Find your grail…….

If you trust in your soul, keep your eyes on the goal, then the prize you wont fail, that’s your grail, that’s your grail…

So be strong, keep right on, to the end of your song, do not fail, find your grail, find your grail…

Life is really up to you, you must choose what to pursue, set your mind on what to find, and there’s nothing you can’t do…

So keep right to the end, you’ll find your goal my friend, you wont fail, find your grail, find your grail….

When your life, seems to drift, when we all need a lift, tell yourself you wont fail, find your grail, find your grail…

(Eric Idle)

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Taken by Barry (accomodation at Wellsford), as I was heading off on my last day

As I was driving to work today, I was reflecting on the ride that I completed a week ago – knowing I still had a blog to do to finalise the trip.  The blog had not happened as I was feeling a bit bland, in a literary and creative sense.  I had experienced a series of convoluted thoughts that I was processing and waiting for inspiration to hit me!

It hit me in the car as I was listening to songs from Monty Python’s Spamelot.  Hugely hilarious –  I  love Spamelot, the satirical stage show that was adapted from the Monty Python film the Holy Grail.  It is an irreverent parody of the Arthurian legend.  I have been lucky enough to see the stage show twice in London’s West End, in 2007 and again in 2013.

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The song ‘Find your grail was playing and as I listened to the words I drew parallels with my ride, and life in a more general sense.

Life is about finding your grail – in this particular case, my goal was to ride from Auckland to Cape Reinga and return, in one piece.  No falls off my bike!

I succeeded.  On this trip to New Zealand I rode 1188 km, and climbed 13,644 metres.  I did not fall off my bike – so no new wounds, and my bike remained intact.

Yes there were challenges – significant at that – most relating to less than favourable weather conditions, but I survived.

There were lessons learned – what I might do differently next time, more with regards to what to carry, what not to carry and how to carry it!

I am mentally tougher and stronger as a  result of this trip.  I can feel it in my bones – I know moving forward that I will benefit from this trip in so many ways on a personal level.  I know now I can do more than I realised that I was capable of – and I can do it on my own, with only me to rely upon.

I can withstand some of the crappy stuff in life better – those few people who choose not to treat me with honour, respect and due consideration .  It has also made me appreciate other things in life more, the majority of positive people who do treat me well and are genuine, kind, caring –  real people!

It has opened my eyes up, in a lateral sense, to further adventures.

I met some really great people on this trip – in fact, all bar one person, were wonderfully kind and friendly, with some going out of their way to help me.  Thankyou!

I had great support and encouragement from some friends, ensuring that I rode on ‘safer’ roads, concerned for me in other ways including hypothermia on the cyclonic rainy day, watching my beacon closely to know where I was – for all those who expressed concern and encouragement, thankyou.

So what is next?

In less than four weeks I head to Prague (Czech Republic) where I will stay with a zwifting family, Miroslav – he thinks I am going to be doing a race on cobblestones – we may be having a chat about that….as I do not want to injure myself or damage my bike, so early in the trip.

Then I head to Switzerland, probably basing myself around Bern – and I have a few rides that I intend to do including the Swiss Alp climb, Grosse Schiedegg (1962m), starting at an altitude to 700m, making is a 1262 metre climb, with views of Jungfrau and the north face of the Eiger.

Then to Zurich where I catch up with an Aussie riding companion Geoff, and we will ride  (carrying our own gear) to Veneto (Italy) via Germany and Austria – then hooking up with a Giro d’Italia tour, for the last 10 days of the Giro, ending up in Rome.

So my grail is to trust in me, be strong, keep setting goals and keep doing what it is that I love and challenges me…as along that journey I get to see awesome sites and meet genuine, beautiful people.

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9 days down, 2 to go

No early morning photo…I slept restlessly thinking about Linda, and finally fell asleep deeply waking shortly before I was due at breakfast being cooked by Blair. So i jumped out of bed and quickly made myself a tad more presentable, noting my eye lids were puffy from a lack of sleep.

Great wholesome and very filling breakfast. I could have spent hours talking with Blair as we had similar opinions on a wide range of topics including conspiracy theories, Illuminati, minimalism…

I needed to move my butt and get out on the road. The sun was shining, but there was the now omnipresent wind…groan.

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Rawene

A short distance out of Rawene and I pulled over for this amazing view.

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There were a series of 100 meter climbs before I arrived in Opononi. What a pretty spot.

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I stopped at the very first shop, needing coffee. As I waited I sat next to a massive bloke and we got chatting. He was part Maori, part Jewish, as well as an eclectic list of other ethnicities. He told me he was a Maori spiritualist, known in the area for his spiritual ability to read people and so on.

Well of course I was curious and asked what he saw in me, spiritually. The answer was ‘righteousness’…interesting as I think I am quite righteous.

We went on to discuss many topics including the Illuminati ( second time for the day), Maori history and flat versus spherical earth ( we disagreed on this one!). But I needed to bid ‘Gavin’ farewell otherwise I would never reach my destination.

Climbing out of Opononi provided magnificent views. Maybe I could live here?

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Then came the big climb for the day..today had a decent amount at 1558 metres, but this climb was 400 metres steady. My back was not happy so I spun up in my granny gear, also breaking to stretch, just because I could. I was missing not being able to get out of the saddle. The front handlebar bag prevents that given the weight.

Todays climbs…

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Couple of shots on the climb up.

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As you near the top of the climb there is luscious rainforest. It was very pleasant as there was no wind in this section.

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At the top of the first climb and descent there is a small flat section. Every hill climbing cyclists dream…. a coffee shop! This one sold ice coffee!

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Look at the lady on the right tapping the blokes back…maybe he is meant to be sharing his icecream?

This is a popular tourist stop for one BIG reason….Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest living kauri. The tree is known as the Father of the Forest, and is an estimated 3000 years old. I could not photograph the tree in one shot.

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There is even a loo with a view…

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As pleasant at it was, I needed to keep moving..,there was wind to battle!

I stopped at this bridge crossing…622108CB-28C2-4EFA-8413-AE9688B68EC0F9CE1AEF-B9B9-4EDF-9D24-7903556F3D68

Another stop, another hill, another view….

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A bit of light reading as I rested at a service station replenishing fluids.

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Trying to choose my next tractor

Approaching Dargaville, this sign informed me that it is the Kumara capital.

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Accompanying my back spasms has been one squeaky bike chain for the last few days. The mouse was getting louder and more annoying but I had no lube with me, so I was very excited to see a bike shop open in Dargaville. I spent a solid 45 minutes there leaving with a bike with no squeaks…oh, and umm my tyres were pumped up!!!

The front tyre had 50psi and the back 62…..they now have 100psi so I should roll a whole heap better..😬😳😊

Tonight I am in Turiwiri at a Farmstay. Great place, huge dinner and all is ok.

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That food is all for me

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My lubed up, pumped up steed is happy too.

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So two days left…hard to believe…wow, so now I need some sleep as I’ve had a few shite ones!

Ooroo

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Slow slog of a sloth

I want to start with a post script to yesterday’s blog (Saturday), entitled “Spirits have flown” … kind of ominous, as I have just been informed of the sudden death of a wonderful colleague and friend Linda…much loved and respected.

We gave each other a big hug before I went on leave…I’m glad as I will never get to do that again…

She had been ill but her death was still unexpected and I am truly shocked and upset. She was very strong and resilient and  would expect us to march on.

So when I was at the Cape, where the spirits leave, she passed away…may she Rest In Peace, now free of pain,  and her spirit soar.

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I woke early due to the sound of wind…oh no, groan, moan…rollover, pull the sheet over my shoulder, lie on the left ear…just maybe the sound will go away.

I have lost most of my hearing in my right ear (conductive loss), so if I lie on my left ear life can be quiet.

Yes, that’s better!

Unfortunately when I got up it was howling. Back to looking at the weather forecasts. I even half pondered about staying in Houhora another night as I have some spare days later. However the B and B was fully booked for Sunday night.

 

The little video does not really do justice as to wind strength, but on a bike, wind can be enemy.

I found my cement pills, took a handful, said my goodbyes and off I headed.

It was a slow slog out to Awanui (31km) with the strong gusty easterly wind battering me and pushing me out towards the middle section of the road. Thank goodness most traffic was heading in, rather than out.

I loved it when I came to sections with bamboo to my left as it provided wonderful wind protection, at least for short sections at a time.

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I planned to stop at the Kauri shop at Awanui as I desperately needed a coffee.  I felt really tired, heavy eyes.

The lady that served me asked me where I was riding to, and she was a bit surprised, so much so, she gave me a coffee on the house!! Here is my favourite barista!

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I also wanted to buy a carved bone souvernir. I saw it when I stopped in two days earlier, but had mixed feelings given I have to carry it. But I bought it anyway.

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The symbol in Maori represents ‘leadership’

Kaitaia and Ahipara were the next two towns, but I decided to re route to save 5 km.

The rest of the days ride was through a mixture of farmland and heavily vegetated areas, with a bunch of hills thrown in for good measure.

Each of the climbs seemed to be into headwinds..in one case the gusts were so strong, and the 14 percent gradient had me do a quick decleat as I was worried about losing my balance. So I am not too proud to ad it I walked about 300metres then, as I was unable to recleat.

So here are some of the pictures I took as I stopped to rest my aching back.

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I was actually descending when I noticed this place. Check out the chainsaw.

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Broadwood was a place I thought I might have a break at. However, it is like a ghost town. This statue was about the most happening thing.

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So instead I stopped at this bridge to demolish a choc chip cookie I had bought back in Awanui,

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Climbing up the last climb of the day there were some nice views.

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I was really knackered today. Two days of strong winds were taking their toll on me. Fortunately the last 10km gave me some reprieve as finally I was out of the headwind.

I stopped at Kohukohu briefly to grab a drink and icy pole and it had started drizzling. Stuff that I thought, as the ferry was only 4 km or so away.

So icypole in one hand I darted off to the ferry, where I got my first lucky break of the day! It was about to leave but I had just made it!

What a bargain! $2…..

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I am spending tonight in Rawene, at a B and B owned by Blair. He cooked me tea, and wait for it, he is a chef! We had a great chat about life in general and I can’t wait for his cooked breakfast!

I am comprehensively stuffed! It has been a tough couple of days both physically and emotionally as a result of two tough days on the bike being hampered by such strong wind. My back is playing up, I think because I am holding on too tightly in the winds.

Tomorrow is a tough one on paper being 110 km and 1558 metres climbing. I am told the forecast is for more wind!

C’est le vie!

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.

Spirits have flown

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So here is my jumped out of bed photo for today…quite early, as I was a tad restless last night.  Twinge of pink sky has me wondering.

I did not get away quite as early as planned, for no particular reason other than I was just fart assing around a bit. Even then , when I did hit the road, I found that my Garmin was only at 77 percent charge, I had packed the battery charger and left the cable behind! Great!! I discovered this 4 km down the road and was not turning back.

Today was to be a tough ride in that it was 136 km with 1750 metres of climbing. However, it started of well, and the air was fairly still. Not many cars on the road, and it was a pretty good road at that.

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Looking to the east

I stopped at a farm for a bit of a back stretch around the 35 km mark. It was a Maori run farm, complete with wild turkey out the front.

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The road undulated and the climbs got bigger the closer I got to the cape. But the top of hills provided great opportunity for views and photographs.

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Getting pretty close to the cape now.

The biggest climb of the day is the one to the cape….I became aware of a South Easterly breeze about 10 km out, hoping it would help me up the last hill. Here is my climbing graph. Lots of ups and downs…the big one in the middle is the climb up to the cape car park.

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I was very pleased to arrive at the cape! As I went to walk down to lookouts and lighthouse I saw someone I recognised….Margaret, the mother of Fiona whom owns the B and B I am staying at! ( plus her husband and their friends from Iowa.

Whatsmore, the young German family I met at Matai Beach two,days earlier were there too!! Small world!

Margaret kindly took this photo.

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I then walked the reasonably long walk down towards the lighthouse, pushing my bike as I was not willing to leave it all alone in such a busy carpark.

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The lighthouse can be seen in this photo

On the way down there was a young bush walker about to head off on an extended walk. We got chatting and he was a young lad from Israel who just finished three years compulsory military training and was having a gap year before University.

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The young bush walker getting ready to head off

Interestingly his travels started in Siberia. After New Zealand he was off to Papue New Guinea. He kindly took a photo of me, as I then did for him too. He had a massive camera! I would hate to carry it!

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As I continued walking down the path with my bike a number of people spoke to me congratulating me for riding up,the hills…guessed they had passed me in their vehicles.

At the lighthouse the camera got a good workout. This is the point that the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. The cape is also where the Maori’s believe their spirits leave once they have died. As a sacred site, no food or drink is to be consumed to respect their beliefs.

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I then walked back up and started my ride back to Houhora. What a horror that turned out to be with a headwind the entire 68km. Even on decent descents the bike did not go fast! It was seriously hard work.

I stopped at a cafe some 20km later for some lunch, really needing a break. Then it was back to toiling the wind…stopping again about 20 km short of Houhora at this spot.

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I was physically and mentally fatigued..I had not much left in the tank to battle winds with, but needed to find some inner reserve.

Onelast view.

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I was very relieved to see Fiona’s sign for fruit icecream in 200 metres….I was so hoping she was still open! Great joy, YES! I enjoyed that icecream!!!

Now I am tuckered out, having been treated to a lovely home cooked meal!

Outside it is stormy with wild wind and rain. I have not yet looked st the forecast but hoping it blows out before morning, as I have another long day with about 110 km to be covered.

To all those sending me messages of support and encouragement I thank you so much. It certainly helps me particularly when physically and mentally fatigued. Xxxxxxx

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Stephen’s wise words of wisdom

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What a brilliant quote…I’d like to think that I am achieving what he said…I am forever trying to make sense of what I see and feel (not always successfully I might add), I am curious by nature always wanting to learn more, also very inquisitive  and enquiring in order to expand my mind. Yes, life has thrown me some curly challenges, and cycling is what helps me survive and succeed and stops me from giving up and tossing in the towel.

Last year I was asked, what makes me tick? I initially gave a glib answer…but it is a good question that I have since given a lot of thought to.  Thought I knew, but now ?

Since then I have set myself a series of personal challenges…and this particular one is the toughest as I am doing it all on my own. Only me to rely on and a few people as backup ( by phone) if I get desperate.

I have discovered I am far more mentally resilient than I realised, and I think I can take on other demanding cycling challenges…just what I am not sure, but I have my thinking  cap on…

So back to today. I awoke to this view from my bedroom window. Now that big lump is where I am headed. But I need to ride out of this peninsula, and up the next. Rain was forecasted.

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I had a sumptuous breakfast cooked by the gorgeous Els…I will miss her as we did have a nice heart to heart talk today about ‘stuff’, and she is genuinely caring and kind.

It was threatening to drizzle as I departed quite late at 10am. It was a 15 km ride out to the highway, then another 15 km down the highway to Awanui, where I stopped at the bakery for coffee.  I was quite intrigued by the little river as it hardly seemed big enough for all the watercraft.

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Turning right I was heading on the highway to Cape Reinga. Only one km up the road is a shop selling kauri tree products, which Els had recommended I stop at.

There is a sign up stating that all the kauri products sold were from recycled kauri, carbon dated 40 000 to 50 000 years ago. Wow!

Inside there are a variety of kauri products for sale, as well as other kiwi products.

I was intrigued by the tree stump that had stairs carved through the centre, taking the visitor to the second floor.

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There were some mangnificent kauri art works for sale…but…anything I buy, I have to carry, ensuring my continued fiscal tightness!

It was at this point my Garmin started playing up, beeping erratically and annoyingly! It failed to measure distance and speed for about one km, but reduced the average speed as if I was riding at zero kmh. Weird, so I stopped it, saved, and turned it back on. At least the beeping stopped!

It was pouring with rain now and I was quite wet but could not be bothered stopping to put my raincoat on as I was not cold. I came across a butchers shop in the middle of nowhere that had some general store provisions, and I left with some local made biltong which I will use for my ride up to the cape tomorrow.

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Perfect size portions for cycling

Arriving in Houhora it was still pouring at my stop by the game fishing club.

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It was only another couple of km amd I arrived at a food stall on the side of the road, indicating I was at my destination. Fiona, also sells honey, a range of local crafts and vegetables as well as yummy fruit ice creams.

My home for the next two nights is in the old jailhouse. Some might think that quite appropriate for me.

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Note the bike is inside!!

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The lock is on the outside of my bedroom…. and
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A very thick door too.

So for dinner I headed down to the local fishing club with Fiona’s parents, who are also hosting a couple from Iowa. Got to meet a bunch of very friendly locals, have a meal that offered a great view, and an apple cider more reasonable in price…$5.50

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Tour du Karikari

Today was a cruisy day..the easiest scheduled day out of 11 days riding, both in terms of distance and climbing.  So I was in no great rush to leave Coopers Beach, as I was cosy and comfy, enjoyed a nice breakfast and chat with my hosts.

Then I read the review that the guy who owned the caravan, Day 2 caravan debacle wrote about me…he was full of shite, covering his backside, inferring I did not arrive at  2pm, that he had a nice warm shower and towels waiting for me… and these problems were all of my own doing ( the soggy toilet and toilet paper were overlooked)..oh boy, I am going to do something about his electrical safety issue now! I have the photo …I might just save someone’s life!

Another cup of coffee was required…if it was nighttime, an apple cider or something stronger!! Grrrrrrrr

One bonus of bike packing is that it does not take long to pack up so I was on the road around 9.30am, and I followed the bay along to the turnoff the the Peninsula.

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Nice ride up the peninsula, with that ever present headwind accompanying me.  Not a lot to see on the way in.

I headed down to Tokerau Beach for a gander. The sign indicates that the beach is also a road.

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Plenty of tyre tracks

Plenty of tyres on the beach too, filled with cement, as well as an old refrigerator, filled with cement. I guess they were part of bank retention at some point, but had washed away.

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Motorbikes were racing up and down the beach..teenage boys not at school, but enjoying themselves with a bit of speed.

I then cruised up the road a bit further and found a loo with a view.

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Rates well in my top 10 loos with views!

Steep pinch of a short climb took me back to the main internal road, and I headed to the famous Matai beach. I went last a very swanky looking Carrington resort, promoting food…but I am sure I would not be acceptable in my very nice Rapha gear!

So on I road, and found this vineyard offering food. I looked at the driveway and thought, hmm, umm…

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Heaps steeper than it looks…remember photos never show true gradients.

I knew rain was forecast and I decided to press on to Matai Beach and return here to ‘kill time’ upon my way back.

Over the road from the vineyard was a lovely vista, overlooking the golf course and out to the bay.

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A few more km along the road and I hit gravel….lots of corrogation, pot holes and drifts of thick blue stone. My bike does not handle gravel well at the moment with the handle bar bag weight altering steering and control somewhat.  Not only that, but most of my falls, historically,  have been on gravel. So I walked over the corrugated sections, and started riding very slowly the rest of the way in.  I have enough knee scars currently!

Matai Beach is lovely, secluded and today, fairly quiet, with only one young family, and two snorkellers present.

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I spent a very lazy hour at Matai before heading back for some lunch at the vineyard. Brilliant views, great food!

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I spent nearly two hours killing time here, the weather was closing in a bit, and I decided to make tracks to my accomodation which was available from 3 pm…but I knew I was going to be there by 2.30pm, hoping they did not mind.

I am in a beautiful home overlooking the waters towards Houhora. These views are from my bedroom!

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The hosts very kindly invited me to join them for dinner, which I was most appreciative for given the seclusion of where i was. Freshly caught fish in a yummy homemade curry.

I am going to need to be evicted by force tomorrow, particularly given rain is forecast! Technically an easy day as I head to Houhora, in preparation for a long day on Saturday to the Cape and back.

Another day…what can I say? ( hills, headwind….but beautiful vistas)

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Ferry crossing from Russell to Paihia

Leaving lovely Tapeka meant getting up the big hill. The lady who owns the B and B assured me it was not as steep heading back into Russell. Yes, she was right… it was only 15 percent! ( recalling it was 19 percent heading the other way)… easy as! NOT!

Onto the ferry for the crossing…a larger stretch of water than I had envisaged. I had forgotten to turn my Garmin off, and half way over I suddenly remembered…poop, the boat was only doing 14.5 kmh…should have taken the fast ferry!! That was going to make my average even slower for the day, ha ha.

A large cruise boat was anchored, looking quite out of place.

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Paihia was busier than I thought, with lots of activity. The giant marlin was one of my first sights.

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Paihia

I rode straight out of town ( once I got my bearings, using my phone to double check I was heading in the right direction). I followed the road along the waters edge, across a bridge and I took this photo.

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Heading to the Waitangi Treaty grounds

Arriving at the Waitangi Centre, I decided not to enter as it would mean leaving my bike unattended with all my worlds possessions.  To the non Kiwi readers, this is regarded as the birthplace of the country of New Zealand, when the Crown (the British) got all the Maori chiefs to sign a document (that they could not read).

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The land was gifted by the Bledisloe’s hence why there are lots of things named after them…the Bledisloe Cup, Mt Bledisloe…

The land is very picturesque in this area. The adjacent golf course has magnificent views.

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Unfortunately the Bledisloe’s nor the NZ government/regional council have sealed the loop road through here and I climbed up a gravel hill and descended very very carefully (most of my scars on my legs are from falls and faceplants on gravel, and I only have one spare derailleur hanger with me).

I saw the signs for the Haruru falls and as I crossed the bridge saw the wrong end.

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The wrong end…Haruru falls from the bridge

So I peeled off the road, across the grass, down the track to have a better gander.

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Nice but I was not venturing further out with my cleats on rocks.

Looking downstream to a lovely vista.

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I turned left off the highway into Kerikeri at about 33 km, stopping at the first bakery on the left, succumbing to an early lunch as their food was good!

The other end of town has a lovely park where there used to be a British settlement.

This stonehouse is the oldest in New Zealand and operates as a shop. Some nice stuff, but when I have to carry whatever goods are purchased, one is quite judicious in spending money!

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The view from the front of the Stonehouse across the river.

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Crossing the river on a walkway bridge is a layout representation of the former settlement.

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Then looking back from the other side.

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Back onto the highway I had a 20km climb. It was a steady but reasonable climb, but I was glad when it was done! I was pretty thirsty and getting low on fluids so stopped at Kaeo.

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Refuelling. I sculled the one litre coconut water.

The farmland is incredibly green.

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I started counting down the km until Monganui as I was starting to feel a bit tired. I stopped when I could to stretch my back….and take a photo.

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Finally Momganui!

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But, I was not staying in Momganui…and I had one final climb to undertake before arriving at Cooper’s Beach. Wonderful accomodation…I have  large wing of the house to myself, and my washing has been done, hung on the line, later found folded on my bed!!

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The view from the deck of the house I am staying at.

Today’s route and climbing data.

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So for dinner tonight I walked to Mangonui..another steep walk. I went straight to the famous fish and chip shop overlooking the water. Seafood chowder, coleslaw and one apple cider, and i walked out the door with an icecream in my hand.

I am tired tonight.

Tomorrow is an easy day. Easiest of the trip and I am looking forward to it. Only 50 km or so, with a lot less climbing. The weather forecast is good, and I hope to sit on a beach and maybe have a swim.

The last photo is the view from where I sat at dinner. Magnificent.

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It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country….

…since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

Impressed?? Well that quote is not mine, but that of American novelist Ernest Hemingway. I agree with Ernest, as would most cyclists.

Do I like riding hills? No, they are painful! I’m not very good at them and given my knee issues I spin up in a low gear. Add on 10kg of weight, granny gears get a good work out. But there are normally nice views to enjoy.

Today was to be a day of short, sharp hills.  Here is my graph for the day.

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Leaving my comfortable motel room I ventured by the bay for a glimpse on my way out.

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I walked to the top of the first hill as I had not started riding and my legs were dead cold. Nice views.

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Cruising down the hill to sit in the sun in front of the caravan from the previous days debacle…so I could use their wifi!! Well, I had paid a nights accomodation, so I did not feel guilty at all.

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Today’s route was to take me around the Bay of Islands, encompassing more than 140 subtropical Islands, renowned for undeveloped beaches, game fishing and Maori  cultural artefacts.

In a 2006 study apparently the Bay of Islands was found to have the second bluest sky in the world…how do they measure that? Certainly well down the list today I would have thought…

Some photos from the journey…there is only so much one can say about climbing, but they do come with nice views and one unique letterbox.74A6267C-2D70-4843-AE9A-C6CCE54059434A2E3F1A-64C9-4B7C-BD0D-9186CDFD3DE064D9C235-3757-4A72-B415-98F1DC7A9AE1

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This made me stop! Good for a laugh.

Short ride of only 50 km had me in Russell, an old whaling town just before noon (I slept in today!). I did a quick reccy and found a cafe to replenish me, with really good free wifi.  I finished yesterday’s blog there and stayed until they closed at 2 pm.

My accomodation tonight is just out of Russell at Tapeka…just head up the Main Street and keep riding.  Oh yeah, right! I took one look at the hill, got off my bike laughing, turned my Garmin on as I wanted to see what the steepest section would be gradient wise.

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The above section peaked at 14 percent..then around the corner 19 percent

Now pictures are deceiving (very deceiving in this case as it looks quite rideable) when it comes to gradients, and the road twists with another section out of sight. The steepest bit came in at 19 percent..unrideable for me with or without luggage. So I walked…here is the graph.

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Tapeka is a nice spot, with interesting geology and beaches. My accomodation is lovely with a nice shower and towels…the new benchmark!

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I walked back into Russell for dinner, partly via a rainforest walks named “Jim’s”.

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I had a great dinner at the local tavern, including dessert, only because Patrick told me to!!

Walking back up that same steep road, I detoured up to Flagstaff Park, a historic site. So not surprisingly there is a flagstaff at the top, with magnificent views.

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An interesting history of the beleaguered flagstaff by Maori tribes.

I found a nice house to buy… I was impressed with the bath and view….I don’t have a bath in my house, but would love one sometimes to luxuriate in post a hard ride.

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Looks like a massive bathroom, check size of the window.

Walking back through Jim’s I arrive in Tapeka. A survey on road usage is being conducted, with the same rigour as the recent Australian census debacle..in fact, I reckon this method is pretty neat and probably more accurate, and very cheap to undertake.

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Note that there are theee jars with different coloured lids.  The jar on the left contains shells. If you walked, cycled or ran into Russell, up the road, you take a shell out of the white lidded container and pop it into the black lidded container. So yes, in reverse the shell goes into the green container.  All the data is presented on public charts. Who needs statisticians?

So tomorrow I head off to Mangonui, or just past actually to Coopers Beach…100 km, 1218 metres climbing, with one longer climb over nearly 20 km.

A final note before I retire for the night….the lady who,owns this BnB suggested my bike could stay outside, unsecured, for the night.  Hmmpf, obviously not a cyclist. This is where my bike is now.

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My bike is where it belongs!

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Cyclone Hola vs Sharron (0-1)

I jumped out of bed early, not to look out the window, as it was dark! The wind was howling and whistling and I just knew there was nothing I wanted to see!  No, I remembered I had not charged my rear tail light!! I was going to need it today.

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This is perhaps my favourite ‘I jumped out of bed to look out the window’ photo to date….Montserrat, Spain.

Since I was awake I started googling meteorological forecasts to see if there had been a miraculous change in Cyclone Hola’s trajectory…umm, no! Then I checked my Facebook messages and there were a few from concerned friends, including this graph.

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This graph showed far more favourable conditions than some others! Not that 37-42 kmh winds are welcomed.

Messages started coming in thick and fast. All were concerned for my welfare, as was I! Opinions ranged from stay where you are ( very tempting as I was snug and cosy in a very comfortable bed), to well maybe go to the next town and bunker down. Noone had me going any further.

If I am honest, yes I was concerned. High winds and bicycles do not mix. I also felt pressured as there was no obvious alternative to not riding given I had accomodation bookings for the entire route. To spend an extra night in one place would have a domino effect.

So I got dressed, had a quick breakfast, packed my bike, said my farewells to the most gracious hostess ever, had my photo taken, and pootled off…not really sure how the day would pan out.

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I can summarise the day like this ….it started to sprinkle shortly after I departed… within half an hour it just kept bucketing down…and did not let up..and it still has not.

I got wet, horribly wet. The kind of cycling wet where when you sit back on your saddle, water leaks and dribbles out of your knick kind of wet, where you can feel your socks need wringing out…

I lost count of the number of long trucks that just drenched me as they passed spraying up water.

Then there were roadworks, slushy, boggy and very messy.

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This sign was just after the slushy roadworks finished…so there was cement powder in that slush. Awesome!?!

Then add wind…now I don’t think the wind was as bad as forecast. When it was a head or side wind it was a bit scary but it made me cold…really cold, shivering cold as the ride was in the last 40km.

All descents were slow as drainage was an issue and the downhills had torrents of water flowing, plus there were numerous rock falls on the banks.

On the positive side…umm let me think now….

There was some nice scenery. This first beach was really early on when it was sprinkling. I thought it was magnificent.

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Then rain of course puts a different perspective on views. Here are some views. I did not take a lot of photos as reluctant to get the camera too wet.

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I was so pleased to arrive in Oakura…I was very cold, very wet and shivering.

The main beach looked like it would be great on a nice day.

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I turned my Garmin off and this shows my route and climbing.

62FD77EC-B660-43B0-AF1C-F1D968F934B839E7C556-2552-4A66-9EEE-2E028EE9072CI went to the accomodation but no one was home. Bashed on their door, and sat down on a chair next to the door and felt like crying as I was a bit miserable. All I wanted was a warm shower and the opportunity to get warm and it seemed that option might be a time away.

I was booked into a seafront caravan…I noted there were two and the door was open to one, so decided it must be mine. It was seriously awful…no towel, no shower, and a porta potty outside with pre soggied toilet paper. I stood there…noting that every window in the caravan was cracked, it leaked and there was water dripping in over the power cords….

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Still shivering I decided only one thing to do and that was to strip off and jump into the bed wet as the doona seemed nice and warm. So that’s what I did. About 30 minutes later I felt much more human.EB46D116-6FAF-4FD5-8BBC-3039F39CEAB2

I made myself a cup of peppermint tea (carrying my favourite T2 tea with me).  I then put on every piece of dry clothing.

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Noice! Sartorial elegance personified.

For dinner I had a protein bar and a tube of baby food purée….as I was not venturing down the road 1 km to the local shop and getting wet!

I was talking to a few friends via messenger and John sent me a phone number for a motel over the hill. I rang it, and they felt sorry for me, came in, picked me and my bike up and took me back to their accomodation. Cup of hot soup, extra blanket and a nice motel room! They also gave me a token for the clothes dryer to get my gear dry! How kind of them, and I was so appreciative.

Early evening and the rain stopped and this was the view from my room.

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So what a day…full of challenges, but I made it.  Mental fortitude I seem to have when really called for. Today was such a day.

If you can dream it, you can do it!

As per my earlier blog, I slept badly and restlessly..ultimately jumping out of bed for a 6.30 am start. I showered, had a quick coffee and bite of food, last minute packing and then……I looked out the window and it was pitch black!! I had not thought about that…and my front light cannot be mounted whilst the front pannier in place..

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The bike all ready to go

What to do? Another cup of coffee of course…updating Facebook correspondence and messages…then out the front door, lock the house and then, where are my gloves??

Groan? No idea and I’m locked out of the house and bags all packed…..thinking, thinking, thinking….oh, there is a ground floor window open for Indie, the cat…so here I am breaking back into the house, over the kitchen sink.  Gloves nowhere obvious but oh look….. John has a pair…I am sure he won’t mind me borrowing them??? Well I hope not!?!

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Early morning East Coast Road..looking towards Murangai Bay

Little traffic made early progress easy. A lady cyclist (Liz)  approached from behind and we chatted and she offered me to follow her. I stopped after hearing weird noises from my bike…turns out my rear pannier had dropped and was rubbing on the tyre so some adjustments on the strapping fixed it.

Liz had stopped at a house and beckoned me, and then there were a few more, Renee, Dianne and Paul. It was lovely to ride with them for a bit, before we needed to part ways. Dianne kindly gave me a rear tail light to use, as mine had died due to  operator error!

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Paul, Liz, Dianne and Renee

So I rode up and down hills all day as you can see from my graph and my route is below the graph.

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It is not often one gets to see both the west and east coast of a country, in the one day. With the adjusted route today I got to do that.

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The sculpture above was one of a few for a local business. I loved this one too.

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The local business where Rhuby had a rest…

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At the 50km point the winds started to pick up. I have been watching weather reports more than usual once I became aware of Cyclone Hola in Vanuatu and its trajectory towards North Island.

A couple of nasty sidewind gusts got the old adrenaline going down one descent.

This was the view from a great loo stop.

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Loo with a view

Not far from here was a lookout with views ( funny that, who would have thought a lookout would have views!?!). In the last photo you can just see the west coast.

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From the lookout it was only about 10 km to Wellsford, where I was very glad to arrive. A fairly non descript town but I enjoyed a great lunch at the Blue Cat cafe… spinach, bacon and cheese salad, an iced coffee and a yummy raspberry icecream.

Whilst I ate my lunch, a young couple came in and wanted to talk to me about my bike, and what I was doing.  It is meeting people like this that actually provides me the encouragement to keep going. It is so refreshing.

Eventually I turned off the highway heading for Mangawhai, and then Mangawhai Heads.  I purchased some food for dinner and snacks at the local store, lent my bike pump to a couple of kids to get them moving, and peddled off to my accomodation.

Tonight I have a bedroom in the house of a lovely lady who has been outstanding in her hospitality offering snacks, wine, cake…maybe I should stay as the weather forecast is not promising. Winds of over 120k kmh.

On that note, Uncle Don rang… he’d watched the weather …and he rang in to see how I had fared today, what about tomorrow and oh, guess what? He has my riding gloves!!

I wanted to show two other photos. The first is my face post 116 km with wind exfoliation….and the second my washing..yeah yeah, not exciting but i love this rail idea in a laundry!

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So I’ll sign off now as I listen to the wind howling outside.

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Mangawhai