New Zealand 2014/15
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.
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.
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.
Lady CoMo disguised as a hobbit
(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).
Hobbit in action
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.
"Retirement" shoes (if only!)
Sunday December 28
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 ...
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!
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.
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.
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.