If you ever show the smallest intention of selling your car it will develop a small and indistinct noise. If asked, you could not point to where it was coming from but there is worse ahead. As soon as you want to trade in the car it turns from the most reliable, start first time, never miss a beat beauty, to something in need of two months wages worth of ramp time. Leaving Turangi, along lake Taupo, it was to be an easy day for us with just one hard climb of 200m. It started to rain, which was fine as we have been meteorologically blessed beyond our wildest dreams since we arrived here. The wind got up, and then my pedal made two nasty metallic noises the first of which was distressing and the second made me wince. It had sheared off and I was left with just the grease covered axle under my foot, with the pedal on the tarmac back down the road. Bugger!
I tried riding with the pedal pushed on and forced to stay on by the shoe. Problem was anything that was going to make me put my foot down, was going to bring the shoe and pedal off at the same time and possibly still together when I wanted to put my foot down. This would not be good at all. The best solution would be to ride with my walking boot on the axel for 45K to Taupo where there would be bike shops. Not an easy day then. New Zealand prices for bike bits are high, and those at Taupo would command a premium for no other reason than they know I need pedals. It started to rain and then tried to turn to hail. I got most of the way up the climb and then a car pulled up beside me ” your friend has had a puncture”. I turned and went back down the hill.
In Taupo we found the best bike shop and paid four times the price that I had just seen on the internet when I did a bit of research courtesy of McDonald’s WiFi. We have had better days and now the bikes know they will get a big service and lots of new bits in the States at a fraction of Kiwi prices if they can hold together for the final 600k. You watch things break now.
Taupo is nice, and Taupo has a rare example of a kiwi bike lane and a bit of cycle provision. Taupo is also shockingly expensive and so our only treat was a thermal spring at the campsite where you could hear engineering noises and metal bashing coming from the industrial units just behind the fence. It was however, free, which put it in our price range for we are tight-fisted cycletourist.
We had a “rest day” and so cycled out to ‘craters of the moon’ to witness a bit of volcanic bubbling and oozing and try out my new Shimano m520 touring pedals before they and me had to do things for real with luggage and hills.
We decided to head away from Highway 1 for the usual very good reasons. Turning North West, we headed towards Mangakino on quiet roads that are coloured a nice pastel yellow on our map. It started to rain in a way that back home would be associated with the Royal Highland Show weekend and car park chaos. We ran across the road to a school bus shelter to sit out the storm surrounded by dozens of drinks cans and sweet paper wrappers.
Stopping just as quick as it had started, the rain left behind cooler air and we rode with coats on along roads cut deep into the earth and rust coloured volcanic drifts. The area is green, fertile, and lush like a Devon lane or Holloway.
Turning into Mangakino you are struck by the number of empty properties and of a place that has lost it’s reason to be there. We were spot on, as it was built to house workers for the areas hydro schemes and now has just a fraction of the population. It is in a beautiful area though and we camped by the lake for free. If you are in to fishing, biking and messing about on the water this is the cheapest place to be and already people are being drawn here by those simple facts. It treated us to our second coldest night and a morning of mist to remind us it is Autumn.
We set out the next morning with a clear plan in mind. “Get to Arapuni and ask Brian in The Rhubarb Cafe where to camp”, which was good advice. We got there, but for a good part of the day had no clear idea where we were. This is a bit of a shame because we were riding on the best cycling roads that we had yet been on.
They went up and down, but in a delightful way and they went left and right in a fine way to, and all was helped by some stunning countryside warm sun on our backs.
Brian handed us a cake bag with directions to Little Waipa written on it. ” it’s got a toilet, blink and you will miss the turn”. He was right, and a second free camping night of mist and Autumnal mellowness was ours.
Navigation the following day was even worse. New Zealand does not do road signs and we were now on roads of pastel yellow and even calm white on our 1:1,000,000 map. The only clear sign was “Hobbiton Film Set” so we took it and were glad we did. It is a beautiful valley and perfect for a bike ride. The prices for a tour confirmed the pricing madness of every tourist site in New Zealand. Every animal here has a $ sign, every view and every hole in the ground. We have seen glow worms for free but could have paid $30 a person. We filled our water bottles with Hobbiton water and drank an expensive small coffee.
We had not intended to go to Cambridge, but we ended up so close to it, that this is where we went. We rode in along a bike path lined with fields full of expensive equine culture. It is the center of all things horse in New Zealand and we are back to paying for camping. So we have biked up the center of North Island seeing just two other cycle tourists on the way. We will now drop down to the East to take in the delights of the Coromandel Peninsula, which was washed out when we were last there.
Whilst we’ve cycling in New Zealand, Esther has been doing a few water colour sketches. Quick little reminders of where we have been can be seen here.