The area around Cambridge, particularly to the North West, is as flat as you are going to get in New Zealand. It is fertile dairy country with a maze of lanes. For two touring cyclists who had got used to a turn every 40k or so, and as much as 100k it was going to be challenging for a day or two. Again, in an attempt to stay off the red coloured roads, we entered the maze north of Te Aroha and enjoyed the quiet flat roads.
The beef that you eat in Europe, with a few exceptions, comes from the dairy industry. No surprise then that it is tough, cheapish and not quite right for the job. Here there are cattle raised for the plate and even the dairy cows are not those massive Holsteins. Here the beef on your plate tastes great. Sorry if that upsets vegetarians, but it does. The milk tastes nice as well, but that is as it should be. It is going into winter here and still there is silage being cut and grass growing. They don’t throw subsidies around and they do not need them with the climate on your side. We had not planned to go to Te Aroha, but again we found the limits to navigating using a 1:1,000,000 map and vowed to get a GPS when we tour in Europe – you can not carry the weight of maps to be detailed enough to stop the arguments, so lesson learned. New Zealand could do with four times as many sign posts and there still would not be enough.
Onward through dairy heaven on arrow straight roads towards Paeroa and for the first time we are going through somewhere we have been already and not just by accident. On the subject of accidents, many of our sweetest dreams are shattered by the sound of tyres squealing, engines being revved close to and beyond their limits and other such fun. Any straight road is covered in tyre rubber from the nights fun, and many less straight roads are lined with roadside remembrances of cherished family and friends. Most people we meet here want to buy us a drink and shake our hand or at least wish us well. Until they get behind the wheel of a car that is.
Our sports drink of choice here is L&P otherwise known as Lemon & Paeroa, and it comes, not surprisingly from Paeroa for which they can be rightly proud and probably are if the amount of flags and signs are anything to go by. It is either made from 50% Coke mixed with 50% Sprite, as it is owned by that well known multinational. Or, alternatively it requires the addition of a bit of lemon juice to the naturally occurring soda spring water of Paeroa, which is what I hope for as we can down a whole big bottle in one go on a hot day. We stopped by at its birth place to pay homage.
So, still on the same ride we have ridden through flat dairy country that you would find in Cheshire on the outskirts of desirable little villages where the employees of Manchester City and United build tasteless mansions. Yet within 60k it is hills and dense bush with ferns and near tropical vegetation. The Coromandel Peninsula is about 240k around and is all rather stunning.
With temperatures in the mid twentys it could not have looked better. We had been blocked by landslips two and a half months ago when we tried riding here, and now the place was quieter, which we decided was a very good thing. This is where Auckland comes to party and play and they are in quite a hurry to get here.
We were heading for Whangamata, with its lovely beach and cafe lined high street and for the first time in a while, that is where we ended up. A near perfect place for a rest day.