We pulled away from Waihi Beach on tired legs, that needed a day off the bike. As luck would have it, that was just what was planned for the next day. First we had to climb up from sea level and on to the road to Tauranga. Thank goodness for roads with a hard shoulder or we would be road kill. Every time there is a bridge the shoulder disappears, and you have a moment of clarity about just where you are on the food chain. Logging lorries are the top predator and bikes are just above zimmer frames. All has gone well so far. Kiwis are by their own admission amongst the most deadly behind the wheel. They are just dozy and inclined to treat the car as an extension of their living room. It was a hot day and the main threat was from people driving whilst eating ice creams. Big ice creams that is that required a lot of attention.
This is where, if New Zealand had a version of The Simpsons, then it would be based. It is a little bit of middle America slipped down south. Katikati is Springfield, but it like Springfield is nice enough with people doing their best. It served a great coffee and we were looked after by the parking warden doing guide and greet duty.
As we neared Tauranga, Route 2, turned a little more urban, and then a lot more. It is New Zealand’s largest port, and logs were going out and used Toyotas were coming in. Route 2 became, by a very clear margin the biggest and most sprawling road we have ever biked on. Way back in 1983 I was at College in Devon. My transport, a Motobecane racer (as they were called then ). I planned a trip from Newton Abbot to the delights of Exeter and that was all the planning I did. No map or much thought meant that I ended up riding on the M5 and had to shoulder the bike up a bank and onto a fly over to escape.
Route 2 around Tauranga is actually perfectly legal to ride a bike, it just does not feel as if it should be. To be honest there is a short stretch that is illegal, but we realized too late. Intersections are the worst where you have to judge exiting traffic, and accelerate into gaps. Who needs Bungee Jumping? And yet this is just a few miles in a straight line from Middle Earths very own English country village perfection, that is Hobbiton.
We arrived at Papamoa, where we were to stay for the night with friends and then have a day off. This is Surf School and Lifeguard central. This is where I should have been borne and where I needed to grow up, not the West Midlands. The following day we went to see how badly the Great Britain life guard squad would do against the Kiwis and Ozzies. Badly, and we only just beat the Canadians and only then because Cornwall is warmer than anywhere in Canada. If you are half good at any sport and you are a Brit who will just miss out on the Commie games in Glasgow, then here is a better career move if you can row or swim or run a bit on sand.
Lamb on the barbie and cheese cake for afters concluded a perfect day off.
We were on our bikes the next morning blissfully unaware that we had timetabled checking for loose things on the bikes. Tubus racks are fantastic and we now know that they will even stay on without the full complement of bolts, which is good news.
We have decided to go all the way down the East coast and have ended the day at a great and quite cheap campsite at Whakatane (the name means ” act as a man!”. Whenever you travel, one song spins around in your head. Today it has been “Echo Beach” for some reason. I know four words of the song, so it has not been a good choice.
We have also ridden passed more landslips and have found out the difference between a cyclone and a hurricane. It all comes down to where they start and how big a deal you want to make of it. The “Storm of The Century” with winds up to 100 mph in England’s South East will be refered to in Stornoway as a bit of a blow. It all depends on what you expect, but they are the same.