|From Manakau to Bluff and back again.|
Sunday, February 27, 2011
____From Whitianga, a small passenger ferry took me and the bike across the harbour entrance to Cooks Beach. Saving a lot of time and energy; leaving me with a short ride to Cathedral Cove with it's spectacular sea caves. Due to landslides, inspection on foot wasn't allowed; kayaking from the beach along to the caves seemed to be the way to see them. Hot Water Beach was just down the coast and had it's own adjacent campground. At low tide, fresh water, heated by molten rock far below the Earth's surface, seeps through the sand in two places at 60 degrees C. People dig holes in the sand and bathe in the hot water; I walked through some abandoned diggings just before the tide came back in. I heard later that during the previous night, low-tide at been at mid-night and people had bathed under the light of a full moon.
____Riding distances are getting shorter as the trip comes to an end and I try and time my arrival back at the airport. Even so, everyday seems to have two or three long hard climbs as the rugged terrain of the Coromandel Peninsula continues. Opertere is my next stop, more of a beach than a village. But what a beach, pure white sand 4 kilometres long, backed by dunes leading through to pine woods. A paradise for surfers with relentless rollers crashing ashore direct from the full width of the Pacific Ocean. Not good for swimming as a powerful rip constantly tears your feet from under you. But good for jumping about in the surf and getting clean; especially as the campsite showers were out of action due to a broken pump.
____Into Whangamata for a Sunday morning breakfast at a buzzing seaside town. Then on to Waihi as I leave the Coromandel behind. Beautiful countryside and a warm climate; I've enjoyed it even if the cycling has been some of the hardest of the trip. I'm glad I left it to last, I did contemplate going round the peninsula in my first week before I had attained any reasonable level of fitness; that would have been a killer.
____Finally back on to the flat Hauraki Plain, now retracing the tyre tracks of my first days on the bike. Camping at Miranda Hot Springs Campground, where a $22 tent site includes access to a hot pool. A maximum of thirty minutes is all that's needed before I go all wrinkly. So enjoyable, that I go in for another dip in the morning but now I have swimming trunks that smell of sulphur.
____Opere Point was my first night under canvas and I'm back again at the same site. Camped early and lazing ,as usual, in the most comfortable seating available; the television lounge. Someone comes in and switches on the telly; the earthquake at Christchurch had just happened. I'm as shocked as everyone else to see a city centre, that I had rode through only a few weeks earlier, totally devastated.
____The earthquake seems to have shaken everybody in New Zealand. A small country with a major disaster to cope with. My spirits are dampened for the rest of the trip. Two nights at Manakau, the nearest camping to Auckland airport. The flights are all on time and I bring the bike back to Canada without any hassle but I have an overall feeling of sadness on leaving New Zealand at what everyone is calling it's darkest days.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
New Zealand companies that used to buy from the UK now seem to be replacing old vehicles with trucks from Japan. CF85 DAF look-a-likes are available from Hino, Fuso, Izuzu and Mitsubishi. Is this going to happen in Europe and North America too?
____The flat landscape of countless dairy farms continues throughout the day as I head north-west towards the Firth of Thames and the town of the same name. At Paeora, I stumble upon a Highland Tattoo in full swing; I nearly throw up in my mouth. Thames brings me back to the coast and the area known as the Coromandel Peninsula; the first campsite on the sheltered western shore is Dickson’s. Three kilometres on from town with a Butterfly and Orchid enclosure on site; if you like that’s ort of thing.
____Almost every vehicle passing me, northbound on a Sunday morning, is towing a boat. It’s a narrow, twisting road; right on the shore with just a few metres of rocks and sand shaded; by old native trees clinging to the cliff face. A nice level ride half way to Coromandel Town; before two headlands jutting out to sea force the road inland and up and over a couple of long winding climbs.
____ I camp at the “Tidewater”; a neat and tidy place that takes a scattergun approach to tourists and caters for campervans, tents, has cabins and motel units for rent plus dormitories for backpackers. A fully equipped kitchen and comfortable lounge area persuade me to stay four nights; my longest layover of the tour. I think I deserve a break.
____There is a varied crowd of travellers in the Tidewater every night; always friendly. A run up the coast to Colville Bay and back takes up most of one day; also exploring the town and the various nearby beaches takes another day; the third day was non-stop rain.
____ Out of Coromandel Town and straight up into the hills that are the spine of the peninsula; as difficult ascent as any on the tour. It’s only 41 kilometres to the west coast town of Whitianga but that’s enough for one day. Hot and sunny with a strong sea breeze, Whitianga doesn’t seem to have the same atmosphere as Coromandel; probably trying too hard to be up-market.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
____From Oakura it’s a short ride to the busy port of New Plymouth, the largest town since Wellington. Back on Highway 3, it is much busier with a lot of trucks making their way to and from Auckland. The level terrain finishes with the stiff climb over Mount Messenger, then ups and downs along the cliffs to Mokau. A night at the Whitebait Inn, which has a grassy area at the back for tents and does good fish and chips.
____Starting off at sea-level and heading inland; I know I’m in for a day of climbing. The Awakino River Gorge delays it for the first hour but soon the road climbs out of the steep tree-lined valley on to rolling hills of grassland. The area is called the King Country, after the stronghold of the Maori kings. I camp at Te Kuiti, the town that was the old capital.
____The weather is much more humid as I cycle north; the nights are not chilling down and although there is constant cloud cover and little sunshine, I still have to use plenty of sunscreen due to the depleted ozone layer above New Zealand. Hamilton looks like a hard days ride from Te Kuiti; so I settle for Te Awamutu, camped among a whole load of polo pony people; without ponies.
____A short days ride up to Hamilton, New Zealand’s largest inland city and fourth overall. I cannot believe a town this size can warrant so many coffee houses in the downtown area; none of them looked busy and they all looked too pricey. However, the city centre campsite was shady, clean and reasonable.
____Flat arable farmland from Hamilton, north-east on Highway 26 to Te Aroha. With a break at Morrinsville; I’m still camped out by 2 o’clock. Just in time as the wind gets up and the rain comes in over the hills to the east.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
____After the difficult time I had getting into Wellington; when not able to use Highway 1 with a bicycle, I take the train out to the west coast town of Paekakariki. At only NZ$ 8.00 for a one-way off-peak ticket; a good move and the bike goes free. It gives me a good start to the north-bound journey on North Island. The same road that I came south, before Christmas; I turn off at Himatangi and go down to camp at the beach of the same name.
____At Bulls, I leave Highway 1 for Highway 3; still much of the same flat pastures but with rain and a headwind it’s a hard slog to Wanganui. The New Zealand Masters Games have just started in town and fearing hiked prices and a shortage of space; I push on along the coast to the Kai Iwi Beach at Mowhanau for a pretty much deserted campsite.
____More rain, but with breaks at Waverley and Patea, the weather finally clears by the time I get to Hawera. For three days, loaded milk tankers have been pouring past me with monotonous regularity, all heading for Fonterra’s Hawera depot. The biggest dairy products plant in the country; taking in over 20% of New Zealand’s milk. Tomorrow, I will have empty tankers coming past as they leave to fetch more milk. There is a good municipal campsite at Hawera but no spare cabins; so the wet tent is erected again, now smelling like a wet dog.
____Dry roads, but still low cloud with no sign of Mount Taranaki putting in an appearance. Highway 45, the Surf Highway, as I take the long way round the mountain. It is flat, but at about two fields back from the shore, it is not as picturesque as it could be. Opunake is the only seaside town in the 90 kilometres before Oakura and a tent site that is the last piece of grass before the black sand of a well used surf beach. But I’m getting used to the sound of breakers as I go to sleep.