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!!


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