New Zealand 2014/15

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Saturday December 27

The morning dawns with birds clustered in palm trees singing frantically, and the heavy scent of jasmine in the air. Every day it seems we cycle through a waft of floral scent.

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Morning scents

The Old Te Aroha road may be the quietest road in New Zealand. It runs south in gentle swells along a ridge of mountains. It makes for a perfect early morning ride. Clouds blow over us, and intermittent beams of sunlight dance across the mountain sides.

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Sunlight on the mountains

We cross a river and ride the flat flood plain into Matamata, a farm supply town that has taken on a new life. The Lord of the Rings reigns supreme in Matamata. From the information centre (suitably disguised as a hobbit house) they run bus tours with clockwork efficiency out to the movie set of the Shire.

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Lady CoMo disguised as a hobbit

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The Shire

(Favourite anecdote of the tour guides: thirty percent of the visitors to the Hobbiton movie set have never seen one of the movies or read the books. The reason they come is to make their friends jealous.)

I must say the tour was enjoyable. Mary managed to land a minor part as a hobbit, and anytime someone pours me a complementary ale at the Green Dragon I'm happy. The great thing about the set is that it is impossible to take a poor photo. It was made to be photographed, and every photo looks good (as long as you keep other tourists out of the frame).

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Hobbit in action

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More Details

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Mint, anyone?

The best purchase made for the trip has been Sperry shoes. These are like moccasins with a sole. They are light weight, compact, comfortable, and slip proof. Our daughter says in Ireland all the cool kids were them to school. Our son says they look like retirement shoes.

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"Retirement" shoes (if only!)

Sunday December 28

Tirau to Picton

We have now run out of plan. So we decide to cycle 20 km south to Tirau and see if we can get Lady Como on a bus. The South Island may beckon ...

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Roadside stop, Mary waiting for me

The bus to Wellington pulled up within 90 seconds of our arrival. By removing the front wheel, Lady CoMo can just fit crossways in the luggage compartment, secured by bungee cords. South Island, here we come!

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Lady CoMo crossways

From a seat on the bus opposite the loo (not a prime spot) I can watch New Zealand's busiest road, Highway 1. The shoulder disappears for sections, but traffic does not slow down. We would have turned around on this road.

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View from a bus

Campsites around Lake Taupo are stacked liked tiles. This area around Tirangi is a tourist playground. (Canadians: think Muskoka with power boats, tourist storefronts, etc.) We are glad we are seeing this from a bus and not a bicycle.

South and west of Taihape the land is carved into gorges and gullies by a river. There are small paved roads down there that would be fun exploring. The cliffs at the water's edge look like a mixture of white clay and sand.

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Banks of clay

I'm sure this is growing tiresome, but the avocados are spectacular. We have had one every night since arrival. They are for sale in roadside stalls – five dollars for ten avos. But we still don't know what an avocado tree looks like.

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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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