We were packed and ready to roll out of the gates of the hostel. Then a guy started talking to Esther. “I have put all my vehicles away from the trees. Going to be quite some storm perhaps you should think about staying another day”. News of the cyclone had only made it to page 4 of the papers and not been flagged up to us at all. Sand flies had been my main concern as we walked the bikes up the hill, not hurricane force winds and floods. Getting out of any big and unfamiliar city on a heavy and uncooperative touring bike can be a nightmare. Even with the comfort of ridding on the left here, we had decided to skip the suburbs with a 45 minute train ride south. Auckland’s suburbs are well worth avoiding unless you are studying for some thesis on urban degeneration, graffiti art, or fly tipping. We were soon at Papakura station and trying to wedge our bikes into the lift. Even one at a time this was a struggle as someone had obviously bought a lift 2 sizes too small for the job.
We headed for Clevedon and the coast beyond and were within minutes in beautiful, if not spectacular countryside with a rolling well surfaced road under wheel. This was perfect and got better the further we rode. We had never been this unfit and riding such heavily laden bikes, these first days are going to be rather more rehab, than full on touring. Things were good though, and the foot was happy.
We stopped in Clevedon to ask about stuff ahead at the tourist info. We had the usual conversation about the hills ahead. The info lady thought the climb of Te Motu Hill was cat 1, whilst a guy standing next to her thought more cat3. He had ridden up it so we listened to him. As it turned out it was a bit of a beast, but only because we are so lacking in miles in the legs. 50 miles in 3 and a half months is poor preparation, but we climbed quite well and steamed like a Derby winner waiting to be unsaddled at the top. It started to rain for the descent, which reminded us just how crap even the best brakes are and how much a strong belief in the afterlife is required on a wet downhill.
We pulled off the main road towards the campsite at Orere Point. The road was now running through tropical rainforest and beautiful beaches with plants that were familiar to us from visits to Dobbies Garden Centers. Road kill gave some indication of the animals we could expect. This was perfect touring country, even if it was now raining quite heavily.
We had decided to see if we could get a cabin or similar to keep ourselves snug during the storm and the site had one left, perfect, though a stupid price. Caravan parks bring out the inner child or the artist in many of their long-term residents. A combination of loose rules and a wide colour palette allow the outsider artist to express themselves fully in a way that they can’t do at home.
Most of the campsite was being used by a group of Maori, who were having a very big family weekend. The women were preparing a feast in the kitchens rather basic facilities and all were industrious and happy. They love primary colours. Even if the motif is Thomas the Tank Engine, they will wear it if it almost glows in the dark. They were great fun, even in the morning when they had been washed out of their crap but very large tents they greeted Esther with a big friendly “good morning” and me slightly less so .
A month’s rain had fallen overnight and the creek behind our little hut was raging in the morning, and the colour of weak coffee. You could feel the waters hitting things as we lay in our beds, slightly less concerned with the price of our accommodation but a little more unhappy about the big old trees around it. The wind had now got up. Not quite to the “the palm trees are going to be bent double”, that the info lady had predicted, but enough to be a worry for the touring cyclist. Checking with reception we find ourselves stranded, as the roads in both directions are washed out by the storm. Decision made then, we stay here another day.
So, what bit of kit has been the star of the first few days. Well, it is one of our cheapest bits, as it was a present from our friend Jez Hastings of Wildwood Wisdom. It is a rucksack come compression sac by Exped. You always need to do some shopping, or carry the laptop and this small and ultra lightweight bag is perfection indeed. You can also put a bottle of wine in next to the laptop for a quiet night in the hut when a Cyclone comes to town. It is to be recommended.