime after 3am. Sometime around 6.45 I’m awoken to the sound of cartoons blasting from the tv and another round of who can bang the loudest upstairs. The German girl continues to snore, oblivious to the racket going on around us. To cut a long story short, it was a first and last stay at a backpackers shared dorm.

I have a coffee and head downtown to enquire about the Bridge To Nowhere Trail. Both cycle shops I visit take one look at the load on my bike and advise against taking the track. I heed the advice and make plans to detour by road. Before I set off I ask a bike shop technician to take a look at my brakes. As suspected they are well warn. I have a spare set with me and he offers to change them and also educate me on the process. Payson is his name and he moved out from the USA to study and then work here. He is polite, knowledgeable and most helpful, not only that but he makes no attempt to extort me as the cycle shop in Taupo did. He spends twice as long on the bike and charges a mere $15 for the job. I’m grateful and impressed and comment this to his boss who tells me that if I mention Paysons name in an online review that he gets a dozen beer. I hope he enjoys them soon.

Best value cycle shop Ohakune - See Payson

It’s after 11am before I finally leave Ohakune, my latest departure for the entire trip. You have to be a winner on the roads some days and today is my day. Apart from 2 or 3 minor hills, if it’s not downhill then it’s at worst flat. It’s with some glee that I coast down through a tremendous gorge that winds around following a river deep below with clay faced walls and massive pine forests around me. Speeds between 30 and 60km are attained and seemingly in no time I pass through Pipiriki and out to a road that follows alongside the Wanganui River.

Down from Pipiriki

Clay faced walls

The road from here is basically flat with a few minor rises up and down. All in all it’s a comfortable ride with little to no stress. Barely 6 or 7 vehicles pass me all day. It’s one of my favourite rides of the trip and not only for the gradient. The scenery is beautiful also and I’m rewarded with changing scenery all afternoon culminating with some glorious views along the river.

Wanganui River

An email from my upcoming Warm Showers hosts in Wanganui points out some not to miss sights along the path I am taking. First stop is the little Historic church in Jerusalem. It’s a lovely spot and Bob managed to find religion during our visit. He is now a ‘saved’ hedgehog and will not need to visit the Taupo Hedgehog recovery centre

Jerusalem Church

Bob reads a passage to a small congregation.

Bob insists that he say a few words for the many of his dear departed relatives we have passed this far into the journey and somewhat filled with his own power and importance up on the pulpit leads an entire sermon dedicated to those hedgehogs as yet unflattemed.

Next we visit the old restored Kawana Flour Mill. What a magnificent site it must have been in full flow all those years ago. It’s been gradually restored by the local tramping club amongst others \240and was reopened in 1980 by Sir Keith Holyoake. It’s a fascinating walk around with many noticeboards inside describing its contents.

Kawana Historic Flour Mill

Restored Milliners Hut

The final stop before destination is a Marae and original church at Korinini. It’s extreme old and again an interesting look around.

Just around the corner is ‘The Flying Fox’, my accomodation for the evening. Google it in Wanganui and see the treat I’m having tonight.

I cycle down to the Flykng Fox entrance and read the instructions posted there. Apparently what one needs to do is ready all the luggage you wish to take accross the river and have it ready on a little landing. I do so and then lock my bike under a basic little shelter. You then need to summon your transport over to the accomodation area which in on the other side of the river way below. This is how that is achieved

Video of my ride being summoned

Not too sure how it sounds to you at home, but the live version was deafening. Within a matter of a minute there is action from the other side and accross comes my chariot.

Flying Fox Accomodation

Here she is

I load in my considerable gear and from a walkie talkie mounted in the Fox I’m asked if I’m all set. Giving the all ok, I’m lurched out and over the river for a smooth ride enhanced by amazing views on either side both up and downriver.

Off we go on the Fox (video)

Almost to the other side, 2 ladies appear on the bank below and call to me. I can’t hear a thing above the noise of the river and travel of the Fox but assume as they are holding cameras that they want a pic of the Fox and preferably with me out of it. Without resorting to jumping out, I try to sit back and make myself inconspicuous. Not as easy task and fairly unsuccessful as you can see for yourself as here is that very photo taken

My arrival at the Flying Fox Accomodation

I’m greeted by the cheerful owner who helps lug my gear up to the main office and shows me through to the camping area. It’s an eclectic mix of glamping tents, small wooden lodges and varying sorts of shelter. It’s quite fantastic and unique. Having decided to save my dollars, I’ve elected to set up my tent and hope that the predicted rain doesn’t arrive. I’m the only camper here at this stage and as such get the pick of the area. I choose to take shelter under a couple of trees just in case.

My tent under trees in the background

Having done this I feel in need of a shower, preferably hot. I’m feeling a little apprehensive about this as the shower area was pointed out to me as being “a little way up there” with an arm wave towards a tree covered hill. I venture through a small gate and up around 20 stairs to be greeted by a small wooden platform on 2 levels. The lower contains a bath with a fireplace underneath and the higher has a shower exposed on 2 sides and with clear views back down to the accomodation area.

Bath

Shower

The entire bathroom

It takes me a minute to work out the shower system but the gas heater whirs into instant action and piping hot water jets out from the nozzle. It’s so hot infact that I take another half a minute to figure out how to make it cooler. This achieved I enjoy a lovlely long shower in the midst of nature, gazing serenely around as the dirt flows down onto the wooden platform and my muscles ease.

I am only partially dressed when all muscles are tensed again. From my vantage point up on high I see a lady approach my tent and ask if she can knock on the front door. I call to her that I’m up at the shower and she gazes up in search of me. It’s not too hard to spot when you know where it is and I feel that without due care anyone from below could receive a bit more view than they bargained for if gazing up into the bush unexpectedly when someone was showering.

I’m asked if I would like to join them for dinner and as my only option was going to be freeze dry, I’m thankful and happy to accept, not that my freeze dry meals haven’t been of fine quality (apart from the soy chicken) I need to make that quite clear as one of the ladies who has me for dinner has a son who is the product manager for said freeze dry meals (The apple crumble is a real winner)

I manage to find them in a quaint yet sizeable cabin on the side closest to the river. I’m introduced to the 3 ‘J’s’ and as I’m woeful with names I’ve pretty much forgotten already which is very poor as they are wonderful hosts. They have driven here to do th shorter \240Bridge to Nowhere walk and a canoe back down to Pipiriki. 2 of the J’s are married and the other who’s husband passed away a few years back is a lifelong friend from school days.

The meal is great. Pasta with cheese and a bolognaise, a fresh salad with cherry tomatoes and avocado and a loaf of garlic bread. I’m even given a glass of wine to accompany it and feel quite spoilt. The food is plentiful and the conversation interesting. It’s almost 9pm by the time I’ve helped with the dishes and been serenaded by Tom Jones on the old record player that is fired up. The hut contains a vast collection of old vinyl LP’s, even the very same Seekers album I played over and over as a kid.

Upon leaving I’m hailed to the outdoor kitchen where I would have been had I not been wined and dined. A group of 6 canoeists have arrived and set up tents and are feasting themselves. I sit and chat to 3 from the Netherlands, 2 from Germany and 1 from good old Wainuiomata who’s every sentence contains an expletive of some form. “You vill hav to forgiff her” says the netherlander jovially, “ve think she hass a bad case offf Tourette’s”

We talk until late before I retire to my tent and begin this blog. For the first time I’m unable to complete it and postpone until morning. (Sorry May)

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1988964876/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543394595

Ripped off a few km yet again ...

Relive

25
Whanganui

Greeting from the lovely town of Wanganui. For that matter I was really already in Wanganui last night at the Flying Fox Accomodation but still on the outskirts, some hefty 50km away from the centre of town.

So I thought I had placed my tent well last night and in some respects I had. I was close to the toilets, had shelter from the trees above name easy access to a table and chairs. What I hadn’t considered that became obvious at around 5.40am was that I was right next to the chook house and a rooster with enviable lungs. By 6.15 I was ready to strange the bloody thing and send it to the colonel. The positive of being close to the toilets had also become a negative with a wind change and the long drop on the closest one not being long enough. Well used long drops have an odour all of their own don’t they, and possibly not the first thing one likes to sniff in the morning. Despite these setbacks, I do manage to gain another small dose of sleep and reawaken at the usual 7.15. Those of you looking closely will have noticed that I ran out of steam last night and had to finish the days blog this morning. Even a late night gelato from the honesty freezer wasn’t enough to keep me going last night.

I have my last banana for breakfast before packing away the camping gear and bidding farewell to the canoeists who have to wait for the tide to turn before setting off or else will be paddling against the current. I head to the office to pay and be flying foxed back over the river to my bike. It’s a lovely peaceful way to start the day sitting in a little metal box way up high above the river, edging your way across to the far bank in bright sunshine with a slight cooling breeze. I look down on the canoes below me and whilst I think I’d enjoy a day of paddling down the river, am fairly sure that 4 days in a row as these guys are doing would be a little overkill for me. The scenery, whilst undoubtably beautiful, doesn’t ever alter dramatically and I feel a day would suffice.

Though I was confident that in this remote area and being at the bottom of a cliff disguising itself as a driveway, my bike would be fine, it was still a relief to see it parked where I had left it and none the worse for wear. I load up the bike once more and congratulate myself on not forgetting anything. I’m then forced to use turbo mode to struggle my way up the vertical driveway to the road where I realise that I need to uncongratulate myself as I’ve left my helmet and gloves back at the bottom tucked under the small storage shed. Not wanting to have to repeat the just completed climb, I abseil back down, gather my missing items and employ a Sherpa to assist me back to the top. (Ok so it wasn’t quite that bad ... but close)

The offending Long Drop

The Connosoirs Longdrop

Now you see it

Now you don’t

The ride this morning is similar to yesterday afternoons, quite serene as I coast alongside the river and the majestic trees that grace it’s banks. I find it endlessly interesting to watch the various farms and buildings drift by me and wonder about the lives of those who choose to live in this remote area. The cliff to my left as I cycle southwards, is pure sandy clay dropping away from time to time to reveal wide, hilly green paddocks. Every so often large boulders of this substance have rolled across the road and several sections are having maintainance performed upon them by road crews.

There is only 1 major hill climb today (Not including the driveway this morning) and though it’s substantial, I prefer this type of short sharp rise as opposed to a long dragged out affair that creeps on up for corner after corner.

Flying Fox departure lounge

Packed and ready for takeoff

The canoes far below

Giant clay cliffs to my left

Video from the Flying Fox

A decent descent after a solid climb always makes it worthwhile for me. I love the exhilaration of racing down hills in the vicinity of 50 - 60 km/hr. Today’s drop carried on for quite some time and I loved every second, almost tempting me to cycle back up and repeat the dose ... almost, but not quite.

My banana has well worn off by the time I reach a little town on the outskirts of Wanganui named Upokongaro. There is a quaint little cafe here with a delightful garden area out the rear. I decide on a schnitzel, salad and chips and it’s an enjoyable meal.

From the top of the climb

Back on the road I’m only a few kilometres from my destination for the night Ann and John, another of Warm Showers endlessly humble, generous and kind \240hosts. I’m warmly greeted like long lost family and ushered in for a coffee and cake. Ann and John are both in their late 70s and are salt of the earth people. Nothing is too much trouble and they insist on washing my entire load of clothes, even hanging them out for me while I’m ordered to go and enjoy the final stages of the Mountains to Sea trail along the river and out to the coast. The wind has risen by the time I reach the end and waves from the ocean crash into the rivers current. It makes a formidable sight.

Coast in sight

Wanganui River meets the sea

As I retrace my path along the river I get a request from a devoted reader to visit a local park in Wanganui and get a photo of Bob with Humpty Dumpty and Fred Flintone. This I duly accomplish and my fee will be invoiced in due course.

Bob with Humpty

Bob with Fred and Barney

Bob surfs a turtle

I return to my hosts just in time for dinner, fresh crumbed fish and a huge array of vegetables fresh from Johns garden. It’s a royal feast and I’m barely finished my plate when seconds are stacked high. If this weren’t enough, John then disappears back down to the garden and returns armed with an assortment of strawberries and raspberries adding them to sliced banana with homemade yoghurt and hokey pokey icecream.

The kindness of these people is so overwhelming, especially being in their later years when most are looking for less work as opposed to taking more on. Ann heads out to a movie with friends and John and I chat the hours away. He’s had an interesting life and I enjoy his tales immensely. He reminds me a lot of my grandfather with his gentle teasing humour and ready smile, a funny story never far away. Ann rejoins us and we continue to chat and compare travel stories until quite late. I’ve enjoyed the evening and their company immensely, feeling like we’ve already been long term friends. That’s 5/5 now for warm showers I think, what a brilliant little site with such a wonderful community of heartwarming people. It’s really done me the power of good to meet these selfless people. I think now I’ll get some sleep as I’m currently ensconced in a most comfortable bed. Before I go I’ll just abuse the Strava app once more as it cut out for another 7km today, insisting that instead of following the Wanganui River Rd, I’d instead diverted on a dead straight 45 degree course that involved carrying my fully loaded bike up and down giant cliff faces and fording the river several times. As much as I’d like to claim this is so, I will post the Komoot apps more reliable data also

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1990488098/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543483190

26
Station Hotel

Tonight’s episode comes to you from the Hunterville pub where I’ve been ensconced since around 4pm when I rolled wearily into town.

I woke in one of the softest beds I’ve slept in, I literally melted into it and to be honest nearly fell asleep a dozen times while trying to finish last nights update. It most likely had the same effect when you read it.

John has been up early and making his special recipe home made porridge. It is thick, filling and tasty, also guaranteed to keep me going on the road all day. I’m sorry to be packing and going and very nearly don’t as they make it very clear I’m welcome to stay another night and explore a bit more of Wanganui. I’ve enjoyed myself so much that it’s almost 11 and another cup of coffee before I finally take my leave, agreeing to return in my Ute and stay a few days at a later date after my trip. What more can I say about the Warm Showers hosts so far, what an absolutely outstanding bunch of humans they are ! It’s something beyond generousity, it’s a genuine bunch of people who get pleasure from helping out others and interacting with them. Personally I love hearing stories about their lives and how they came to be where they are and why they do what they do.

Anyhow, I’m finally back on the road and head down alongside the river before crossing over one of the 3 bridges where apparently I’m to head through a tunnel and up an elevator to the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower. John and Ann have already informed me that the tunnel and elevator are closed due to maintainance but I take a quick peak anyway before crawling my way up a serious hill as the alternative route to the tower. The tower was built in 1925 to commemorate the areas 513 fallen soldiers from World War 1. There are 176 stairs up a spiral staircase that leaves you dizzy when descended rapidly. With that kind of view from the top all efforts required to reach it are forgiven.

Tunnel & Elevator closed

War Memorial Tower

Bob takes in the views

Out to the sea

Up River

It’s already past 11 and I’ve still not left Wanganui, lucky my climb up to Durie Hill hasn’t been in vain as my route passes through here anyhow. It’s possibly the most varied single days scenery of the whole trip. I begin passing through a small housed suburb of Wanganui out to flat lying paddocks, up onto a plateau with vast views off into the distance below me off to hills in the distance far away, up into Antoine forest and down through little valleys with rivers and streams meandering along beside me from time to time. Through all of these areas the road continues to creep slowly upwards with the slightest of elevations that is most deceiving. It doesn’t ever really look that much but becomes incredibly tiring as you slowly rise and rise. Every now and then there are a few little downhill relief metres but never for long and always followed by more draining uphills. A couple of steeper hills just before I enter Hunterville after 70 odd km of climbing encourages me to call it quits for the day and find shelter from the predicted incoming storm.

View from the road

Even with Johns porridge I’m struggling to maintain energy today and am feeling the 1700 km behind me. I don’t think the late start helped either as it’s towards the last 10 km where it becomes mind over matter. Music once again comes to the rescue and provides the little something I need. Food and drink are probably also a requirement and with not many options available at 4pm on a Friday afternoon in Hunterville I’m faced with an anaemic looking pie, 2 dried up pieces of chicken or ordering something off the menu by remortgaging the house. After the first bite of pie I’m realising I should have taken the 4th option which was to walk away and never return. I’ve never had pie flavoured chewing gum before but this pie is in a league of its own. It would comfortably gain a finalist position in a New Zealands worst pie competition. It’s reputedly steak and mushroom though could just as easily be christened skunk gristle in rusty radiator water, no one would argue the point.

Being a product of waste not want not parents, I manfully make my way to the end and only just stop short of eating the bag for an improvement in flavour, texture and goodness. I search around for local accomodation that will save me from having to climb yet another hill for 10 km where I had planned to reach a campsite for the night. Reading further that the site only had cold showers and charges for the privilege, I settle instead for the local pub which has tiny rooms with shared toilet facilities for not much more than the campsite fee. The publican is a cheery fellow and even allows me to park my bike in his woodshed with 2 dogs to guard it. He opens a tab for me and I order a jug of beer as it appears much better value than a mere pint. It’s been a bit of a dry argument on the bike and with remnants of skunk gristle and what in theory should be pastry clinging to my mouth, throat and esophagus, the first glass is cold, glorious and rapidly departing. As I’m pouring my second I’m joined by a couple of local Maori shearer’s who have finished for the day and likewise come to wash away the days efforts. They are right characters and we pass a happy hour swooping stories. Their jugs are replenished before my own is even halfway down and both refill my glass from their own before I’m able to stop them.

Sensing they could be settling in for a mission being a Friday night and all, I make my excuses and head of the look at the sights of Hunterville by foot. This consists of a crossroads with State Highway 1 and a few shops along the main road that are closed and wouldn’t really hold much more interets if open. If it weren’t for a half hour chat with a local shop owner who was running late to close, I’d have been back at the bar before my new mates had even realised I’d gone.

I’ve no chance to buy another jug as my glass is continually topped up from either side without a pause in conversation, when I mention I ought to buy one, I’m waved off and told I’m the guest. It’s been many a long year since I’ve drunk more than a couple of glasses in a bar and by 6.30 I’m beginning to feel the need to plan an escape before I’m unable to either plan or escape. I order a meal of fish n chips, thinking that when it’s ready I’ll politely head to a table. 10 minutes and several glasses later an enormous plateful is slid in front of me. I’m about to explain that I didn’t order the platter for 2 when another man ordering a drink says “they put on a good feed here don’t they, you can’t enjoy it up here though, come and join us at the table” he nods over to a table where presumably his wife is sitting and I lurch off my barstool, thanking my new friends for their company as I lug my meal to the table. Introductions were made but due to my memory, age and a fair portion of Huntervilles beer reserves, I’ve forgotten either of them. What I can tell you is that once again they were lovely people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and gave me an enjoyable evening with hilarious conversation. He is a 3rd generation sheep farmer in his 60s and she was his second wife. All of us had the fish n chips and it took each of us the best part of an hour and a half to get through. The fish was fresh gurnard, wonderfully cooked and there were 4 huge pieces per plate along with a fresh salad and home made chips. When ordering I’d thought $20 a little steep but on receiving it was more than value.

At times I could barely eat for laughing as my new friends regaled me with tales from their farm and various holidays. I wish I’d had a tape recorder as some of the stories almost bought tears. I mentioned they didn’t look like farmers all dressed up as they were and he explained they’d just been to a funeral for a neighbour. I’m sorry to hear that I replied. ”Oh don’t worry about it”, he said, “he was a miserable old bastard anyway and most of us just turned up to make sure he’d really gone” . He then went on to tell me that he only had one pair of good shoes and the bastards broke just before they got to the service. He’d gone into the local show shop in Marton to get a new pair but apparently they were all made in China. “Won’t buy Chinese crap for anything” he snorts, “absolutely refuse, so I went in bare feet”

One of the last stories he told me was of his last trips to Auckland in his most beat up old truck. He’s gone to get some work done on his plate (false teeth) and on the way had been drenched by a storm when fixing something on the truck before becoming entangled in “bastard Auckland traffic”. As he crawled along on a 2 lane highway he noticed a “snooty looking Auckland lady driving her rich Audi or some bloody thing” who had half her dress hanging out the door of her car. “So I try to do the right thing” he starts laughing heartily, “ but I must have looked a bit of a sight in my shit covered truck, all soaked with my hair all over the place, unshaven and with my teeth all busted up or missing” apparently she gave him a horrified look as he pointed down at her door and edged her car forwards as far as she could. Best fun I’ve ever had in a traffic jam he guffawed, I kept edging up and pointing and she looked more and more terrified. and kept trying to get away. Apparently his wife finally ended his fun by leaning over and yelling to her through the window.

They finally take their leave and I also notice my other friends have departed. It’s a fairly quiet night for a pub being a Friday. The owner shows me to a kitchen room at the back of the pub where he tells me I’m free to go and make coffee, tea or milo at anytime. I’m also given access to a room with a large tv and every sky channel available. The Station Hotel is becoming more of a bargain by the minute. I decide I’ll have a coffee and watch a little tv before retiring. Back at the kitchen a large ... well alright, massive, woman wedged into what presumably is her grandchild’s nightdress is lumbering around the kitchen muttering to herself. I politely ask if she’s also staff and get the confusing reply that ‘no, I’m just the lady’. The unmistakeable smell of gin nearly floors me as she talks. “You have to take your work clothes off before you go in the lounge” she states seriously. It’s ok, I reply, I’ve not been working today. You ... have ... to ... take ... your ... work ... clothes ... off ... before ... going ... in .. \240she says slowly and with a little more venom. Best to agree I decide and for good measure add, can’t stand those who don’t take off their work clothes. She stares at me a long moment before nodding and saying “you’re so right love, so right” she heaves her way up the stairs to where the guests on the top floor stay and I’m still confused as to whether she’s staff or a guest. I turn away fairly rapidly though as it’s not the prettiest of sights from this angle as she makes tough work of the accent.

Having watched a little tv and drunk my coffee in peace I head back to what was promised to be the best shower in Hunterville by the owner when I checked in. He wasn’t half kidding and the resulting blast is second only to the Burgess’s water blaster of a shower back in Katikati. I take a long soak before returning to my room.

My room may be tiny but it’s value for money as it sounds roughish weather outside and for al ofl the other ammenities that come with it. Most of all I’ve enjoyed the various people I’ve met tonight and the many laughs I’ve had. She’s been a terrific night, well for me at least ... Bob is sharing the woodshed with my bike and 2 dogs, who he tells me have cold noses and push them in the strange places. Time for some sleep, shouldn’t be hard tonight

Strava (which ripped me off my usual 6 or 7 km)

https://www.strava.com/activities/1992080394/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543547775

Relive

Hunterville Sheep

Hunterville comes alive on a Friday ...

Station Hotel where I’m staying. Bob and I searched once more but again the trains were too well hidden.

27
Ashhurst

And they say Wellington is windy, well let me tell you, Hunterville to Apiti to Ashhurst has more than it’s fair share also if today is any indication.. You know it’s a touch windy when you actually have to put the battery on and pedal like buggery to go downhill, never mind the up.

I was a little on the slow side rising this morning, possibly due to the alcohol consumption of last night but I’ll blame the comfort of the bed. For a single bed in a cheap pub room, it sure was a goody. The whole Station Hotel Hunterville experience has been a beauty. A marvellous decision if I say so myself. Since I’m late up already, 8.30 is late for me on this trip, I decide to have another shower and a shave. By the time I’ve gathered my gear and loaded the bike it’s almost 10. I stop by a little cafe in town and have eggs Benedict with coffee. It’s superb and I really ought to look up the name of the cafe so you may enjoy it also. Infact I will, so hang on a tick. Ok, so it’s the Relish Rangitikei Restaurant and of you’re floating past Hunterville, it’s a good spot to eat.

Having filled myself up, I buy a banana and muffin from the local 4square for later in the day before heading out down highway 1 for a brief period before turning off onto backroads. Even just 6 km on highway 1 is enough. Traffic buzzes past and at times quite close, especially in the area that have little or no shoulder room for cyclists. Anxiety drops a few levels once back off out in the country.

I’ve been following the ‘Tour Aotearoa Official Route’ for most of the way, except for the times I’ve had to detour off to see friends. How the Kennett brothers put this trail together and even found some of these roads is beyond me. Quite often I’m guided onto gravel roads that wind up and off into seemingly nowhere and I’m left wondering if I’ve made a mistake. It never is and you always reappear on the trail in the right place, though I have to admit I’m losing any love I’ve ever had for gravel paths ... which wasn’t a whole lot in the first place. Today’s are windy (as in curving) and windy (as in blowing). It’s not an enjoyable combination on a loaded bike and when many areas are loosely packed. I know I really ought to stop and lower tyre pressure but my middle names are stubborn and stupid. I keep telling myself it will revert to sealed road soon but for a good part of the day it’s gravel, slippery and blowing a gale.

Up we go

Aim for the light bits or else go for a slide

The scenery for the most part today is the wonderful Manawatu Gorge and I therefore assume it’s been the Manawatu River that has also kept me company for all those km. As you will soon see by my Strava, I climbed a hell of a lot today and the views back down at times were spectacular. I really ought to discipline myself to stop and take photos at the best opportunities but at times it’s easier to just keep pedaling. The climbs are long and hectic today but for some reason my body seems to handle them better then yesterday. At one point high up and in the middle of nowhere, I cycle past a series of abandoned farm houses. I’m amazed that such places should have been let go to ruin when they command such amazing views. Obviously the land is still tended as sheep still roam the hills about it. I can’t help but wonder what made people up and walk away, what a waste ...

Views all day long

Looks like rain

Abandoned Farms

Not a single car passes me on the way to Apiti and only one heads past me in the opposite direction. It is Saturday I guess but even still, I’d have expected more. It does feel pretty remote out this way though. The two things I’ve noticed since just before Wanganui are more gorse and more sheep, and even for the first time I can remember, sheep with long tails on occasion

It’s 3pm by the time I make it to Apiti which was my original destination for the day. There isn’t a whole lot here and the weather looks threatening. I make the decision to have a late lunch and then press on to Ashhurst if it’s still not raining by the time I’ve eaten. The Apiti tavern is run by hospitable staff and I have quite a nice pizza, being the cheapest thing on the menu. I also drain a beer and a coffee in fairly short succession, it’s been dry work climbing almost nonstop for hours. Just after 3.30 I’m back on the bike and \240away again and fairly soon I’m regretting that decsion. Just out of town the road becomes gravel once more. Things become even trickier as I round a bend high up on a plateau and the annoying wind is now striking me fully side on. With the first gust it’s a shock and I’m pushed into the looser gravel where I slide dangerously before righting the ship. I try to brace for the next lot but it’s an impossible task to predict the wind. For safeties sake I’m forced to slow down to maintain balance. .

I race a sheep (video)

So far today I’ve had a pig, 2 chickens and several birds appear out from the brush on the side of the road. All of them bar the sheep seem as startled as myself. The sheep attempts to race me but eventually gives up, it will need to make enquires about getting a battery and become an e-sheep to have any chance.

Deer farm - skittish animals

Down in the gorge rks

Rising Back Up Again

It’s a bit of a task I’ve set myself and eventually I’m regularly checking the Speedo to count down the remaining km as they pass. The views are still wonderful, if not even better in places. It’s hard to gaze at them for long however as a constant monitoring of the gravel ahead is a basic requirement to staying upright and alive.

Apiti Taverns Pork Pie

Sculptures at Apiti

Eventually (and somewhat joyfully) I begin to decend and at first quite rapidly. The only issue is that I’m still on gravel and therefore can’t absolutely rip down as I’d like to. My brakes get a fair old serve and I’m pleased I had the disks replaced back in Ohakune. There are still one or two climbs but these are minor in comparison with earlier in the day.

Views from the road

Decent from up on high

For once the roads have been free of litter and it’s a nice change not to pedal past bottles, cans, coffee cups and other detritus. I’ve also seen many types of birds of all colours today though not being an ornithologist I couldn’t begin to tell you what they were. The most beautiful was a smallish bird of bright greens and reds that rose up out from a tree to my left and sailed down into the gorge way below me.

By the time I hit the outskirts of Ashhurst the skies have darkened considerably and the warm showers I contacted is out of town and unavailable. I cycle on through and out the other side to the camping ground where I hope to find cabins available but sadly it’s tenting or nothing here. Bob throws a little wobbly saying that he refuses to spend another wet night out in the cold and so it’s on the phone and a search of Uncle Google. Who knew that Ashhurst had become so much of a destination that the cheapest hotels start at $140 a night. Air bnb doesn’t look to be any better and I’m just contemplating a wet night with a soggy tent to pack in the morning when Bob tells me to take another last look at Warm Showers as he thought he saw another one back on the far side of town that had a trustworthy name. I head back into the app and lo and behold there is one I didn’t see. The name is a little suspect though, it’s Bob & Alice.

Bob is excited at the prospect of meeting another Bob and assures me that with a name like that we are sure to be accepted for the night. As the time is now closing in on 6.30pm and rain starting to fall steadily I decide that it’s rude to ask for a bed at this late notice and decide instead just to ask for recommendations for a cheap cabin or accomodation. Bob calls me every rude hedgehog name he knows but I stick to my guns and call to ask. Bob (human form) answers the phone and won’t hear of me staying anywhere else, insisting that I head straight over before the weather really packs in. With much thanks I gratefully accept and follow his directions back through town with a smug chog on the front saying ‘I told you so’ all the way.

Bobs wife, Alice, is away down south visiting grandparents as Bob and her are soon to depart on a major cycling expedition of their own through Europe. Bob is most apologetic at the state of their living quarters which is a converted garage off the back of his mothers house. They have only been here for just over a month as they have rented their own house out prior to leaving for their trip. I tell him there’s nothing to be sorry for and I’m grateful to just have a roof over my head, and by now it’s absolutely teeming down and so I really am.

It’s actually a brilliant little set up, small but very workable for the 2 of them. It’s a large garage and has been cleverly made into a bedroom, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. Bob and I are given the lounge with a couch that converts into a double bed. Bob chog is starstruck at meeting another real live Bob and is bashful when introduced to host Bob. Host Bob seems very impressed with chog Bob and decides then and there that he will take his own mascot across Europe with him.

Host Bob is a right character, probably in his late 20s and a surfer/biker/skier and currently a teacher. He is also a fully qualified chef and has worked in a few top notch restaurants. His dream when he’s finished travelling is to create a portable kitchen out of a large van or small truck and do mobile catering for large scale events such as weddings or business gatherings but in remote and usually inaccessible areas for quality catering. It’s a novel idea and with his obvious passion and drive, I’m sure he will succeed with that or a similar idea.

He has organised dinner out with friends and is most apologetic at having to having to leave me but I’m totally spent from the ride and don’t mind a quiet evening. Before he leaves he runs he’s through fridges and freezers of food telling me to help myself to anything I feel like. I tell him I’m all good and have a freeze dried meal, to which he screws up his nose. ”Well at least have some of my brownies” he insists pushing a massive container towards me, “I’m famous for them”. Misreading my look of amazement at the huge pile thrust in front of me, he assures me “oh they aren’t that type of brownie, you’re quite safe haha, you won’t be getting high on that lot”

He’s supposed to be at his friends by 7 but we get on so well that it’s past 8 beore he finally leaves. I won’t be much past 10 he says as he walks out, he’s my good mate but his wife’s a right ... he waves his arms ... “well you know” ... and I think I do. (and no that’s not aimed at anyone in case any of you are thinking it is)

As he went to the trouble of emptying his washing machine for me and insisting I use it, I oblige him and throw my entire contents in. I try to tempt Bob chog into a much needed spa bath with whirlpool action but he takes a look down at my dirty washing and decides that he’s fine. I set the washer and jump in the shower. Refreshed, I decide on my meal and select the Nasi Goreng. It turns out to be a poor choice, only the 2nd dud in my freeze dry collection. My eyes wander to the brownies and I decide to taste one. Bob is true to his word and one soon becomes around 6 as they are just so good, they are so moreish and addictive that i begin to wonder if they do have any special ingredients after all.

Good to his word, Bob returns a little after 10 and makes us both a cup of tea. It’s a testament to his personality and great sense of humour that we are still sitting chatting and laughing at around 12.30. By this stage though it’s all I can do to keep my eyes open and I politely excuse myself to head to my couch/bed which is surprisingly comfortable. Bob chog is is contentedly asleep by the heater and almost fully dry for the first time in days.

As you will no doubt have noticed, I manage to begin my blog but awaken at 7.20 next morning \240to find I’ve fallen asleep and dropped the phone without managing to finish. Below is the Strava and you will see why I’m tired

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1993646711/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543644545

That is some crazy elevation

28
Pahiatua

Tonight’s blog has been delayed by having to finish yesterday’s first, but that is now done, posted and there for your exclusive viewing, and so on we go to today

Nothing happened, no pictures, no videos, didn’t move ... just kidding, although in all fairness it took a lot to get me moving today and not a lot of thrilling proportions took place

As tired as I was / am, I only managed to sleep until 7.40. I lie in a bit of a daze until just after 8 when I hear movement from the next room. Bob has coffee on the go and I feel in dire need of a cup. Tane and Mahuta are having an off day and refuse to cooperate with my brain signals. I tell them to stand and walk to the door but it’s as though they are drunk. Again I wonder what was in the cookies but realise that it’s just yesterday’s efforts on the bike that I’m still paying for. Finally up, I struggle to walk in the direction my mind is telling them to go. It’s a bit of a strange sensation but slowly wears off the longer I remain vertical.

Bob makes a smashing cup of coffee with freshly ground beans. It’s a rip snorter of a brew and does a lot to bring me to my senses and fully awaken me. \240By the second cup he is in full chef mode an is whipping up a breakfast par excellence. “Just using up I’ve got lying around he says rapidly chopping asparagus and spinach like a Masterchef judge. Within minutes he’s sautéing then with garlic and bacon tossing the contents of his pan high in the air and he cooks. It’s like a theatrical performance as I watch him methodically produce the most amazing breakfast I’ve had all tour, if not all decade. Poached eggs on toast with a side of amazing looking veges and bacon done in fresh garlic and a range of herbs & spices with home made hollandaise. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it was. He waves off my praise “just stuff lying around”

His wife is in for a treat as he tells me he can’t wait to get his hands on some fresh local produce when they tour in Europe and see what he can “throw together”. It makes my freeze drys seem a little tame.

The rain has persisted all night and is still beating down as 10.30am \240passes. Bob offers me another night but by 11.30 it has cleared and I finally set off. I’ve really enjoyed my time with Bob, the conversation was both interesting and humorous amd we shared a lot of common interests in books, music and beliefs. As with John in Wanganui a few nights back, given a day or two in charge, we’d set the world to rights !

I head into a watery sun and once again find myself down by the river. The path through to Palmerston North is workout doubt the very best I’ve been in to date. At first a smooth dirt path it soon becomes a concrete track that leads along side the river all the way to Palmerston coming out at the bridge over the river near Massey University. It’s a path obviously well used as I pass many families and friends out for a cycle together, various dog walkers and plenty simply out for a stroll.

Soon after I leave the river we hit a small hill soon to be followed by a terror. Tane and Mahuta are still giving a little trouble today and after a gentle cruise with a tail wind all down the river path, they are rudely bought back to reality with the two climbs in succession. The wind which was in my favour has turned and it takes a fair old mental battle to push on up.

Nice smooth path

When I finally crest the top of the hill I’m fairly beat and wondering if I shouldn’t have accepted Bobs offer of a further night. The run down the other side revives me to an extent and gives me just enough energy to push into Pahiatua and reach the camping spot. Just as I enter town some falrly heavy rain drops begin to fall from a particularly nasty looking black cloud hovering above me. With a little luck there will be enough fall to extinguish the smouldering car the greets me abandoned on the near side of the bridge into town.

Welcome to Pahiatua

I take a pic and offer to bring it back as a ‘project’ for my good mate Grant, a mechanic by trade bit he thinks it’s a little expensive as an outdoor heater ...

Pahiatua seems to be similar to many other small towns I’ve passed through on my way down, 1 long Main Street with a few disinterested looking shops, a pub and a few takeaways. I grab an icecream from the obligatory Indian dairy as it’s been a muggy ride with high humidity, despite the persistent breeze. At the campsite I’m offered a $15 tent site or a $20 cabin, looking skyward I take the cabin, which in all fairness I’d probably have done regardless of weather. For $5 it’s just a whole lot less hassle than packing up camping gear. I should just mention that I very much like this camping ground. It’s quiet, tidy and whilst the cabin is very basic, they don’t try to rip you off. It’s just good plain value for money !

I’ve just got just enough time to freshen up with a hot shower before catching up with another good friend and his wife who head up from Masterton to come out to dinner with me. We end up at a local bar at around 4 and as meals aren’t served until 5.30, pass the time with a few jugs, food conversation and many laughs. Garry has a wicked sense of humour and a good memory and was another who helped me through a difficult time. It’s awfully nice to hear in a more serious moment that I’d been able to offer some advice, wisdom and humour back during his own problems. Again the conversion and laughs just flowed and it was a shock to discover it was 7.45pm. Poor Garry and his wife had a 45 minute drive home and then straight to bed. His working day begins at 3am and he’s usually asked by now.

They drop back at camp and he offers me a bed for the night when I reach Masterton tomorrow or the next day depending on my fitness state. They head away and I have a hankering for a coffee so jump on my bike and make my way to the closest coffee which is a local BP garage.

Smooth Path (video)

Even smoother path (video)

Even though it was only 54 km today (actually 56 because Strava crapped out for another 2km) I’m feeling as tired as I’ve been all trip. Bob chog is already asleep and I think I’ll do the same

Bridge to Pahiatua

My little cabin

Not a very interesting day for you guys I know, \240but until tomorrow then ...

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1995374717/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543718557

Relive

29
Masterton

A big day for Bob today as he heads towards Masterton apparently the home of his very own fan club. The news comes from a family friend Kath who has been a regular reader and updating \240her workmates on the daily news of Bobs exploits and his whereabouts. Taking all this in his stride Bob insists there will be a ticker tape parade, streamers and banners as we enter town. He almost has me convinced to order t-shirts, coffee cups and other Bob adorned paraphernalia to flog off as we pass through town.

I awake expecting the predicted cloud, rain and storms and instead gaze out upon clear blue skies. No excuses for Tane and Mahuta today then. I procrastinate anyway and take a long shower before organising my departure. Kath has offered me her flat for the night and last night I had already accepted Garry’s kind offer of a bed. Oh the predicaments I find myself in. Eventually I reason that with Garry starting work at 3 each morning and his wife working late each night, they would most likely prefer no interruption to their routine and therefore agree to the flat and hopefully haven’t upset or letdown Garry.

This all organised I board my bike, order Bob to shut up with all the ridiculous slogans he’s offering up for his t shirts and coffee cups, Bob : Licenced to Quill and ‘you’ve never had a thrill ’til you’ve held Bobs quill’ are two of the more ridiculous he’s insisting upon. I suggest the more apt ‘at the first sign of trouble I roll up like a bubble’ or ’when shit begins to fall I roll into a ball’ but he’s not impressed.

We are just pushing off, argument unresolved when the camp owner arrives to say goodbyes, thankyous and would you like to be a Jehovah. Ok, so he doesn’t ask outright but he might as well have as it would have saved me the time of being polite, listening and making awkward excuses as to why I had to leave ... like now! On reflection as I cycle out the gates, I wonder if it’s why the place is so cheap, it gives him a captive audience to try and convert.

Out on the road I stop at the local BP for a breakfast of coffee. The Indian employee is fascinated by my bike and unbelieving that I’ve cycled from Cape Reinga, especially when I explain that no it’s not over by castle point but at the very top of the Island. But why you do this ?, he keeps asking, but no matter how I explain he doesn’t seem to get it. Bob has him even more confused. Why you take this, he asks pointing but I know if he doesn’t understand why I’m doing the trip that he will never understand Bobs presence.

I’m somewhat surprised when the Komoot app guides me through and out of Pahiatua in a direction at right angles to my destination of Masterton. I suppose after the past few days roundabout directions that I should no longer wonder at the routes Mr Kennett chooses for the Tour of NZ book as he seems to adore taking the longest possible route with the most gravel roads he can squeeze in. I really shouldn’t be too critical because in all fairness he’s kept us well away from busy state highways and dangerous traffic for the most part.

Bob with the first of many dearly departed today

In actual fact, it’s Bob who has more of a problem with today’s route than me, as for once the dead hedgehog count outnumbers that of possums. All his excitement at the prospect of a heroes welcome into Masterton is squashed ... as are many of his wellwishers out to cheer him along the way.

Though the scenery is pleasant enough, it’s the people who grab my attention today. Well over half who drive past honk their horns, wave or call out encouragement. It’s something I’ve not had so consistently since a lot further up North. By lunchtime I’ve reached Eketahuna and much like yourselves have patiently been waiting all my life to cross off the bucket list item of dining out in Eketahuna. After a careful perusal of the town I select ‘The Lazy Graze’ as the venue for the occasion, my decsion based soley on the fact that it was the only place open and serving food.

I believe I was almost having a lovely day

I order the minor graze which is basically the kids half size beakfast with one of everything instead of two. It’s well enough for me as the day is incredibly muggy with waves of heat rising up off the roads and soaking me with sweat. The front tyres have been crackling as they pick up melted tar and flick stones all around. After the meal and having lowered their iced water dispenser by half, I decide to tour Eketahunas highlights before leaving. I was only able to find two and will grace you with their pics now

Leaning Tower of Eketahuna

Eketahuna sign resplendent with bullet holes

As you pass off the Main Street, which actually looks reasonable, you are suddenly presented with houses in not much better condition than those I passed abandoned on the roads way outback of Hunterville the other day. In all honesty, at first I thought some of them were abandoned until faces appeared at windows and people emerged from doors. I’ve never seen so many houses in utter disrepair and still being inhabited. These don’t just need a coat of paint as I fear at the touch of a paintbrush they may just collapse. The wood looks utterly rotten on some and others have groundsheets of canvas attached in what I assume is an effort to maintain water tightness.

More Long Roads

Several sweaty kilometres outside of Eketahuna Bob leaps up to his feet giving me a standing ovation. I pull over briefly to enjoy the moment and reflect on the passing of 2000km on this trip so far. I celebrate by draining a can of Charlie’s Honest Cola and am left pondering that a lie may have ben preferred as it sort of tastes like a soda stream cola that someone made with not enough flavouring. I guess it didn’t help that it has been simmering in my pannier for a day and had just come off the boil.

2000 Up

The cycling conditions continue to be pleasant if not a little humid. Thankfully this route passes by long rows of trees and the cooling shade is most pleasant. On stretches out in the open the road continues to be tacky and the gravel paths dusty, though today the gravel presents no issue as they are well packed and stable.

As we ride down a valley with steep hills riding out to my sides we come across a kamikaze earthworks grader driver on a hillside that appears to be at an angle of at least 50 degrees. He’s a fair way up and takes runs down that seemingly require courage or alcohol. My pictures don’t quite do justice to the height and angle at which he was operating

Looked far more dangerous live

This aside I won’t really bother describing scenery as it’s much of the same rolling hills, paddocks, sheep, cattle the odd farm dog barking off in the distance, silage bales, small rivers and streams crossed by wee concrete bridges .... oh well there you go, I’ve pretty much decribed it yet again. One thing that has continually fascinated me all trip are the cows. Whether in a field of a 100 or so or just 5 or 6, one will raise its head from eating and stare intently and then within seconds the entire paddock full will be stock still, grass hanging from lips and just gaze unerringly into your eyes until you are well passed and mastication can resume in peace. In fields containing hundreds it can be a little unnerving to be the centre of such attention.

Sheep are the total opposite, with a noise from my bike such as a gear change or at even just a glance from myself or Bob they are off in any direction that gives them a clear path away. I’ve seen quite large ewes head off down steep rocky banks with death defying footwork, speed and agility in their haste to be free of my presence. Come to think of it, several humans have done the same over the years 🤔

As I merge with State Highway 2, just 6km from Masterton, the traffic intensifies in both directions, there is a reasonable shoulder on which to cycle but it never feels quite comfortable or as safe as the back roads. The skies have darkened and a few drops of light rain indicate what might be to come. Bob looks around expectantly, gets a little excited mistaking some early Christmas decorations for the beginning of his parade and then sullenly withdraws as it becomes obvious his fan club are otherwise engaged.

In town I call Kath who is kindly finishing up a little early to let me into the flat. With still just under an hour to pass I cycle the main streets of Masterton which has become a large place with all the large chain stores in attendance. I’m pleased to also note that it has a little character of its own that I feel every town should aim for. I stop for a coffee in a wonderful bakery named the 10 o’clock cookie for reasons best known to themselves. With what is in offer inside I feel a better name would be ‘The anytime binge and bugger the guilt’ What an incredible array of beautifully presented baked goods are on offer in here, all manner of cakes, mousses, buns, scones, slices, handmade chocolates and delights. The chocolate mud and mousse cakes are calling to me but I settle for a coffee and gelato as I’m still steaming from the muggy road. A mental note has been made however to return for a double chocolate mousse cake. There are several other bakeries and cafes along the road but it’s easy to see why this one draws in the crowds.

From here I drag myself away and down the road to Kath’s where I’m warmly greeted and shown through the flat. Although not furnished it’s ideal for me for the night and she even insists that Bob and my bike be taken inside. Receiving attention at last, Bobs mood brightens considerably as he told how popular he is in this town.

After a brief catch up and shower I’m left feeling most guilty as Garry calls to say he has arrived to whisk me away for dinner. I feel awfully rude at departing so soon after my arrival but Kath is most kind insisting we will catch up later. Garry makes a brief stop at the bottle store and bits some Monteiths Radler explaining that radler is German for cyclist. How have I not known this before now, having even lived there for a period and cycling with Germans many times on this trip. At his home his wife Rebecca has prepared and left a wonderful casserole with tender chunks of meat and lots of veges. I’m served up a plateful that steeples up like some of the hills I cycle over. I’m not complaining as it’s delicious and my cycling beers complement it perfectly.

Garry is a terrific dinner host, many funny stories and good conversation, it’s after 8pm beore I know it and not wanting to outstay my welcome or deprive him of sleep beore his 3am start I get a lift back to Kaths. As happens most nights after a cycle I’m craving something sweet and for the first time turn on my bike lights and head to town for an icecream. It’s a bit of a mission just for an icecream but with my sweet tooth it’s worth it.

I finally manage to get some time with Kath and we catch up into the late hours of the evening. I feel a little self conscious slurping away at an icecream as we talk, though I had offered to shout her one. Eventually I realise I had better start this blog for the day but learn that I’m no good at writing under the pressure of an audience and having only managed a sentence or two, my battery gasps it’s last as well. It’s a funny thing how sitting alone in a tent or cabin I can just instantaneously flow out the entire days events without pausing, yet with a single person around I can’t even begin to type. Perhaps it was the added pressure of being second fiddle to Bob in this town. It’s very hard to write about him when the secretary of his fan club is sitting opposite.

Having retired to the flat, I plug and a try again but now my mind is sluggish and tired. You will have noticed an unfinished effort once again and now you will notice a rushed morning effort that in most likely incoherent and mind numbing.

Below is one last photo I forgot to post earlier in the blog. Somewhere between Eketahuna and Masterton on the dusty backroads a chair is mounted upon a pole and looks to have been shit at several times .... I’ll leave it to you

Make of this what you will

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1997439525/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543810252

Relive - the long way around again

30
Woburn

It’s sunny, those lying sods of weather forecasters never get it right, not that I will complain today. As I once again ran short of energy last night, my first task upon waking at 7.30 is to finish off yesterday’s blog. Just as I’m completing it I receive a txt from Kath wishing me (and Bob) well for the day and reiterating that breakfast is available in the house. As I dislike rummaging through people’s homes when they aren’t around, I settle for a coffee and return to the apartment to pack. Bob is furious with me for not having got myself up in time for his photo shoot with the secretary of his fan club but I manage to appease him by introducing him to a friend of Kaths. It’s love at first sight

Bob is smitten

I have a hard job tearing him away from his new love but eventually manage to do so and we get away by 10. As much as I fight against it, my bike automatically heads back up the 4 or 5 km to 10 ‘o clock cookie or whatever the name of the cafe was and am soon the proud owner of a death by chocolate mousse cake, along with a tandoori wrap for lunch and a sausage roll for breakfast. These I distribute to my panniers, sans the sausage roll which I distribute to my tummy.

I head out of Masterton via Queen Elizabeth park which is a real treasure in the city. I do a few laps around enjoying the peaceful little area

Get your laughing gear around that lot

Sensationally I begin with a tail wind and find myself rocking along at 30 km/hr with no need for battery. As an added bonus the route to Martinborough is a gradual descent for 95 percent of the way. What an absolute treat. Once again I should have stopped more often for photos as seemingly most farms enjoy a little artwork, be it dressing up a letterbox or hanging an obscure bit of artwork over a front fence. Here are a few but I could have taken dozens

Just as I near the Carterton areas outskirts a black cloud appears over the top of me with all directions around us reasonably blue. This again soon changes and I find myself racing a bank of deep black clouds following behind me all the way to Martinborough. They catch me just as I reach the town and I’m drenched beore taking shelter at a corner cafe. Wet it might be but it certainly isn’t cold. I debate a coffee but order a choccy shake with a bacon & egg bagel to fill the gap. I’ve made good time to Martinborough and only being just after 1pm for the first time contemplate going all the way through to Lower Hutt this afternoon. I check the forecast on 2 apps for this afternoon and tomorrow and both agree that this afternoon is all about sunshine and tomorrow will be all about storms. Not wanting to cycle over the Rimutaka Trail with thunder and lightening confirms my decision to push on today.

Having eaten my bagel in a few minutes and washed it away with my shake, I discover to my consternation that I’m now heading into a howling headwind which is a little demoralising. Even solid downhills are proving tough to even pedal down, let alone coast. I’m not far to the turnoff to the Rimutaka Trail when Garry calls me. I quiz him on the weather as he’s been back and forth over the hill a few times today. “Let’s just say you’re goinnnnnng to get wettttttt he sings to me. The rain, however, is the least of my current concerns. The wind had begun to rage and its again difficult to maintain balance, especially when it hits you side on. Featherston, the area in which the Rimutaka trail begins, has been all over the news the past few days due to its flooding. This becomes evident as I make my way to the trail head and come across a washed out road. I stop and stare at it for a minute before deciding that the longer I wait the worse the decsion. I head back a wee way, take a bit of a run up and enter at a steady but not overly quick speed. All goes well briefly but then I strike a largish stone / rock and am thrown sideways. My left foot goes down into the ice cold water and is soon followed by the right. Thankfully I manage to keep the bike upright and walk it through to the other side.

River crossing at washed out road

With feet now sodden and cold I pedal over to the beginning of the track. There’s a few cars parked so I’m guessing I’m not the only crazy person here. It’s quite narrow to begin and with the wind fair whistling through i take it fairly slowly, more concerned at meeting someone who may come flying around a bend towards me. There is a steep drop away to my right and in several places slips have fallen over the track. The sensible thing would be to dismount and push the bike over but at this stage I’m wanting to be at the summit before the rain here any heavier. I throw the electrics on and power over them, nervously but successfully. The track begins to widen which suits me fine. I pass a group of kids with a couple of adults bringing up the rear and can’t help but notice that their bikes are caked in mud.

The ascent winds back and forth through the tall forest of predominantly pine. I’m most impressed with the signage along the way providing a detailed account of the railway that existed here, the role that it played in the area and the hardy souls who inhabited the mountainside living and working in what must have been very dour conditions.

Signage along the trail

The first of 4 tunnels

Around halfway up the steepest section of the climb, an exposed area named Siberia (and quite aptly I may say) has the wind whipping through with quite some velocity. It’s all I can do to go as slowly as possible and stay upright. A sobering sign tells the story of a rail cart blown off over the bluff here and I can well believe it with today’s conditions.

A little further on from here the track bends back on itself in a 180 degree turn. Unfortunately there has been a massive slip here and a stream with the aid of heavy rain during the past few weeks now courses down giving no option but to dismount and push. Quite simply, with my load, it’s a right bastard. My feet which had all but dried in the howling wind are once again plunged into icy waters.

I push, heave and strain to make the smallest gains, this bike most certainly wasn’t designed to be pushed up such terrain with the amount of weight it is carrying. Just as I’m contemplating defeat, with visions of unpacking and carrying the panniers to the top 2 by 2 or even better, the arrival of the westpac resucue helicopter, another group of kids round the corner with some hardly looking adults. Before the adults are able to come to my assistance, two of the boys, all of 11 or 12, have got in behind a rear pannier each and are heaving for all they are worth. With the extra teamwork I’m able to get the bike over and up the steep incline that follows. I’m most grateful to them and would possibly still be there now had they not shown up.

I push on up to the summit with track offering no more issues, though the wind does not let up. As I appear at the crest of the peak, the heavens open once again and a heavy shower sweeps through. I notice a shelter not far ahead and make a beeline for it. As I wait for the rain to subside I read the stories of the summit and am amazed to find that it once had 4 or so houses up here and was a little community of its own. It’s a fascinating and beautiful track and those who are close enough should really make the effort to cross it .... on a nice day.

Tales of woe from Siberia

Back to a drizzle I set off once more and am pleased to find the track is not only all downhill from here but also as wide as a road. Had it not been for the accursed wind I’d have been plain sailing. As it is I refuse to put on the battery to assist in my descent. Several tunnels are passed through, most not too long, though all require my bike light. The second to last tunnel is fairly long and would be difficult to pass through without lights.

Happiness is the Summit

I’m speechless at the surrounding countryside so close to where I’ve lived for years, I’m not sure why I’ve not been up here before. I’ve always known it’s existed but I guess have thrown it in the too hard basket. In all honesty, on a better day it would be a doddle and a very pleasant doddle to boot. Highly recommend a visit.

Through we go (video)

And again

Little bridges are well maintained and a few have their own stories to tell. Once again I’m impressed with the details posted along the trail. Former residents recollections are fascinating to me and though the weather isn’t pleasant, I’m finding myself unable to pass without stopping to read each sign.

The path / road down is much longer than the track up and as you can see above is well graded. It makes for a smooth and trouble free ride down, the only annoyances being the proliferation of stupid bike entry bars which are the bane of every touring cyclist.

Grrrrrr I HATE these damn things

For most of the North Island I’ve not had to deal with these ridiculously designed things but here closest to my own backyard they are in proliferation. Off and on my bike I jump, heaving and cursing it up onto its rear wheel and easing it past before crashing back down again. My cursing grows louder and more colourful at each one a come to.

One last road flood

After fording one final road washout I’m down off the mountain and in more familiar territory. I’m not far now from my old stomping ground where I grew up and have ridden here many times before.

I’m pleased to note that the Hutt River cycle path has undergone a lot of work and for the most part is now sealed and smooth. It provides probably one of the best cycle experiences in the country for ease.

Familiar territory now

A last 25 km to mums house passes by reasonably quickly. The path takes me past my old high school and I stop briefly to reflect. Many a happy hour was spent at the cricket nets but not much more joy than that was had here.

The old school

I make way way around past our old house where I grew up. Not much love for this place either but as I gaze up at my old bedroom window I can clearly recall the origins of the trip I’m now making. It was in here that I first dreamed of cycling through the country at 11 or 12.

Our old house

My old room and the real start of the trip.

I arrive at mums and call her to say that there had been a delivery to her doorstep, the surprise and delight on her face to see me is always a huge reward. Johanna, my German cycling friend, met way back in Te Aroha, has also arrived today, some 3 or 4 hours before me. She has come down the other coast, not having attempted the tracks with the hearing problems with her bike. Happily she has found a local bike shop who has ordered the parts to rectify this.

We sit around chatting and a home cooked meal from mum after a hot shower ends my day. It’s quite late when I finally head to bed, mums house is full for the first time in a while.

Descending Rimutaka

Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/1999101549/shareable_images/map_based?hl=en-US&v=1543902702

31
Wellington

And so it’s here, the last day of the North Island tour. As is now usual the weather forecasting apps predict rain and storms, also as usual ... they don’t arrive, although it did pour all night.

Bad habits die hard and I’m awake by about 7am. After the usual failed attempt to fall back asleep I roll over and complete yesterday’s blog. This done I crawl downstairs with several complaints from Tane & Mahuta, although I assure them of a break for several weeks if they perform well today. Mum is being mum and fussing around over what Johanna would and wouldn’t like for breakfast. I throw on the jug and the 3 of us discuss the days plans over toast, cereal and fruit. Johanna has never sampled weetbix before and takes a shine to them with banana. It’s amazing how much she can eat now with all the cycling she is doing.

After breakfast is packed away it’s time for my final leg of the North Island. Johanna has decided to join me and we head out along the cycle path and down through Petone with a huge tail wind sweeping us into Wellington at a steady 25 - 30 km/hr with barely an effort on the pedals.

Wellington from the cycle path

We stop by the ferry terminal for Johanna to buy her ticket for tomorrow, I will be following in around a months time. This done we manage to cross a death zone just past interislander terminal to head around to Queens Wharf. It’s an appalling set up for a capital city through which I assume a fair percentage arrive in via a ferry. How anyone hasn’t been killers crossing this area is miracle, for all I know they probably have been. Something really needs to be done .. and soon.

Although blustery the sun manages to fight its way through for brief periods and the rain stays away. We cycle around the wharves before heading through Wellington and up the steep climb to Brooklyn. While I have the luxury of ironing out the hill with a bit of battery, Johanna battles with both the wind and her gear ratio, hopefully the cycle shop can fix that for her tomorrow. We stop for a hot drink and slice of cake to refuel before heading downhill to the coast where the end of both the Te Aroha walk and Tour Aeoteoroa cycle tours is marked by a plaque. Johanna takes a photo of Bob and myself for posterity. I think back to just under a month ago and the deep breath I took as I gazed at the entire country before me. Halfway down and it doesn’t feel quite as daunting now.

Proof I made it ... halfway

Formalities out of the way, we continue our way around the coast to Island Bay where I introduce Johanna to kumara fries from the local Fish n Chip shop. She appears to enjoy them but not the blinding sand that is blown around by an ever increasing wind. Back on our bikes a hurricane like headwind explains in no uncertain terms to Johanna just why this place is known as Windy Wellington.

Heading around the Evans Bay Parade is damn near impossible. The wind almost brings us to a halt and finally in Johanna’s case it does. I use my battery to push around the final corner to Oriental Bay and the velocity is ferocious. Johanna walks her bike around and remounts breathless.

Back around Queens wharf we cycle and then into the Wellington Railway Station where my North Island Tour comes to a bit of a cheating end. We hop on the train for an easy ride back to mums house. It sure beats another 15 km slog into the headwind from hell.

Final thoughts soon ...