Gravel is not my thing.

We had grabbed some breakfast supplies the previous night to prepare in our kitchenette. We were able to hit the road by 8.15 am with the temperature hovering around 16 degrees Celsius.

Skirting around the back of Wellsford we quickly hit the first patch of gravel for the day, but fortunately it was only for about 5 km, and very rideable. We chose this track to minimise our riding on State Highway 1, busy most days, but even more so now that people are heading off on Christmas holidays.

Rural scenes, still very green.

I liked this view with the distant knobby hills.Back onto bitumen these photos were taken from the top of a climb. The lower one shows an electric fence that Tony needed to get over, as the reflective flag had blown off the rear of his bike in the gusty winds.

First stop of the day was Mangawhai Heads, a town that I had stayed at during my solo ride last year. We rode around and settled on coffee at this joint. They also provide free, very cold, sparkling water for your drink bottles.

We did a reccy of the town and this is the local waterway…low tide.

For me, the day’s highlight was beautiful Lang’s Beach, a stunning white sandy beach framed by craggy headlands, gnarled trees and wonderful views to offshore islands.

The islands that can be seen from the shore are Tauranga and Marotiri or, the Hen and the Chicks. They are the remains of long dormant volcanoes, once part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and are now wildlife sanctuaries.

The lone rock on the right hand side is known as Sail Rock, a common mark used for yacht racing.

A few more beaches and then we headed inland to Waipu.

Waipu is a village rich in Scottish heritage. The Waipu Highland Games are held every New Years Day and people come from around the world to dance and compete in traditional Celtic challenges.

Today we just wanted lunch. There were plenty of choices, but we chose one promoting ‘honest’ food. Very nice iced coffee and an omelette later and we were back riding.

This is where the day got tough. We had been subjected to strong winds all ride. We were close to the junction of State Highway 1, the quickest route to our overnight destination of Whangarei.

However, quickest is not always the safest, and we chose to head further inland, across some lumpy hills towards Waipu Caves. We figured there was a chance they may be gravel, but to start with they were bitumen.

Then our luck ran out. It was dry, lose, slippery gravel with drifts on bends, adverse cambers, punctuated by some cussing. I knew where I needed to be, but my bike seemed to head to where it ought not.

Very frustrating and I will admit on some of the 13 plus percent climbs I jumped off on bends as I did not want to fall. Downhill I was even more cautious!

Anyway…life goes on. We liked this totem.

The dirt road had very few cars on it, so that was a plus. We were shocked when we arrived at the Waipu Caves how many cars were there. The place was packed.

Below is a group picnicking near the cave entrance. There were many other such groups in the area.

The cave is unmanned and you can just wander in. There is a 175 metre chamber. The limestone cave has stalactites, stalagmites and glow worms near the entrance. The cave system is considered regionally important for geomorphology because it is the largest cave passage in Northland.

There is also a 4 km walk through the reserve, through karst limestone formations.

The hardest section of ride was as we left the cave. I got really excited at one intersection as we started to descend on bitumen. Alas, it was for max 100 metres!

Some more lovely views though looking towards our destination of Whangarei.

A few more km and we returned to bitumen, and we could pick the pace up from our gravel grinding crawl.

The road joined State Highway 1 and we were low on liquids, so headed to the service station up the road. Here I am chilling in the shade.

The State Highway was crazy busy with traffic so head down and maximum concentration. There was a verge ranging from 30cm to maybe 80 cm so we survived ok, and the cars were pretty well behaved really.

We headed straight to our Air BNB accomodation, a unit alongside the owners house….at the top of what they described as a ‘steep’ driveway. Yep, they were right. It was 28% gradient at its steepest point. We pushed our bikes up!

Today’s route…minimised to show our positioning north of Auckland. The elevation graph shows the up and down nature of the ride…biggest ones being on gravel 😢🙈🙅‍♀️😀

After showering we headed to the Town Basin, a mecca for local and international yachties, craft and art galleries, cafes and restaurants. Many were closed as it was later Sunday afternoon.

Can you see me in this quirky art ‘installation’?

The busy Basin.Looking up the hill towards our accomodation The clock museum with a giant sundial. A telephone box with a working telephone. So day 2…done and dusted. Despite my anxiety on gravel, I lived to tell the tale. I really do suck at gravel!

Below is my favourite picture of the day. Taken at Lang’s Beach. Think this one will ultimately feature on a wall at home.

6 thoughts on “Gravel is not my thing.

  1. David Thornley

    Mangawhai Heads… at 16yo, it was my first major ride destination… totally bonked just after state highway turnoff, and shortly after being stung in the neck by a bee!
    Have a great trip Sharron and Tony.


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