Gravel is not my thing.

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

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

Rural scenes, still very green.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway…life goes on. We liked this totem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kia ora

For the third consecutive Christmas , we are in New Zealand to do a cycle tour. I guess you could say that we like the place!

Kia ora is Maori for welcome. As a kid I knew the word Kia ora….it was the brand of sickly sweet green cordial my mother used to buy for us to drink. I do like the way that New Zealand has embraced its Maori heritage with so many examples of dual naming ( ie. English and Maori). The Welsh do it very well too, and can only wonder why we do not in Tasmania to acknowledge, recognise and value our extensive Tasmanian aborigine history.

Our flights out of Melbourne were delayed for multiple reasons. The plane arrived into Melbourne late due to the 44 degrees Celsius temperature accompanied by very strong winds and bushfire smoke closing one runway. All flights in and out of Melbourne were taking off and landing on the one runway.

When we finally boarded, the plane was incredibly hot. The pilot apologised. We could not have any air conditioning until he turned the motors on and we were waiting for two passengers who ‘will arrive shortly’. Famous last words.

Some 20 -25 minutes later two ladies boarded. Still they did not shut the doors. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

15 minutes later, the two ladies left the air craft.

Still the door remained open……

Maybe 10 minutes later, the two ladies reboarded the plane, with one holding the hand of a stewardess who seemed to be very insistent.

Immediately the captain asked for the door to be closed and cross checked!! She was trapped!!

As a result, we did not arrive into Auckland until around 12.45 am, and then at our overnight stay at Gervase and Deb’s house close to 2 am this morning.

First job, after some sleep, was to put the bikes together and Tony discovered my rear disc had been bent in transit. Poop! This needed to be rectified, or a new disc purchased otherwise I could not ride.

Here are Gervase and Tony discussing the situation. Fortunately for us, Gervase has the most bike friendly house ever, including a wide range of tools….disc was straightened successfully.

I am so fortunate to have a number of wonderful friends in New Zealand. I truly value and appreciate the friends I have made through cycling. Coffee and Christmas tarts with Gervase and Debra and we were on our way leaving Forrest Hill around 11 am.

We had arranged to have coffee with Dave at Waitoki. He is a Zwift friend, with us both being leaders for The Big Ring (TBR). When I used to lead Mink’s Centurion ride, Dave would regale us with corny jokes (sorry Dave), and describing his yoga efforts.

Proof of the catchup!Kaukapakapa was next after bidding Dave ‘ooroo’. This was the town where my stolen backpack was located in March last year by an eagle eyed cyclist.

Local park in the town with some interesting features.

The bikes all geared up.I am not sure what this is…fish? Maybe you can stand on it and walk along it for balance? Maybe you just look at it and photograph it.The hills started to get a bit more serious with some 13% pinches. The temperature had picked up to high 20’s. There was a really stiff breeze. Predominantly a headwind with occasional side gusts from our left, pushing us further from the verge.

The elevation map shows a few steep and nasty little pinches.

You climb, you get great views as a reward. Lush green farmland with sea views.

I like this sculpture and the cows who could not give a hoot.

Up and down, more views, more sculptures.

A very tidal river does not prevent a boat club from existing. Mangakura Boat Club has a lovely position alongside this river. We could see from tops of hills, that this river feeds out to a larger harbour and the west coast of North Island.Incredibly lush green farm land. In Tasmania many farms are already very dry and brown, so there must be solid rainfall here.

The last climb was a nasty little climb that just kept giving. I was very glad to be at the top and enjoy the views. Really any excuse to stop at the top of a hill….’oh, I just want to admire the views…”

Looking to the west.What goes up, must go down….so it was a nice descent and a few more rolling hills to arrive in Wellsford, a busy service town, and our overnight stop.

We were pretty keen for dinner, and walked the length of the town (that might sound impressive but maybe only 1km each way from our accomodation 😂 enjoying using different muscles for a stretch!)

The meal choice was standard pub fare bar the local cuisine speciality….wait for it…stew on toast!

We chose steak…Tony ate my chips and I ate his salad. The home made plum sauce ( in the wine bottle) was actually very nice, packing a peppery punch.

We will hit the sack early tonight to catch up on our beauty sleep.

Today’s route ( bar a straight line section where my Garmin was turned off under the Highway One sign).

Returning to our accomodation two final sights.

The heritage museum murals reminded me of Sheffield. Tasmania.

I did wonder why it was named Albertland having a quiet chuckle, as in my teenage years when I did cross country, there was an elderly lecherous athletic official named Albert who used to chase my running friend Catherine and I around the place as we tried to escape him (and we were very successful being far more agile and nimble).

I was somewhat stuck with Albert as my mother had arranged for him to give me lifts to cross country but she was unaware of his ‘tendencies’. I kept quiet as it was my only way of getting to the different venues to run until I got my drivers license and purchased a car.

I later figured it out…Port Albert is not too far away.So thanks for reading. Tomorrow is another day…new adventure….new memories.

Llamas or alpacas?

Papatoetoe

Our local copper Air BNB host got home at 2 am…we assumed…so we snuck out as quietly as we could so as to not disturb him. He has left us food out for breakfast but we decided to find somewhere in town…again, so as not to wake him.

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Town was rocking at 730am, and we found ourselves a nice spot to enjoy our breakfast.

Setting off up the hill out of Raglan the day was gorgeous. No wind, and a very rideable 18 degrees.

The day was a tough one to finish on. It was literally up and down all day.

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At times we had no idea where we were, but kept following our Garmin instructions.

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We were both really thirsty today and were drinking heaps. Water became an issue with no towns in sight. I noted a lady outside her farmhouse , so wandered in and asked if we could possibly have some water for our bottles. She was more than happy to oblige.

Another 30 km later, we were running dry and still had seen nothing open. We found a community hall so checked it out, and found a house with water coming from their storage tank.

We soldiered on.

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We stopped at this signpost as Garmin was turning us right, rather than following Highway 22. It was pretty warm now, and our Garmin indicated mid 30’s. We had some of our emergency food….in my case, pear and mango baby sachet!

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Here is Tony’s preferred baby food…..

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This is where I disagree with Garmin’s route. It took us off the highway up a bitumen hill…that’s ok…then turned us left onto a damn gravel road….that had the worst camber incline to date …it was so steep  loose and slippery…

Anyway 4 km later I popped out the other end.  It was a tad shorter than the highway but about 4 times slower….

We were hankering for more food and were very excited to see this sign as we were climbing a hill.

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An odd combination to advertise for a petrol station but surely they had cold goods. We were hot, thirsty and hungry.

$40 later….

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It was interesting to note the difference between diesel and unleaded. In Australia diesel is more expensive. Note the differential in New Zealand.

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Our accomodation is in Papatoetoe a southern suburb of Auckland chosen because of its proximity to the airport, and the start and end point for this tour.

Nevertheless we needed to negotiate a fair bit of built up humanity and traffic, complete with the normal offenders such as the dude who did a u-turn into the bike lane, or the other guy who sped past us to then turn left….we needed to break heavily to ensure we missed his side passenger doors…morons!

After 138 hot, sweaty, thirsty kilometres we arrived in Papatoetoe…

It is always mixed feelings I have at the end of a bike tour. Lots of memories, lots of hard work, great sense of achievement and accomplishment, but…it’s over!!

This was also the longest unsupported tour I have completed. I have done longer supported rides ( ie where someone transfers your gear, and your bikes are heaps lighter).

Tomorroe is another day and my kiwi friend Jacqui is putting on a bbq for us tomorrow, and friends John and Suzanne have invited us up to Snells Beach for NY…and have  Tasmanian champagne on ice!!

The bikes have been cleaned and in the process of being disassembled and packed for the trip home.

There they will undergo further work and upgrades ready for our next tour….in April we head to Europe for 5-6 weeks…..with our bikes!!

2018 has been a wonderful cycling year!

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Raglan

Today was our shortest riding day scheduled for this tour, but we were still up before everyone else at the holiday park. Mind you, I think we were first to bed too listening to the kids running riot until at least 10 pm.

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Today was our shortest riding day scheduled for this tour, but we were still up before everyone else at the holiday park. Mind you, I think we were first to bed too listening to the kids running riot until at least 10 pm.

We headed into the local shop to grab some ‘breakfast’ and coffee, which we took to eat in the local park. The day promised to be a cracker weather wise.

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We enjoyed 4km of sealed road climbing out of town, before turning left onto gravel. The first bit looked fine.

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Whilst today was a short 49 km, 38 km was to be gravel, 11km sealed. There was over 800 metres climbing in that shorter distance, and around 750 metres of that was gravel.

The views were great though.

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A lot of the gravel was shite. The cambers were very steep with lots of loose gravel. My bike and I had a few words! The bike wanted to head to the lower side of the camber, whereas I wanted the higher side.

You know the going is tough when you are descending at 11kmh! I also only had one foot cleated for the majority…wanting that uncleated foot ready to hold me firm.

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We moved on, slowly and surely, ticking off those kilometres.

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Then it was Tony’s turn for a puncture. That did not resolve all his technical issues as his rear disc brake pads were making noises and he pulled them out to inspect.

They were worn out so he replaced those as well. Amazing what he has learned off You Tube to become a handy bike mechanic.

Nice views from our repair site  although we were only part way up a climb. It is nice being able to sit in long grass in New Zealand knowing there are no snakes. At home you would be wary of the longer grass, although snakes also like short grass.

In Tasmania, all of our snakes are deadly poisonous….and protected!

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The area was again, outstanding.

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I was delighted to finish the ride to Raglan with a few more km of sealed road. What bliss!

We arrived in Raglan, along with half of New Zealand it seemed. The traffic was heavy and the streets were packed. Sitting at a cafe having some lunch, we felt somewhat overwhelmed. We had enjoyed so much peace and tranquil places, devoid of crowds, that the sudden crush left us craving that peace.

Notwithstanding that, Raglan is a great town with a strong vibe. Great cafes, craft breweries, quirky shops.

We met a young family, with three young children. They have travelled from overseas and are able to cycle some of the areas we have been. Dad is riding a tandem with the eldest child ( maybe 6-7 years old), towing a cart with the say 5 year old. Mum will ride towing a cart with the youngest. Wow!

They will be riding from Matamata to Rotorua, which concerned both of us, as that has been the hairiest day of all, with the large trucks, impatient drivers and minimal verge.  The carts with the kids are significantly wider than the bikes…..I wish them the best of luck. I have provided my details for strava so they can check our routes and a few suggestions we had.

The natural harbour is magnificent, and was being very well utilised.

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Whilst the sand may look muddy, it is in fact black volcanic sand

We spent quite some time watching kid after kid jump off this bridge. They were having an absolute blast.

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A closer look at the throngs on this section of the harbour

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22FE7BD2-897E-461D-A6A6-C60F69A691FFMy last two touring trips in New Zealand have involved Police. On the Auckland to Wellington trip, Sue and I were flagged down by the Highway Patrol ( flashing lights, siren – the full works),  as we had inadvertently made our way onto the motorway heading into,Wellington. Very nice man!

Then with my solo Auckland to Cape Reinga return tour, I ended up at the North Shore Police Station after my backpack was stolen whilst I was in a shop, under ‘unusual circumstances’.

So why should this trip be any different??

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Well fortunately all is good!! We are staying in an AirBNB owned by the local cop. He does not lock his house, assured us our bikes will be fine outside, as in 6 years no one has knicked anything.

Chatting to him I asked what the main issues were in town…drunk and disorderly, domestic violence, car accidents and……house burglaries! We have used our cafe locks!

So tomorrow is our final day. We need to make our way back to Auckland. We have revisited the route for this as it is a decent ride…anything between 140-160 km depending on ‘which way’. It is not flat either!

We will ponder firther, and get some sleep.

Ooroo

 

 

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Hairy foot backroads

Breakfast in Piopio was a bit of a flop. The milk in the kitchen had an expiry date of 20 December. There was cornflakes and rice bubbles and white bread…so we went with the latter and smashed left over bananas onto them, drizzling it with honey. Black coffee was the kick starter.

We knew today as going to be tough again, and that there were no shops for grabbing food or liquid for the 128 km, so we headed to the local milk bar to buy bottles of water and grabbed some nibbles.

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Ready to roll

This is the highlight of Piopio. The village green with a couple of murals.

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Our route today weaved around and was chosen as it kept us off the busy SH3.

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The first 21 km was excellent. Rolling hills and very quiet and peaceful. We went past the property where the Hairy Foot scenes were shot for Lord of the Rings.

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Climbing a hill, a short distance before the top was a car park and sign indicating waterfalls.

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We finished climbing up to the top of the hill and Then we bit the gravel…it went for 31 very long and slow kilometres. In addition we climbed 500 metres and descended about 200 metres.

Here is a nice and flat section.

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We had no idea how long this was going to last, and given  I was only doing about 11 kmh I was doing the maths and figured I may arrive at 9pm!

I have 28 mm tyres on my bike, ( it came with 25mm) Tony 32 mm. I’m just a tad nervous on gravel as the majority of my spills have occurred on gravel, mainly as a result of me braking at the wrong time! I have some nice scars to remind me.

The countryside was splendid though, and a distinct lack of traffic. I felt I was fairly safe and private stopping for a pee on the roadside…..however, I turned around and I seemed to have attracted attention!

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At the 52 km point we arrived at a T junction. To the left….bitumen. To the right ….bitumen! YES! Tony told me tostop smiling so much 😂

There was a little shed at the junction and we took the opportunity to have some food….a protein bar and a UHT sachet of baby custard! We also noted that one of the spare bottles of water has bounced off the back of Tony’s bike so a bit less water!

About 15 km later we found this shop!!! Fairly new, and attached to a house!

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So a ham and cheese croissant and iced coffee later we felt far more nourished.

Another customer asked where we were headed. I asked if there was any gravel sections? “No, not much” I asked him how many km were ‘not much’….his response was “ hmm…maybe 35 km”….

Groan! Then he recanted and said maybe he was wrong and there was none! Fingers crossed!!

Lots of climbing today – over 1800 km, thereby providing many views. Water in the distance!

 

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We got closer to branches of Kawhia Harbour.

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More hills.

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Finally we turned left onto the main road to Kawhia. Up and down, up and down and we came to this fence. Lost your bike? Might be here!

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We are now in a cabin at a caravan park for the night. We walked into town to check it out and had a great meal at the local pub.

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Low tide reveals the black volcanic sands.

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This image quite appealed to me, stranded on the black sands.

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The two sides of the totem at the local park.

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I enjoyed watching these youngsters having fun playing in the muddy creek.

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Two days left. Tomorrow is Raglan. More dirt, more hills!

So better get some beauty sleep!!

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Taranaki farewell

Today was to be a solid ride of 153 km so we ensured we hit the road a bit earlier today. We headed straight down the hill from our accomodation to the waterfront and turned right, to start our journey north bound for Auckland.

New Plymouth has a wonderful coastal walking/cycling track and we were to ride along it for 11 km.

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In the distance is the Te Rewarewa Bridge, constructed for walkers and cyclists.

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Shortly before turning left onto SH3, Taranaki revealed itself in all its majestic beauty. I was so pleased that we got to see it!

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SH3 was busy today. People were on the move! So we were quite pleased to have a short reprieve for 5 km or so. The gravel was quite solid and firm and passed by a series of farms.

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The biggest climb today was Mt Messenger, around the 60 km mark and back on SH3. By now the temperatures were in the high 20’s. For  most of the climb, we had a small verge of around 30cm, with an occasional wider bay for slower vehicles. At other times, there was no verge and we just held our line as tight as possible.

I breathed a sigh of relief at the top.

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The historic tunnel on the descent was very short.

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We motored on planning to have a break at Mokau. Just before climbing the hill to Mokau we crossed this river with a bunch of shacks along the waterfront.

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Further up the hill this is looking towards the river mouth, shacks just out of sight on the left.

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We spent about 40 minutes at a very busy cafe eating and drinking! We got chatting to a Swedish tourist who also cycles. He wanted to know how we had been coping with the minimal verges.

This was our last view of the coast before turning inland.

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We crossed another wide river.

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Entered another tunnel in Awakino Gorge.

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The temperatures were now in the 30’s and I think it is fair to say we are coping with the heat better now, having acclimatised somewhat. We are rocking some pretty rad tan lines!

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Another short stint off SH3, then 3 km back on the highway including a decent climb, and we were off the highway for the rest of the day. This last detour saved us 30 km of highway riding, and provided us a road that was winding, climbing  and ever so quiet!

At one point a goat ran out onto the road, and I swear it was chasing Tony…until it saw me and went bush!

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We were very pleased to arrive in Piopio a small town on SH3, although we arrived via a backroad. We are the ONLY guests at the motel and it is nice. Our bikes are out in the hallway just outside our room, our bedroom door is open, we have our cycle washing hanging out in the garden drying.

What the town does not have is anywhere to eat on Boxing Day. The local grocery store was open and for the first time in my life I had a microwaved roast lamb dinner! We then had a carton of custard and banana.

The only breakfast on offer are rice bubbles, cornflakes and weetbix. According to its Facebook page, the local cafe re opens at 730 am!! Think we will be first in!

So three days left…tomorrow is shorter at 128 km weaving around to Kawhia.

Stay tuned!

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153 km today!

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My favourite picture of the day.

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Lazy day

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Today is our one and only rest day. We woke up to rain, and the forecast was rain all day. Fortunately by mid morning the rain stopped. So we threw some Lycra on and grabbed the bikes to have a casual 17 km ride around New Plymouth.

We headed straight down to the water front and headed towards the port. A real mix of views.

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We checked out this rock….I minded the bikes whilst Tony climbed up.

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Back on the road we stopped to admire this view

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Back into town we headed out along the track we’ll leave tomorrow on. Some of the waves were crashing over the breakwater creating large salt puddles to ride through, thereby ensuring the bikes were cleaned of salt later.

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The only place open was Maccas, so we headed in for a coffee and muffin.

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Later in the afternoon we walked back up to the Pukepuka Park, where the Festival of Lights is being held to check it out by day.

This is the local cricket oval, extremely well maintained and looking like something made by the Mayans!

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Views in the park are very nice. It is extremely well maintained with a wide variety of plants.

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Heading back to town via the cricket ground, another view.

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In the wedge of vegetation we got a glimpse of snow clad Taranaki….probably as good as we are going to get!

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Over the road from our hotel we noted this sign referring to the church being closed due to earthquake damage. We went and checked the grounds out and learned this is New Plymouth’s  Cathedral and the oldest stone church in New Zealand.

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This oak tree was planted from an acorn brought over from England in around 1899. There are many old graves including men killed during the Maorie Troubles around 1860.

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So only about 17 km on the bike today…I know, hardly worth getting changed for.

Hopefully our bodies have rested adequately for the final four day fling back up to Auckland. Three of the days are long and hilly. Tomorrow is 150 km.

So ooroo from New Plymouth – next stop is Piopio.

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The Hobbit Hole

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Leaving our accomodation at National Park this was our view. How beautiful. The first 40 km was really pleasant, more so as it was downhill!

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We stopped at various points to take photos.

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Looking back you can see the mountain in the Tongariro World Heritage Park  we had left behind. The roads were lovely and quiet today.

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We stopped at the town of Taumarunui where I had camped with friends from NZ Cycling in January, on the banks of the Whanganui river. The town boasts a strong railway and timber heritage.

Of course, I had another iced coffee!

Taumarunui also signals the start of the 150 km Forgotten Highway, built on colonel bridle paths formed in the late 19th century.

The road is a natural roller coaster, with amazingly green vegetation and interesting geology.  New Zealand Police have apparently named the road as one of the 10 worst roads in the country.

I totally disagree. It is a brilliant road to cycle, with the exception of the 12 km unsealed loose gravel section.

It is one of the most scenic roads I have ever ridden. Yes, you need to be careful as there are big drop offs….but Europe is full of those!

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One of the highlights was Tangarakau Gorge. The gorge road is all unsealed and appears to have received a recent  spread of lots of gravel, making it really tricky to ride on.

We overtook a younger Dutch couple, also touring, who were really battling this section.

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Half way along the Gorge is the bridge, where there is a long drop loo, and where the tourists all stop. I was running low on water again, so Tony kindly went down to the river to fill the spare bottle.

The sign below signalled that we were in the Taranaki region. Great area that I also visited in January.

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Jazzed up loo!

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After leaving the base of the Gorge we battled a further 7 km of gravel. I wished I could do a quick bike swap and use my Specialized Rockhopper Pro, currently residing in Auckland. We will be repatriating this bike to Australia upon our return.

Sealed road never felt so good. Chaos loomed ahead….

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Another highlight of the Forgotten Highway is the historic Moki Tunnel.  Remember this road has two lanes….you can see me about to enter the  Moki tunnel in the photo below.

It is about 140 metres long, void of lights except the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Note the name above the tunnel entrance…the hobbit hole!

I pedalled as fast as I could through, hoping no cars would enter ahead, otherwise I would be off my bike and back flat to the tunnel wall. I quickly ripped the sunglasses off my head too!! 😂

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This is what the other end of the tunnel looked like…you can ‘see the light’.

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Moving along there were more rolling, lush, green hills.

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Finally after 130 km riding we arrived at our destination, which has supposedly ceded from New Zealand as a result of a dispute. You can have your passport stamped for NZ$2, but we did not bother.

One sharp turn…

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Then the Republic sign….

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…and here it is,Whangamomona! Bustling town…not!

Great accomodation is new units constructed by the hotel, with this being our views.

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The accomodation is twice the price of our average for all other nights…no wifi, no mobile coverage, no tv…but true country chillaxed feel like nowhere else.

We caught up with a local Tracey who three weeks ago opened up a curio gift shop “Dolly Gray” boasting craft items imported from New Zealand. She had a brilliant rocking chairs, but I reckon the freight would cost more than the chairs.

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This was my purchase. The wood is kauri and hand made by a 92 year old man from New Plymouth using dental tools. I thought it very sweet. The old guy even hand  makes the boxes.

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Day 8 of this touring trip rates as one of the best routes ever. Brilliant, and as a well known Aussie used to say ‘ do yourself a favour’! If you cycle, get on down here and do this!

Sorry this blog was delayed. No wifi does that!!

OOroo!!

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Earthquake gully

New Zealand, the land of volcanoes and earthquakes. I hope neither occur during our trip, but today we were riding under the smoking eye of Mt Ruapehu, the largest active volcano in New Zealand, as well as the highest point of North Island (2797m). It’s last eruption was in September 2007.

We had a delayed departure from Taupo due to a stuff up at the hotel with breakfast.        We made the decision to ‘give up’ on waiting, and ride into town to find food. The Coffee Club sorted us out with a great omlette and large coffee, setting us up well for the day ahead.

Leaving Taupo skirting around the lake edge provided many scenic vistas, but we were reluctant to stop as the traffic was becoming increasingly heavy with holiday makers.

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Good old Ride with GPS had a few little ‘treats’ for us today. With the first, we decided to accept the challenge as it took us off the busy highway. This is what we found.

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Amazing how hard it is to lift a fully laden bike over such barriers. The road appeared to be an old forestry road, and for most, was quite rideable.

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We raced through this section, mouth closed, as the hives were very active, bees swarming. We also did all our zips up, just for good measure.

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It was not all easy riding on the old road. There were a few sections like this!

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At the other end of the track we noted this sign. Oh, and there was another barrier to climb over.

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I loved this sign pointing back to where we had ridden. Deforested barren area named Earthquake Gully Road. Awesome name!! I did ponder as I rode on as to how it gained that name.

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Back onto the highway, concentration to the max, as the traffic seemed even heavier. Caravans, boats, 4WD with mountain bikes all screaming past. I guess many people finished work yesterday and were heading off to their Christmas holiday destinations.

At about the 55 km point we arrived in Turangi. I knew a great little cafe there to stop at called the Pink Cadillac. Sue and I stopped there in January, quite cold, and rugged up with their crocheted blankets. Today, the blankets were out, but not needed as it was about 27 degrees.

We got chatting to a Swiss couple from Zurich. He was a keen cyclist and they were visiting their daughter….we swapped stories as I have a son living in Basel, Switzerland.

The Pink Cadillac have the best iced coffees! A bit decadent and over the top but I knew what lay ahead! I was going to work that off well and truly.

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What lay ahead? This graph reveals all. Check out the slope and climb from 55 km….yeah, it climbs a bit.

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The climb was ok, with a mixture of headwind and still air and I was glad to get to the top of the climb. Here I am a little further on.

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Ride with GPS had a second surprise and took us onto another trail to the intake tunnel of a hydro power scheme. It was a dead end, but it was a pretty spot to stop and refuel with a banana.  We could not sit down there as the ground was littered with swan feathers and dung.

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Back onto the main road and it was a slog. For the rest of the ride we were buffeted by a strong headwind, slowing down progress and making us work that bit harder,

We were both glad to arrive in the village named National Park, stopping firstly at the local store/service station for an icy pole….and quite possibly a large block of Whittaker’s Fruit and Nut! 😬🤷‍♀️

Both of the next pictures are looking back at where we had just ridden from.

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Mt Ruapehu…with some cloud over the top

My dear friend Noelene is a wonderful supporter and encourager of my blogs. She was born in New Zealand and has incredible memories and stories.  This is what she wrote last night about her memories of the mountain.

” We used to belong to a Lodge up on Ruapehu. ….we would all come in off the mountain totalled as there were no ski lifts then…sunrise looking up at the mountain was amazing. Having also climbed up in the summer to the crater lake. Bit silly when of course it can erupt and does any time. But in those times you never thought about such things. I remember in National Park there were hot springs and in a little village a dairy that sold amazing icecream. We would go down there to soak in steaming mineral water and eat these delicious ice creams…young life of many years gone.”

Thankyou  Noelene xx

So another day, with today riding 105 km,  and we have now been riding for seven consecutive days. Tomorrow more adventures lay ahead as we hit the Forgotten Highway, with a mixture of gravel and bitumen. We can even have our passport stamped, but I will leave that story for tomorrow.

Ooroo 😊💪🚴

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Imodium saves the day!

One of the essential items we never leave home without on cycle tours is Imodium! Oh my goodness was I unwell during the night….both ends … leaving me wondering how I would get through today. But Imodium saved the day rendering me capable of riding, although somewhat dehydrated.

I am blaming bugs on my drink bottle. When you ride in the wet, lots of ‘muck’ gets splashed up onto your bike from the road and other cars. It is not uncommon to have a gritty bottle and often I will squirt some fluid out before drinking. The lids will be soaking in Milton’s tonight!

Our Air BnB host had put on a delightful European style breakfast which I did enjoy as I tried to get some goodness back into my body.

Leaving Rotorua around 8.30 am it was a pleasant 14 degrees. We rode by some geysers heading out of town. You could clearly see the water bubbling and there was a strong smell of sulphur in the air.

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Then we needed to cross over onto the highway, and we did this via a nifty and safe under the road passage. In the centre of the road is a hub  with spoke like tunnels heading into various directions. It was impressive and a safe way for walkers and cyclists to cross the highway and other roads adjoining.

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This was our final view looking back towards Rotorua as we headed out on the highway. You can just see the wisps of steam from another geyser.

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Today was reasonably hilly, as can be seen from our elevation graph. The ride was 118 km today.

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After leaving the highway (rarely are highways well regarded as enjoyable by cyclists), we were traversing great back roads like this. Green and lush farms with predominantly cattle grazing.

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Navigationally, we pre plan our route on a website known as Ride with GPS. We can then upload the ride files digitally onto our Garmin’s which have satellite navigation facilities. In addition, we print out the route with the turn by turn instructions, as a backup to the Garmin files.

Ordinarily this works fine, but at times there are issues. Here I am looking somewhat puzzled/bemused with the route pointers! Note the tan line mark on my legs now….that is going to look so great when I get back to work wearing dresses in a few weeks..😂😂😂

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More lush green countryside. So much of the land in this area looks like ready made links golf courses.

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Navigationally there were a few issues today. Garmin mapping failed us in that the road we were riding on did not exist according to its maps.  The road had clearly been around for many years, as it had plentiful lichen growth. We decided to plod on and see where we ended up.

We stopped at the first road junction, which happened to be the SH1. Whilst we were still looking at our maps this big milk tanker pulled up, and the driver got out to say ‘hi’. He had seen us earlier ‘down the road’ and was curious as to our plans.

His name was Kevin, and he suggested we take another road via plantations, which we did. Great road!

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My new mate Kevin…and his big truck!

This is a section of Kevin’s route.

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There was a little issue by now. We had only ridden past one shop, and that was mid morning, where we did stop and grab food and drink. Since then, zip and I was thirsty as, and rationing my fluid, having nearly consumed my second bottle.

I was reluctant to tell Tony as I knew he would give me his bottle, but he too needed fluid. I guess I still needed extra fluid due to what I had lost overnight, plus it was now in the mid 20’s.

Eventually I said to Tony that we needed to stop at the first sign of anything that might be water, even a farm house. Tony saw a sign for water, but upon closer inspection this was not going to work, let alone the potassium cyanide sign next to it!

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About 25 km later, I found a shop and bought lots of water, coconut water and an icy pole. Feeling heaps better my energy also picked up for the final section into Taupo. We went via a tourist route to check out the river. There was a jet boat in action that would have been up to the falls. Cruises also depart from here.

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More green hills on the outskirts as we climbed up from the river.

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Here is our route today. It was a great ride, highly enjoyable.

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We are now in Taupo. The weather is nothing like Sue and I had in January. I will not be donning my bathers for a dip in the lake this time! It is quite cool this evening, with occasional rain and very strong winds.

Tomorrow we climb up to the village known as National Park, passing by the volcanic Mt  Ruapehu in the Tongariro NP. Rain is not forecast but 50 kmh westerly winds are! ( not the direction we want 😩). I am hoping the meteorologists have overstated the wind strength!

As I look out across Lake Taupo the mountain is under a shroud of heavy cloud. Let’s hope it lifts tomorrow for some great views.

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