North Eastern Rail Trail

This ride has been on the bucket list for some time, and the opportunity presented itself last week. The weather forecast was good, if a tad chilly.

The big decisions – what bike? The obvious choice was to take my (Specialised Rockhopper Pro) MTB bike given the trail is all gravel and we would be doing over 50 km of gravel.

However, I do not generally do obvious! I chose to dust off my touring bike (Specialized Roubaix) as I had not ridden it since our last cycle tour in New Zealand at Christmas time, and I missed her!

The drive to Scottsdale took a couple of hours, and crossing the Sidling I was feeling decidedly seedy (as I do suffer from car sickness at times). I was most relieved when we pulled into the old Scottsdale railway station site.

The Scottsdale to Branxholm line was built to accommodate both passengers and freight. In addition, there was an ambulance carriage to allow patients requiring medical help in Launceston to travel easier. Typhoid patients in 1918 resulted in the carriage being known as the Fever Carriage.

Leaving Scottsdale, the track gently descends passing by some homes and then farmland.

We saw a sign indicating toilets some 700 metres away at a camp ground and went to pay a visit – we did not find them, and went bush, then necessitating a short 16% gravel climb back to the main track!

Looking for the toilets. How hard could it be?

Scottsdale’s strong heritage with forestry is undeniable as we pass by business involved in forestry and then forest coups. This warning sign ensured we did not stray off the track.

Effective signage.

This sign brought back memories from Europe – one of when we were riding through France and entered a French armoured tank training ground, another when riding in Italy when leaving a rough path there was a warning sign advising the use of a Glock with trespassers…then there were the land mine signs in Croatia!

The track was well formed with lovely vistas.

Peaceful views

There were a few highway crossings, plus some well designed minor crossings.

At the old Tonganah Clay Mine we left the rail trail and followed a dirt road for maybe a km or so. The mine pits, now full of water, were over the former rail area.

The mine produced kaolinite, a layered silicate clay mineral, a product that had been in high demand in pottery, refractory and rubber production.

The mine opened in 1975 and closed in 1999 – post the closure the area was rehabilitated and now forms part of the Tasmanian Forest estate.

Perhaps the most impressive area of the former rail line is the section where massive cuts were made into granite. The construction of this section of railway posed many problems for engineers.

Teams of men were set the task of cutting through sections of solid granite and building bridges and embankments through ravines. It was also necessary to wind the track up and down the mountains to accommodate the maximum incline permissible on Tasmanian railways of 1 in 40.

Along 7 kilometres of track 5 cuttings were made, with depths of 10,17,11,14 and 12 metres respectively.

Trewalla Station lies 15 km from the Scottsdale station, and 204 m above seas level. The station was built to service the small farming area of Maryvale, a settlement that has since disappeared. Trewalla is a Tasmanian aborigine word meaning mountain.

Riding through wet and dry sclerophyll forest, we reached a spot where the sign stated it is possible to view the Furneaux Group on a clear day – it was a clear day, but the horizon showed little ocean given the height of the forest. The Furneaux Group consists of 52 islands, and was the base for the sealing industry, but fortunately the last sealing permit was issued in 1828.

Kamona Station – an aboriginal word for venom, lies 5 km from the Trewalla Station towards Legerwood and is situated 311 m above sea level. This is 107 m higher than Trewalla station, making it the steepest section of the rail on this side of “Billy-Cock” with an average rise of 1 in 46.

The station closed in the 1950’s and none of the original buildings remain. However, there is an excellent shelter for picnics on the site now.

Tulendeena Station sits 24 km along the track from Scottsdale and 342m above sea level – making it the highest point on the North East Rail Trail, as the infamous Billycock Hill descends into Legerwood further on.

Tulandeena Station is the end of the trail, at the junction with the Tasman Highway. Time for a snack before retracing our steps.

We zipped back as it was a gradual downhill for about 15 km, then slightly undulating for the balance. No stopping. Very pleasant and enjoyable.

Back in Scottsdale we came across this amazing thumb with an interesting story.

Joshie Janoschka was a local resident (formerly from Germany) and he had a tree fall across his gate after a fierce storm. Instead of cutting it into firewood, he opted to carve a Big Thumb, such was his sense of humour, and his gift to the district. Joshie passed away in 2004.

The final view is from Scottsdale looking back over the area we had ridden.

Is this trail good? Yes, 54 km return, well made, scenic, safe for families.

Well done Dorset Council and Scottsdale Rotary for their vision and hard work in establishing such a wonderful trail for the benefit of multiple users.

The area and incline data

Ooroo

Sharron

2019 done and dusted

Just like that our current cycle tour finishes, and it is 2020 with the blink of an eye.

Leaving Barry and Kerry early (to minimise NYE traffic) we headed out on 5 km of gravel road, climbing 100 metres. I stayed upright. Miracle number 1.

The traffic was minimal on the State Highway and only 18 degrees, nice climbing weather. The first climb was only a few km after leaving the gravel.

It was very overcast making sombre photos.

Refuelling with a shared lasagne at DD’s and it was outer Auckland and our North Shore destination arriving back at 1.30 pm.

It was straight into cleaning and stripping down the bikes ready to transport them home to Tasmania.

Another great tour concluded. A short one at over 800 km and over 9000 metres climbing, but we are both due back at work Jan 2nd.

A phenomenal cycling year that saw me amass over 43,000 km for 2019 alone, moving into 8th position overall out of over one million zwifters globally, leading female and scheduled to be the first female to attain 100,000 km globally ( June if all goes well).

I also broke the Zwift world record for 24 hours riding (women) with an 836.1 km ride in August.

I continue to be a passionate advocate for ‘older’ riders, in the face of being told I am ‘too old’. Zwift management has lost its marbles politically speaking with so called leaders/ambassadors in Australia who are more interested in their take home dollars than true advocacy and ambassadorship, engagement and motivation.

On the road we achieved a huge 3,300 km and 8 countries touring in May, facing challenges including central Europe’s wettest spring in 30 years.

2020 will be huge. Aside my 100,000 km goal I have been appointed as a ride leader and ambassador for Italy Bike Tours which will see me at the Giro d’Italia supporting riders, as best I can. This is a huge acknowledgement for what I do in encouraging others to challenge themselves, and supporting riders achieve their goals.

I have made so many wonderful friends through cycling around the world, and this year caught up with them in the Czech Republic and New Zealand.

Last night we were with a few of them in Auckland. Suzanne, Deb and Gervase are in the first photo, John, Vic and Tony in the second.

I am forever thankful for my cycling extended family, those who accept me as I am, encourage and support. You all know who you are….but in particular Gervase for being my sage and Mirek for being my little brother.

To Tony for his boots and all attitude to my crazy ideas, love and hugs.

So 2019 – behind me now!

Sweet and sour

Second last day of this cycle tour…boo,hoo…but being down the business end means needing to navigate traffic into larger cities, and in our case, peak holiday period.

Our day started off pleasantly enough at Baylys Beach. This is the view we could see from our breakfast table. The rolling hills remind me of King Island, where links golf courses have been established in two coastal areas.

As breakfast was not until 8 am, we left later than usual. Not ideal as we knew we had about 118 km and 1150 metres climbing, and the latter half on New Zealand’s busiest Highway SH1. No options really.

Today’s route. Essentially east, then south, east and south.

After rejoining SH12 first town was Dargaville. Not a particularly inspiring town, and in overcast weather looked a bit dreary. The toilets were nice and bright. We also crossed that long bridge, over the Wairoa River, which has no verge so we zipped across as fast as we could.

Then the road was very straight for quite a long time. Agricultural region boasting kumara and plenty of maize including trial crops.

There were interesting geological features that stood out in otherwise flat farmland. The first is Maungaraho Rock, an extinct volcano plug that has eroded over time.

The peak below is Tokatoka Peak. It is a rare phenomenon as it is the plug of an ancient volcano. The material around the plug has also eroded over time, leaving only the hardened lava core.

in the pioneering days, the river pilot lived at the base of Totatoka and would climb the peak to watch for sailing ships in Kaipara Harbour.

Wairoa River continuing its journey out to Kaipara Harbour.

In the small town of Ruawai we stopped for refreshments. I recalled stopping here last year on my solo trip, and also recall the same scooter. Must be a local hangout for the elderly gentlemen.

Moving on nice rural scenery.

Before you know it, we have clocked up 75 km and decide to grab some lunch in Maungaturoto.

We were having to work a bit harder now as the hills became more regular. We climbed up to Brynderwyn and where else do you park your bike at the junction with SH1 to take a photo?

The local shop has a collection of bikes. Lost yours? Might be here!

I needed more water and purchased the very last bottle from the staff member who seemed to be having a bad day. Very grumpy. When assistants are like that, I am extra nice, wishing her a fantastic afternoon. She just looked at me……This is when our ride today got ugly. It was pretty horrid really as we were on a major highway, with verge ranging from zero to reasonable. It was incredibly busy and to make it more interesting (as if more challenges were required) it was drizzling lightly. Just nuisance value whereby your glasses end up with water on them to reduce visibility.

Utmost concentration was required. As can be seen from the elevation graph, it was hillier now too.

Lighter moments in the town of Kaiwaka. What this place is I am not sure…maybe a cafe?

This building? No idea….

This cheese shop amused me. You can see on the left that it is a Dutch Deli…..but….they have the Welsh flag flying.

It was such a relief to arrive in Wellsford, despite the last climb. Curiously, traffic was crawling up the hill slower than us!

We picked up some food for dinner, as we are staying some 7 km south of Wellsford with no local food options.

Aagh it was gravel….not again! 🙈 A picture of concentration as I climb up this gravel road.

It is a lovely area though.

We are staying at Barry’s Air BnB. I stayed here last year on my solo journey, final night.

Barry is an interesting guy, currently working on set design for the next Lord of the Ring movie. He hand draws all set designs.

He constructed his house and is into recycling parts where possible.

Since I visited last, he has constructed an external kitchen. We prepared and ate our dinner here. Useful for storing bikes too! If you look carefully you can see my cycle clothing hanging out to dry in the wind.

So here we are on the eve of our final day. We intend to get cracking early for a few reasons. Traffic for one and we want to be back at Gervase and Deb’s house by mid afternoon to start cleaning and packing our bikes up. Thats the worst bit…no time to celebrate!

Anyway that is tomorrow and we rest on our laurels for surviving today!

Thanks for reading,

Ooroo!!!

Tane Mahuta

A beautiful morning, fabulous breakfast, great company….hard to get moving! Enjoying our breakfast on Blair’s deck. This is my second visit to Blair, who lives in Rawene, a village on the shores of Hokianga Harbour.

He’s one of those guys you just get on with! You do not have to to watch what you say…as there are no pretentious airs, but a down to earth good fun guy. We had some quite numerous conversations over dinner on topics that the politically correct would rue.

The view across the back yard is very peaceful and serene.

Yummy breakfast cooked on Blair’s bbq and fresh food including bananas from his neighbours garden.

But farewell we had to bid, as today was all about hills.

Leaving Rawene views of Hokianga Harbour. Unfortunately our camera has developed an issue we cannot resolve, hence blurred edges.

Out to greet the roosters at the intersection , we turned right onto SH12. Fortunately it was fairly quiet still being early Sunday morning.

Opononi was awake and we grabbed some items from the 4 Square store for the day. I like Opononi. The waterway here is still Hokianga Harbour, but close to the mouth where it enters the Tasman Sea.

After Omapere, the hills kicked in, but nice views again. I think a house on this land where the cows graze would be really nice!

The road turned south after the climb, and we hit a headwind that was to become a real pain in the butt later in the day.

I’m going to throw the climbing graph in now. You can see that there are a couple of descent climbs. Carrying luggage makes these climbs tougher…slower…anything over 10% with luggage is hard work. We’ve had heaps of 15% climbs.

The longest climb today though was the one up through Waipoua Forest. It is an enjoyable climb though as it has a steady gradient. It provided relief from the wind, shelter from the sun and is scenic. Hawkers not welcome either!

After you peak the first climb, you descend about 75 metres in altitude and arrive at Tane Mahuta.

Tane Mahuta is reputed to be over 2,000 years old. The tree is also called Lord of the Forest and is a Kauri. It is named for the Maori god or forests and of birds.

In 2002 measurements were taken of the tree dimensions. The tree girth is 15.44 metres. The trunk height is 17.8 metres. The tree height is 45.2 metres. It is reputed to be one of the oldest and largest trees in the world, but is under threat from Kauri dieback that is decimating many of the native trees.

Some refreshments from the well located van.

Onwards we rolled up and down.

We visited a Kauri shop on top of a hill. An old piece of what we assume is Kauri decorated with….garden gnomes…..once upon a time, in my younger years, a friend and I were known for selective gnome relocations!

In the shop, the little old bespectacled lady with bucked teeth and gold fillings asked where we were riding to. She advised one small hill and down hill the whole way.

My memory of having ridden this section last year was foggy but looking at the surrounds it seemed a little impossible. It also made me recall similar advice Sue and I received on a stinking hot day en route Auckland to Wellington. That time a little old lady told us all the hills were done.

Both were wrong, both need new glasses, and I suspect both drove automatic cars! I stopped counting after 10 climbs of varying length. Never trust little old ladies assessment of what constitutes a hill on a bicycle!

The last few hours we really battled strong winds…not behind us either, making tough work of the easier sections! The west coast of North Island is in view, and we rode reasonably parallel south to it.

Our route map.

The traffic on SH12 really built up during the afternoon. We had a few dickhead drivers (my term for those drivers who deliberately buzz us and take no action to be anything other than selfish road hogs).

On the other hand, we had an awesome milk tanker driver…

On the back of Tony’s bike is his rear red flashing light ( I ride with my rear light flashing too) but his has an inbuilt radar. It notes cars before we can hear them. It sends a message to both of our Garmins (bike computers mounted on our front stem) with a beep and a dot that moves up the screen the closer the car gets to us.

When I hear the beep I then check my Italian cycle mirror, mounted off the right hand handlebar, look to see if I can move off the road anymore than I am, to provide the greatest margin I can between myself and vehicle. (These mirrors are excellent, and were recommended to me by a Kiwi riding friend Greg. When we ride in Europe, we swap the mirrors over to the left hand side).

In the case of the milk tanker, Tony was a bit further ahead and the radar had unsynched, but as I climbed I could head a truck well back changing down through his gears, but seemed a bit too low. Checking my mirror I realised he was moving slower than he was capable of to protect me as he had a few cars behind him.

So I got up out of the saddle and put in a bigger effort to get to the top of the climb, where Tony was, and off the verge.

He gave us a huge wave, as we did back. He was a great example of someone looking after us!!

Approaching the outskirts of Dargaville reminded us of what this town is famous for.

The last 8 km was a real slog. Again, I had inadvertently found accomodation that required climbing to get to. The wind was very strong and we had tired and at the 110 km point, having climbed nearly 1700 m with our gear on board, we were pleased to arrive in Baily’s Beach.

Nice view from our bedroom.

The local shop is the dairy, takeaway and restaurant so off we headed for a steak, starting with garlic bread. As we finished, I was amused to note the paper lining the base of the garlic bread plate.

Here we are in New Zealand, where they do a fantastic job of promoting their products. But sometimes, you just cannot get away from home…..

Thanks for reading,

Ooroo

The good, the bad and the ugly…not necessarily in that order.

After I finished my blog last night, I jumped into bed. As I lay there I was aware of something touching my upper legs (and it was not Tony!). I reached my hand down and grabbed what I assumed to be a moth, and threw it out across the bed, towards Tony as I expected it to fly.

The room was still quite light and when I checked to see if maybe I had inadvertently killed the moth, I was alarmed to see a reasonably large spider on Tony!

I jumped out of bed, as did he as he was alarmed at the sound I made.

The spider having been flicked off by Tony then tried to hide between the mattress and tucked in sheet…we ultimately won the battle and New Zealand has one spider less.

I have since identified it as a Tunnelweb spider..described as a very fast New Zealand spider and somewhat shy!

Shy or not, it was not sharing my bed and crawling over my body! This creeped me out! I do not think this has ever happened to me (knowingly) before.

Despite that, we both slept very soundly in lovely accomodation at an Air BnB.

We were on the road by 8 am and look what had already arrived in the harbour…yes, 3,500 Aussies. We beat a retreat and headed out of town!

Looking in the opposite direction provided a nicer vista.

We climbed a few hills and had one final view back towards Russell and the Aussie’s.

Following the harbour shores….

We hopped onto the Twin Coast cycle trail.

The first few km were excellent quality. Compacted gravel on top of existing railway infrastructure. At the bridge, an additional deck had been constructed on one side.

We entered at our own risk, but could not see what the issue was.

We arrived at the old Taumarere Railway Station, now used as a tourist railway from Kawakawa, but formerly supporting a thriving town of 1,500 people with industry and tourism benefits.

Our first stop was Kawakawa. Originally we were going to head further north to KeriKeri, as it is a lovely old colonial town, well preserved but after having been in Whangarei we learned of Freidensreich Hundertwasser, an Austrian born architect who spent the latter years of his life living in New Zealand.

His designs feature all around the world, and Kawakawa has a toilet block he designed that is regarded as an international work of art.

The style is typical Hundertwasser with wavy lines, irregular ceramic tiles, integrated small sculptures, coloured glass and a live tree incorporated into the architecture.

Hundertwasser requested that any vegetation removed for construction should be replanted on the buildings green roof.

The toilets are Kawakawa’s main tourist attraction, and the most visited toilet in New Zealand, with tourists buses arriving to photograph the toilets.

The toilets are fully functioning.

Back on the rail trail we crossed the Kawiti Truss Bridge that passes through the Ngapipto River Valley, where the descendants of the great Ngati Hine leader Kawiti live to this day.

Although Kawiti cautioned his people never to sell their land, it was confiscated for the North Auckland railway line in 1913.

This impressive truss bridge took 500 men to build and is 74 metres long.

I like this photo showing some of the truss work and the river below.

On the track we found an alive hedgehog. In the five previous trips to New Zealand we had only witnessed flattened dead ones!

I think it is cute, but apparently they pose a significant threat to many New Zealand native species due to their voracious appetites.

Hedgehogs are not endemic, having been first brought here by ‘acclimatisation societies’ to remind settlers of their homelands. They were later introduced in greater numbers to control garden pests such as slugs, snails and grass grubs.

We thought he was cute!

Further along the cycle trail, which certainly was not as well constructed as the first few km, and in many parts, was just a single true track, we found this sign. Interesting.

Kaihoke was the town we hoped to grab some refreshments, apparently a thriving town in its history. When the train line opened in 1914, 1000 people came out to celebrate. The town peaked as a trading centre in the 1950’s before falling on harder times.

Heading into the local Countdown supermarket for a cold, large bottle of water proved a futile exercise. Despite two laps of the supermarket I could not locate any large bottles. I asked and was told not available, but proudly showed me their extensive range of cold alcohol! 😂😂🙈

So in desperation I headed into McDonalds to buy iced coffee and fill our water bottles up in their bathrooms!!

Back onto the road for the last 40 plus km to Rawene, with minimal verge. Groan. Nice countryside though.

We were very glad to turn off to Rawene.

These critters seemed pleased to see us too. We later learned that this is the local dump point for roosters!

Quick trip to Rawene, as it is only 6 km in from SH12.

Down to the ferry at the road end….I caught this ferry last year on my return journey from Cape Reinga, arriving into Rawene to stay with Blair, an Air BNB guy that I have kept in contact with since on Facebook.

Great to see Blair again. Blair is a professional chef, and we have just finished an awesome meal that he cooked. Vegetables and greens all from his garden. We sat on his deck looking out to the harbour.

Todays route and elevation that has taken us from the east to west coast of New Zealand.

Tomorrow is another day…more climbing and over 100 km ride as we head south towards Auckland.

Thanks for reading, I need my beauty sleep…first I’ll check for spiders!!

Ooroo

Bay of Islands

The Bay of Islands comprises around 140 sub tropical islands, known for undeveloped beaches, big game fishing, and Maori cultural artefacts.

It is home to the 19th century port of Russell, with a waterfront promenade lined with remnants from its days as New Zealand’s first colonial capital.

To get to this area from Oakura means a lot of hills and today did not disappoint, with an 18 percent climb from our overnight accomodation…..again!! Around the corner, and again, climb out of the village. Nice views looking back towards Oakura Bay.

I have had to stop riding many times for various animals, but never for pigs! These guys must have escaped knowing the inherent dangers for them, particularly at Christmas time.

Climbing gives great perspective to the surrounding landscape. This first one is looking south.

From the same viewpoint is this boat…waiting for the tsunami action plan? It is about 75 metres above sea level and not in the greatest condition either.Looking north towards the Bay of Islands.

I quite liked the campsite chosen by these people. Highly unlikely to have many others join, as to get there you need to clamber down a steep bank with your gear.

We liked this view, just before a descent, looking at the boats in the harbour.

A few more coastal views before we headed towards Russell.

I could not resist taking a photo of this sign. 😂🙈

Arriving in Russell we headed straight to a cafe I had been to before for an iced coffee….but they gave us iced chocolate. Ho hum, but for the first time in 5 days we had more than two bars reception.

We met a father and daughter (Dave and Annelise), who had just ridden into town. They are on holidays in the region, but live in Whakatane, near White Island volcano. Lovely to have a chat before they headed off for a family lunch.

Russell was the first permanent European settlement and seaport in New Zealand. A small population of 720 in the last census, numbers are swelled by significant tourism.

Before European settlement, Russell was inhabited by the Maori, attracted to the area by its climate, and the abundance of fish, food and fertile soil.

In the early 1800’s the indigenous Maori recognised the advantages of trading with the Europeans, and started to supply food and timber to the Europeans using the Bay of Islands for safe anchorage.

In return, Maori sought respect, firearms, alcohol and other goods of European manufacture.

However, whilst Russell (then known as Korarareka) blossomed, it quickly earned a bad reputation for a town with no laws and rife with prostitution. It became known as the “Hell hole of the Pacific”.

The Main Street today is colonial and quite sedate, bearing no resemblance to its former reputation.

Nevertheless, we headed out of town via the ferry to cross over the harbour to Paihia.

Nice views whilst crossing.

Farewell Russell.Looks like funHello, or Hi ya Paihia and the big marlin. You can see me pushing my bike through here.

Paihia is very touristy. There are less colonial looking buildings, replaced by many modern accomodation businesses. There are some little gems though, such as this ‘wee’ toilet.

Camp Gregory also appealed to me. I think this is a sign in a private home garden….I do like their sense of humour.

Nice views from a lookout, just above the ‘wee’ toilet. The first one you can see Russell on the far shore.

This one is looking South.

The local ferry terminal with requisite tourist activity businesses selling everything from parasailing, helicopter tours, kayaking, artisan arts and crafts to plastic junk.

Tomorrow 3,500 Australians arrive on a large cruise ship!! Horrid!! Glad we’ll be on the road out of town!

In town earlier I had noted this stall promoting a Maori made product for eczema and dermatitis. I have both skin conditions and I have a spot of eczema on my arm currently driving me nuts. So we went back to check it out. I met two lovely local Maori sisters, Karina (left) and Judy (right).

I have purchased a small tub of the Taiamai balm made from the kumarahou plant, used by indigenous Maori for the treatment of bronchial, kidney infections and topical remedy.

The best value tub size was the large one but given my ceramic purchases yesterday, space is now ultra critical! Fortunately Karina can post to Australia. Check out her Facebook page, as I can tell you now, the itching has already stopped, so that should allow the skin to heal. ( Facebook….Taiamaiheritage).

Heading back to our accomodation, we passed an interesting stone church with an information plaque.

In 1831, thirteen Maori members of the northern tribes petitioned the King of England, William IV for a representative of the English Crown to be sent to New Zealand to establish law and order and give protection to all Maori people.

In response, the King appointed James Busby the first British resident, who in 1833 landed on the beach nearby. He was accorded a naval salute of seven guns and greeted by 600 Maori’s with a ceremonial haka.

Both Maoris and Europeans then assembled in the church grounds to break the letter on the royal seal. This ceremony was the precursor to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi seven years later. This current church is the fifth built on the grounds.

Another day done and dusted. Route and elevation maps.

A shorter ride today, but plenty of climbing to keep us ‘honest’. We have been lucky with the weather, and hoping that continues.

Thanks for reading

Ooroo

Oakura

For those regular readers of my blog, you may recall Oakura was an overnight stop on my solo Auckland to Cape Reinga and return ride March 2018. It was an unmitigated disaster, as it was the day Cyclone Hola hit this region and I was on my bike. Alone.

It was also the day I really needed a friendly face and warm accomodation but found myself in danger of electrocution in a dodgy, sub standard caravan operated by an even dodgier character, Jason.

Nevertheless, I found a kind couple who helped me out, picking me up from the dodgy accomodation and transferring me a kilometre or so to their motel/caravan park, greeting me with a mug of hot soup and a token to operate the clothes dryer.

I was so thankful and decided to revisit their site.

First off, we needed breakfast and had purchased eggs, bacon and cheese when the Tutukaka General Store was open on Christmas Eve.

Bidding our Air BNB host Michael farewell we tackled his driveway…18 percent gradient, warming us up for a day of hills.

Up and down into Tutukaka we then climbed and descended to Matapouri Bay where we spent time chillaxing yesterday.

Climbing up another hill to the parking bay for walks to Whale Bay. Some beautiful views and more tsunami warning signs.

Descended to Woolley’s Bay where the surfers were out in the water waiting patiently for their big wave!

Sandy Bay was next, and we then headed in a westerly direction through rural farming properties, up and down hills. More wild turkeys, and then another one cresting yet another climb.

Passing through the small settlements of Waipaipai and Marua we stopped to buy water and iced coffee in Hikurangi, a quaint little town.

There we met Tim, a very friendly guy who stopped us as we left the General store to talk cycling. He suggested we could wander up to the Curios shop, as that was where he had left his bike.

So after refuelling and using the local amenities we did that.

Turns out Tim lived in Tasmania for a number of years and still owns a property at Carlton Beach. Small world. He is now a drilling engineer in the oil industry working down at Taranaki near where we spent Christmas last year.

Tim also took a photo of us, which he kindly emailed.

Bidding Tim farewell (but not before a rendition of Waltzing Matilda played on a sheep herders whistle), we headed out of town to join State Highway 1. Air raid sirens sounded, and it was a very eerie sound.

We had only ridden about one km on the highway when we encountered all traffic at a complete standstill. We kept riding down the verge until we got to the front of the queue, and it was apparent why the air raid sirens had sounded.

We were hoping no one was inside the car. The car was making many loud explosive noises as bits started flying up in the air. We were well clear….in this photo Tony has used the zoom feature.

The fuel tank exploded and flames extended along the road.

The boys in red arrived.

They quickly extinguished the fire. Then the police arrived…having missed everything!

Fortunately the occupants were fine. A young Maori couple were brought through by police, including their very cute puppy. We were very relieved that they were safe and sound.

We were given the all clear to proceed, which was handy as the road was blocked on the other side for about 2-3 km. Many asked us what was going on.

We were pleased to leave SH1 and turn off towards Oakura. The traffic, curiously enough, was far busier than SH1 with most vehicles towing something ( trailers full of holiday items, caravans, boats).

Rolling hills looking considerably drier now.

Descending towards Helena Bay we noticed signs for a cafe and art gallery. We ummed and aaahed before deciding to check it out. It was down a gravel track!!

What a find it was. Bike racks and out of sight from this picture, security cameras watching the bikes!

Beautiful gardens, fantastic gallery, and scrumptious cafe with some amazing views.

Touring means you cannot buy much in the way of extras. Soooo we needed to rearrange our luggage as I purchased two ceramic items. The bikes really need to stay upright now!! I would photograph the items but they are nicely secured within bubble wrap and tape. They can stay like that until we return home.

Next stop, Oakura Bay.

The dodgy Air BnB is still running, and I noticed that the even dodgier Jason replaced the cracked caravan windows but still has a power lead running through the window to the power point.

Moving right along, we climbed the last hill and descended to our accomodation on the shores of Whangaruru Bay.

Interestingly the lady at reception remembered me from last year!

A curious place as the beach is used by owners of shacks on the next bay, only accessible at lower tides. Traffic gets a bit tricky at times.

Some really lovely shacks and views.

Here is a map of today’s route.

Today is day 6, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We loo, forward tomorrow as we arrive in the Bay of Islands region.

Thanks for reading,

Ooroo

Matapouri

Christmas Day, our third in New Zealand. Twizel, New Plymouth and now Kowharewa Bay, just outside Tutukaka. Beautiful views, very serene.

We are staying in a cosy little cabin, akin to an enlarged cubby house.

We decided to do a short Christmas ride cruise to Matapouri Bay, some 9 hilly km away. Bonus was the local store was open and we were able to grab a nice coffee. The owner was doing a roaring trade with a constant stream of customers.

Matapouri Beach is a long crescent shaped beach.We parked the bikes on the beach and got our bathers our to test the waters.Brrrrrr….not immersing the whole body!Heading down the beach….

A walkway to another beach reveals these Maori totems.

Volcanic beach on the other side.

Continuing along Matapouri Bay…wading through water to find a couple of small and private beaches.More totems. The area where these totems are has a tapu on it, and is closed for regeneration.

A lazy day, but very pleasant day.

Our Air BNB host Michael invited us to share some food and company with him, which was exceedingly kind.

We are ready to move onto our next destination, keen to get back into touring mode.

Ooroo.

The Knights who say Ni!

We paid a lot of money today to see something special, very special. There was lots of shrubbery too, so that makes it expensive shrubbery, enough to satisfy the Knights who say Ni.

I’ve always wanted a reference to Monty Python and as loose and flimsy as it is, we did visit the Poor Knights Islands today, there was shrubbery, but terribly inaccessible at that.

These world renowned islands are 24 km off the Tutukaka Coast and feature protected marine and island reserves.

Captain Cook first sighted the islands in 1769 and named them such, but unknown why. Two theories exist.

The first one is that at a distance, the shape of the islands look like a poor knight burial. On the battlefield the slain Knights were laid to rest with their shield on their chest, and a light covering of dirt.

You can see that in the photo below….head, chest with shield and feet.

The second theory relates to the English delicacy, Poor Knights Pudding. Sailors would leave their home port with plenty of bread. After some time at sea, the bread would be mouldy. Instead of feeding it to the fish, they caked it in egg and cooked it, adding raspberry jam to the top. It was suggested that as Cook first saw the islands with the Kiwi Christmas tree in flower, the green shrubbery with bright red flowers reminded him of the dessert he would have frequently eaten onboard.

This is an example of the tree from elsewhere as they have just finished flowering on the Poor Knights Islands. So the green shrubbery (mould) and red flowers (raspberry jam).

I think I prefer the first theory!

Before we headed out to the boat, we walked to the marina from our accomodation…no mean feat with the terribly steep hills.

We saw this sign!

The marina was calm.

We were first on board. Cyclist tan marks already! Noice!

I managed to be one of the first into the water, Complete with wetsuit, flippers and snorkel. I headed straight over to this cave, as the skipper told us you could swim through the narrow entrance and it then opened up once inside.

It was very dark in there, but the highlight is when you then snorkel out. The underwater light as you snorkel to the opening is incredible, with the most amazing schools of fish hovering around the entrance.

It was entrancing!

Not all snorkelled, as there were plenty of aquatic options.

We spent a wonderful few hours in this magical spot. Beneath the ocean surface there is spectacular water clarity and warm subtropical currents providing a rich, varied and abundant sea life. Steep cliffs plummet 100 metres below sea level, broken only by caves, archways and fissures that are habitats for over 125 species of fish, soft corals, sponges, vibrant anemones, kelp, forest, stingrays and myriad of other life forms. Jacques Cousteau has ranked this spot in the world top 10 diving locations.

The islands also have a rich cultural history and Ngatiwai, who used to reside on the island, are now the kaitiaki (traditional guardians) of a sacred covenant placed on the islands by the ringa kaha (chief) Te Tatua in 1822. This tapu was placed following the massacre of his people while he and his warriors were absent. It also covers the surrounding waters because some of the occupants had jumped from the cliffs to avoid being taken prisoner by the invaders. Landing on the islands is prohibited.

Before heading back to Tutukaka we cruised around a few of the islands and the skipper told us we would be entering the largest sea cave in the world by volume. Rikoriko Cave measures 130 by 80 metres with a ceiling height of 35 metres.

The opening does not look that big though…

The top of the boat in the cave.

The acoustics are quite amazing. Concerts have been performed including Crowded House.

Love this view from inside looking out.

This arch is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

We motored through it. So the reverse view…

The end of a perfect day….on Perfect Day (Dive Tutukaka). I can highly recommend this trip. It is not cheap ($450 NZ for two) but certainly memorable.

Tutukaka

I mentioned yesterday that our Air BNB driveway was steep. Photos seem to show angles accurately, but I assure you this has a 28 percent pinch…the second photo is me walking my bike down to the road with Tony looking back up.

I probably should have entitled this ride something to do with the letter S.

As you can see from the map, we weaved around. From Whangerei to Tutukaka there is a direct route, but to see more, and add more km to our day, we decided to head out via the Town Basin towards Whangarei Heads following the shoreline of Whangarei Harbour.

The ride undulated all day but was quite pleasant despite the wind.

At the top of one of our earlier climbs we met Peter, from Linz in Austria. He is doing his very first cycle tour. I love this aspect of touring, meeting people with similar mind sets and passions, comparing notes on where they have been, where they are heading, their gear set up and so on.

There were some early delightful views looking towards the coast.

There were numerous signs reminding people to keep dogs on leads to protect the kiwi, and other simple reminders such as this one.

Parua Bay village was small, but seemed to have a number of cafes, but we pushed on heading away from Whangarei Heads in a north easterly direction towards Pataua South.

Pataua South is a small village on the shores of an estuary, with a sandy surf beach behind.

The road came to an end but there was a foot bridge connecting to Pataua North. Here I am walking my bike across the bridge.No cafes, so we pulled up on the banks of the river to have a snack and enjoy the view.

The road weaved around heading back towards the outskirts of Whangarei. We finally found a cafe! The Black Stump at Glenbervie.

A nice cold fruit smoothie went down a treat!

Another climb and a lookout.

Before heading to our accomodation (for the next 3 nights) we rode down into Tutukaka to see what was where!

Climbed back up the hill, and turned into more hills before finding a steeper driveway than this mornings! I seem to have an incredible knack for selecting accomodation involving steep hills.

The Bach is a cubby house on the shores of Kowharewa Bay. This first picture is the view from our little deck.

Kids playing in the bay.

One final view.

I’ve got to stop writing. The mosquitos are liking me too much, and I should go inside!!

Thanks for reading, catch you tomorrow.