New Zealand 2014/15

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Monday, December 22

The first day of summer.

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Whitianga ferry

There is a lovely, small ferry that makes a 5 minute run across the harbour from Whangiata to Cook's Beach. The rear mud guard is rubbing worse than ever. On the far side I disassemble it, determined to throw it away. Except the rear rack shares a bolt with the mud guard. If I remove the rear guard, the bolt is too long and will hit the cogs. Finally I realize I can tuck the end of the guard on the other side of the frame – problem solved!

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The Cook's Beach road is the best we have ridden so far. It is quiet and scenic – everything you want in a country road. "A bit lumpy" said a local on the ferry – he rides to Hot Water Beach and back each day.

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Hot Water Beach is spectacular. Surfers ride the waves. Red rock cliffs frame that impossibly blue water. The only drawback is that up to a thousand people show up at low tide to dig holes in the sand and soak in the thermal-heated water. By the busload, apparently. Not our cup of tea. We arrived at high tide and were practically alone.

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Hot Water Beach

Hot Wave Café is very laid back. We have a fabulous lunch of pannini with Caesar salad, sitting by a window that opens onto a garden of trees, shrubbery and birds. "It's like a painter's pallet. All the layers are just waiting," says Mary.

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Painter's pallet. No, wait – that's lunch!

Avocados are spectacular. You can buy a bagful for two dollars at the roadside stands (honour system). Mary won't let me do it – they weigh too much, and we can't eat that many avocadoes. (Why not?)

Hydrangea grow like weeds by the roadside.

The route is still undecided: do we continue down the coast and follow the beach, or do we cut across country and head inland? Maybe the inland traffic will be lighter and the roads quieter …

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Safety glow

After Hot Water Beach we are back on the highway. The S25 is busy. On a steep descent we are passed by a double hitch trailer. I heard him coming and could slow down enough to let him pass. But there wasn't enough room to let his buddy pass – he had to wait for an opening in the traffic. Perhaps double-hitch trucks should be banned from some roads as well?

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Room for a double-hitch?

For supper we break sprigs of rosemary off a waist-high shrub to rub into our fresh New Zealand lamb. The sunset is truly spectacular, except I was asleep and missed it.

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Fresh rosemary and accompaniment

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Tuesday December 23

We roll out of Tiarau under light cloud cover. There is enough of an onshore breeze to put on a second layer of clothing.

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Roadside birds

The road passes through dairy farms nestled between tall, rolling hills and has a serviceable shoulder. Road surfaces in New Zealand are extremely good. They show the mild climate at its best. There are no potholes or seams to avoid. Their only downside is that they are made of stone chips sealed in tarmac, rather than a smooth asphalt surface.

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Udderly serene

Our Lonely Planet guide says there is long, steep hill about 14 km out of town. We decide to walk from the bottom. Part way up a local slowed to our pace on her bike. New Zealanders stay at home Christmas and Boxing Day, she says. On December 27 the roads go mad. New Zealand drivers have a terrible reputation. "That was until we did so well in world cycling," she says. "It seems the day after they started giving us space."

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Starting again

The Lonely Planet faked us out. We could have made that hill with no problem. At the bottom on the other side there is a side road to Opoutere, which has nothing to commend it except a beach, and what a beach it is! We walk Lady CoMo in through old pines and a bird sanctuary to a beach that seems to stretch for miles.

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Old pines

There may have been a dozen people on it. What a sight. I body surf in the waves, letting the rolling surf carry me in to shore and deposit me in a froth of foam. Glorious.

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Beached whale

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Opoutere Beach – count the footprints

We exit through a commercial camp ground. If ever there was a place to camp, this would be it. Except there are no shaded spots. Our tent would be in the sun all day. One gets spoiled camping in Canada.

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Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree …

We ride on to Whangamata, a beach resort town. It has facilities, and shops, and groceries, and a lovely motel (Breakers). A decision is made. We will take a room here for 3 nights. The question of where we will be on Christmas Day has been answered.

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11 comments on “New Zealand 2014/15”

  1. MJ Ray wrote:

    The images aren't showing for me 🙁

  2. Kern wrote:

    Hi MJ. Thanks for the feedback. I've broken up the report into multiple pages. It should load now. Let me know.

  3. thank you so much for this lovely write up. we were in NZ but not cycling in 2001. We spent 4 wonderful days kayaking Queen Charlotte sound from Havelock. you have brought back some lovely memories.

  4. Kern wrote:

    Hi Brenda – I'm glad you enjoyed it. We have never kayaked, but I can see how Queen Charlotte sound would be spectacular to do so. It is wonderful territory.

  5. Hi There Mary and Kern
    Really enjoyed reading your trip report. We will never forget the tandem spread all over the floor in room 3. Hope we meet again in the not too distant future. 27 degrees here today.
    Love. John & Christine

  6. Patrick wrote:

    That is a great read Kern. The conclusion, unwritten, appears to be (as the man said): "You must always go a bit outside your comfort zone. If you don't, your comfort zone gets smaller." That is very true but mine has reached a point where I always need a plan. I think there's something to be said for it but perhaps it doesn't matter later when you look back. One of our sons spent six months in New Zealand and the thing he enjoyed most was the wilderness (on the South Island).

    Regarding camping on a cycle tour, I think it has to be one thing, or the other. I have sat in some pleasant accommodation and thought drat... we're camping again tomorrow night.

  7. Claire wrote:

    I read it all in one sitting! I did not expect a trip report to have so much dramatic tension, it was like reading a short story. I think you had your A-HA moment after all!! (It just didn't involve scenery... pfff over-rated).
    Also I really like the style of text interspersed with relevant photos and the "punny" photo captions.

  8. Kern wrote:

    "Dramatic tension" – holy cow, Claire, no wonder you're my favourite daughter-in-law 🙂 .

    Patrick, I'm tickled that you came to such a philosophical conclusion. Our main conclusion was a bit more prosaic: Don't plan a cycling trip between Christmas and New Years. (The North Island poses extra touring challenges, in that it is impossible to avoid heavy traffic.)

    We're with you on camping. Next time we leave the gear behind, unless we're in the Rockies.

    27 degrees. Hmmm .... well, it's almost 27 today as well (depending on which scale you use).

  9. Andrew wrote:

    Loved every moment reading of the trip, thanks Mary and Kern, especially Mary sweeping in The Shire... And Kern shaving half the lonely planet 🙂
    My favorite photo of the year is Mary sweeping we are going to frame that here!
    Impressive adventure and a lot of tough cycling undertaking. Although I'm sure that wine bottle holder for the bike came in handy though! never seen one before!?
    Congrats on another great adventure on the bike! Look forward to the next one

  10. Kern wrote:

    Andrew wrote

    ... that wine bottle holder for the bike ...

    Wine bottle holder??? Mary told me it was water!

    (Mary couldn't help herself with that broom. She just picked it up and started sweeping like it was the most natural thing in the world 🙂 .)

  11. Gerard wrote:

    Thank you. As a Kiwi, I enjoyed this. I will ride the Tour Aotearoa next February: look it up, as it's a slightly more off-road version of your trip, from top to bottom.

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