Whitianga was a good place to have a rest day. We had bought so much food that even malnourished touring cyclist failed to eat it all. We had a very big climb ahead and did not want to have 3 kg of fruit in our bags. It was raining and blowing a gale, so decision made then. Jame Cook came in 1769 and amongst other things had navigation duties to do. Marking the passage of Mercury across the sun he fixed the position of New Zealand for the first time and gave the name to Mercury Bay.
If he was here now on a rainy day, he would visit the museum and spend time in the great cafes, which is exactly what we did. The next morning dawned a perfect blue sky pedaling day and we were off, glad that we were doing the route in the dry on account of our brake pads reaching the end of their useful life span.
New Zealand, we are proudly told, spends more per head on road maintenance than anywhere else in the world. I can not remember if it is 8% or 18%. The 46k between Whitianga and Coromandel is a good place to see where the money goes. when we were last in the area the cyclone washed out 17 parts of this small section which are all repaired. There are road gangs out on most roads and we curse them and their throwing around of chip and tar seal. It works well though and you will need to swerve to avoid possum road kill far more than pot hole.
We had not had coffee, so when at 20k a brightly painted caravan came into view we were obliged to stop. Julia our host for the next half an hour was a free spirit. We liked her very much and her coffee. She had walked most of the length of New Zealand, but not in any planned way, just drifting. Had become a cook for a drilling gang who were working on some test drills for the Kiwi Government in a kind of “Black Ops” sort of way. Julia was undercover for the greens but still came away with a great reference from her gang boss. She set up a commune and then drifted into catering whilst all the time doing treks and bush stuff. You must stop if you are ever on the 25, she will make your day brighter.
While we are thinking about this stuff let me share one of my many worries with you. The Bond Baddie has an island off the coast of some tropical paradise, which is fine and yes people like Richard Branson do this kind of thing. It is only when the baddie employs a team of engineers and builders to install a rocket launch pad inside the island that he attracts attention. It is inevitable and it is where he will fail. There will be some plumber or plasterer who is going to talk to his mates down the pub. It is just another job for them and a big pay cheque with some travel and not world domination that motivates. As Julia shows, it could even be the person doing the catering. I think you will agree with me, it is just not going to work.
The road ran next to golden sanded beaches for a few k’s before making any height. When it did gain altitude, the landscape opened to panoramic views of tree lined hills and a big pointing up rock. Rather showing almost zero imagination the rock is called Castle Rock and I am quite sure the Maori name would have been more inspirational and much longer.
Still with the thought that we were on a 600m meter climb up we went with hearts racing for the first pitch of the climb. Soon, ears popped and the lowest gear was not quite enough. You try to find a lower and easier gear convinced that there must be one that you had missed or overlooked, but the lever hits the end stop every time.
The realisation that you must stop or die is one that the pro cyclist faces and continues onwards forced by fame, glory, wealth or other darker thoughts in his head. We pull over on a flat spot and take a break.
We have different climbing styles. My legs spin and I get out of the saddle to share the pain amongst different muscles. Esther is a diesel and grinds the hight gain out in slow rotations. I am climbing well at the moment and pull ahead on this climb but still at 300 meters I am done. Cars go down the hill screaming “Awesome” and in a way this helps. They could be shouting “Possum!” as a warning of road kill ahead and it all helps.
I make the top with still 200 meters to go on my altimeter and curse our lack of attention to details like double checking the book. Esther turns up 10 minutes later and then down we go after throwing on some extra clothes. What a descent and how glad are we of the speed warnings at the bends as we do not want to over brake and heat the rims. The 15k/h sign some how fails to register and I have to make a grab at the brakes that will leave my hands cramping through the night. Coromandel Town comes into view, the road straightens and we can let the bikes go at last.
It is too warm for what we are wearing and stuff is thrown back into the panniers as we find a bench to eat and then drink L&P, stopping just short of being sick. A hard 50k done.