____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.