Here then, for those of you who like numbers are the stats for our time in New Zealand. Distance covered – 4,150 Kilometers, nights in the tent – 77, nights in cabins – 3, nights in a bed – 9 and total days cycled – 66. Bee stings – 1, Wasp stings – 1, Punctures – 2.
As we pedaled out of Coromandel town the day had begun as normal with a well-meaning individual telling us about a monster hill that always lurks just a few k’s out. This happens just about every day and it is a good job that we have a guide with the profiles ahead which we can usually trust, or these warnings would freak us. Today’s hills are nasty enough at 200m but we are on monster form having rested whilst a storm that hit the coast here. We are simply not going to get any fitter, we have peaked, there is sadly nothing more to find.
This last little section of the Coromandel Peninsula continues the theme of stunning coastline, golden sand and tightly curving narrow roads. From the final climb we could see Auckland across the Firth of Thames just visible on the horizon and yet still 150k for us. This was the section that had been washed out three months ago by the cyclone stopping our progress at Tararu. It is all so unstable, you could blow a fortune in maintenance, and they probably do.
Just before Thames we came to the campsite that we had stayed at before and a few K’s earlier had gone through the 4,000k mark. We had closed the loop and done some significant distance and were rather pleased with ourselves. We camped just outside Thames and went out to celebrate.
This is always a budget blowing proposition here in New Zealand and we go up one side of the main street pressing noses against restaurant windows, calculating menu prices. We usually panic at the prices and go to “burgerthing” or SubWay, but tonight we kept our nerve. Then, at the Italian a new problem, we were worried about our bikes.
For a while out of Thames the next morning, Route 25 gathers a few more vehicles and logging trucks and today enough early Easter Trippers out from Auckland to make the ride demanding on the nerves. Traffic here as I have said before has few manners when it comes to bicycles and you can end up stressed by their close attention. Ten Centimeter clearance is frequent and this was a bad morning. We knew that a right turn ahead for us would more than half the traffic and take us out of the head wind. It was a strange feeling retracing our route and recognising things for the first time in three months.
We were ahead of schedule any had no need to push hard. We pulled in at Miranda Campsite and thermal springs. ” It would be lovely to stay if you could make it just a little cheaper”, and the nice lady did. Two hours in hot and slightly stinky water should help the legs, but I have a feeling that now the legs can complain they are doing so. Another short day done. The next morning was a dawn of mists and dew, so different to three months ago after the rains.
The coast here around Kaiaua is called The Sea Bird Coast, and is an important migratory stop over. It reminds us of the Sommerset Levels with its water filled ditches, flat land and content cattle. Sheltered and now with a tail wind this was perfect riding and again we were having a day without rain. We had rested on a few bad days of rain but the whole three months in the little patch of sky above us there has been not a single cloud. My full wet weather gear has never once left my front right pannier and we know how lucky we have been. Never try this again as it will not happen more than this once in a lifetime.
Turning away from the sea the road climbs a series of three or four steep pulls. Three months ago with Northern Hemisphere winter fitness we struggled, swore and tasted the very depth of our lungs. Today given the short ride and rested legs, we were mighty indeed. We have no idea what we weigh as Kiwis do not have any fascination with the humiliation of public scales, but whatever it is it is our fighting weight, spot on.
Orere Point was our first camp site and we stayed two nights again. It is a wonderful area so close to Auckland. Esther again chatted to Maoris about sea food. They are so happy to talk and show off their skills and we love this so much.
After another day of rest we set off into Auckland and a series of short sharp hills reminded us once again that New Zealand is a hard place to cycle, of that there is no doubt. Clevedon and a stop for Coffee (always “flat white” ) and the purchase of what turned out to be the second best Carrot Cake in NZ (Greymouth comes top – well done them) and the first time our order was bought to the table before we paid – a strange quirk of here.
On we went to Papakura to pick up the commuter train. We should have guessed given our record with non integrated transport here that the train would not be running. Worse still, they let us negotiate four lifts to find the notice about this and work our way back to where we had been 15 minutes ago. This put me in the best possible mood to talk to the bus driver about our bikes. Unbelievably straight away he said “Put the bikes on the back seats”. This was good and yet unexpected. We would have been killed trying to bike in and I think he knew that.
We have spent quite some time in the last few days on the WWW organising the logistics of our USA trip. Not at all easy when bike shops fail to reply to emails. Our Kool Stop brake pads have been fantastic and we need more along with tyres, chains and new Crank Brothers pedals. Yes indeed, we are going to buy more even though they failed. They now have a 5 year warranty and we are going to keep the receipt this time. Over the last 15k Esther’s chain started to slip and the cassette fell off when we took the wheel out in Auckland.
There you are then. If you have nerves of steel for the narrow roads and driving style, then you will love New Zealand. The people are wonderful and appear untroubled that you step into their lives and muck up their plans for the day. We hope that we will find similar good people in the USA. California here we come.