Day 5 -Rotorua to Ohope Beach – 104 kms
A great ride today, even the weather seems to be cooperating – it’s clouded over this afternoon, but it was sunny and warm all through my ride. As the Kiwis say, “the weather’s fine.” That is their description of any dry weather, “fine.” Definitely minimum information from the weather people here! I guess that they don’t want to scare the tourists off with what’s really going to happen!
The grades were not too bad today either, just a couple of groaners, but the landscape that I rode through more than made up for the few hills. Riding from Rotorua on SH 30, I passed by “Hell’s Gate,” where there a some geysers – the place was closed, but I managed to get some photos of the site from a nearby hilltop. Also enroute, I passed by three lakes, Rotoiti, Rotoehu and Rotuma – By the way, I hope that you’re all following along with these names, many of which are real tongue twisters! Anyhow, traffic was light, and especially so after leaving the early morning bustle of Rotorua.
No real second breaky today, but I’ve found that there are small tearooms all over the place – so it was tea and a cheese and onion pie – hot pies are a hot item over here, pardon the pun! You might not be able to get your bread and milk, but you will get a hot pie – fillings too numerous to list here!
I stopped at Whakatane for a quick bite, and also for a visit to the local AA office for more roadmaps. I think that I mentioned that I picked up some maps near Auckland, and they gave me a free six months visitor’s membership to the New Zealand AA – so all maps and member benefits are free – good deal eh? – I wonder if they’ll tow me up the hills?
From there, up and down another couple of killer hills to this campsite – beachside on the Bay of Plenty, South Pacific Ocean. I did get one spectacular downhill today, lots of hairpins and a clear road to ride them on. Although the hairpin bend I encountered a couple of days ago on the ride to Rotorua was something else; it was very steep, downhill, and I had to slow right down – I kept turning and turning and turning – I thought that I was going to disappear up my own arsehole – if you know what I mean! (if off-colour language offends you, don’t read the previous sentence). The posted speed limit for that bend was only 15 Kms/hr! I might add that it was raining too, which made it even more exciting!
Anyway, here I am with beautiful white sand and warm water – and the place is almost deserted! Great facilities again – even a store (avec les refreshments) and fresh seafood nearby. Pretty civilised when there’s a fridge to store a cold one – or two in!
Well, I’d better go and cook up some one pot delicacy to throw these fresh shrimp into (Bay of Plenty, get it?) – life’s tough!
Oh, oh, I keep feeling the odd raindrop – Basil’s looking for his sou’wester – do the no rain dance everyone!
Day 6 -Ohope Beach to Te Kaha – 108 kms
What fabulous scenery today – oceanside on SH35 for pretty well the whole day. Lots of wave action, black sand beaches, etc, etc. There were some of those famous New Zealand hills again, but the weather, wind and scenery made up for the sweat and toil!
I thought that I might be in for a rough day weather-wise; it was very grey this morning and it poured rain last night, but the sun and wind seemed to clear most of the grey away – still some good clouds blocking the sun, but for the most part it is quite warm – well it should be, it’s supposed to be Summer here after all!
It doesn’t get light here until about 6:30 a.m., so I haven’t been getting up too early on mornings anyway – usually best to wait to see what the day’s like before packing my stuff away – I might have to stay an extra day if the weather’s really crappy on a morning.
Second breaky was in Opotiki – apparently some Hawaiians landed there and brought two fishes as gifts for the Maoris – Opotiki means place where two fish landed – Not much of a gift, but there it is!
Once again, I’m in a nice oceanside park. It’s not very busy – I’m the only tenter in a huge area meant for about fifty tents. However, the other sites for campervans are filling up pretty quick.
The wind’s picking up again here; I listened to Radio New Zealand last night and they are forecasting westerlies of 120 kms/hr for some places on the North Island – hopefully I won’t be at the mercy of that wind. After dinner, I’m going across the road to watch the big surf, there’s some huge waves building up with this wind!
How do you know that you’re in a New Zealand campground? The young guys are playing cricket, not throwing a baseball around! Yeah, really!
If the westerlies keep up, I should have another day of favourable wind tomorrow, but if they keep up after that, it’s going to be a real slog into Gisborne.
I passed another bike tourist today, young fellow from Germany – he didn’t speak much English, so that’s all I know! I was glad to see though, that at least one other cyclist carries more crap than me – his load made mine look light! He looked young and strong though, I’m sure that he won’t throw too much away after some more New Zealand hills!
Day 7 -Te Kaha to Te Araroa – 92 kms
Boy, these miles are tough to accumulate, but that’s not too surprising when I spend two-thirds of my day going uphill and the other third going down – those fast downhills are great, but there always seems to be an uphill next. The Kiwis sure didn’t flatten out too much terrain before they built their roads – the grades aren’t posted, but from experience I’m going to say that a lot of them are between 10% and 14%! – Yeah, some real knee-knackerers! So 100 kms per day seems to be all that I want to coax out of my body – for now anyway.
Hills or no hills though, today’s ride goes up as one of the best coastal rides that I have ridden. The ocean vistas were absolutely terrific for many, many miles this morning – a real roller-coaster of road though, with, as I said, some nasty little hills thrown in. The last 25 kms of the ride to Te Araroa was inland a bit, still good views, but mostly big hills and farmland until Hicks Bay when I met the coast again – and the 2 km Pukeamaru hill. Well at least this motor camp was at the bottom of the downhill, so I ducked in here for the night. I’m very close to the ocean again, and the campground is very quiet – although the lady at the office says that they accommodate 500 campers normally in the earlier summer months – I’m glad that I missed that lot! Nice campground, a little run down when compared to the others that I’ve stayed at though. What’s more, they do have mozzies here, and they’ve already been to visit I might add! – let’s hope that they are few and far between!
Talking about bugs, I forgot to mention my experience at Ohope Beach. I was reading in my tent late in the evening with my headlight on. When I looked up I could see something scurrying across the top of my inner tent – between the fly and inner mesh. I swatted through the tent material and about four or five great big beetles tumbled down – these buggers had bodies about one and a half inches long – I’ve never seen beetles that big – long tentacles, the whole bit – I guess that the light was attracting them. In the morning there was a couple of even bigger ones hiding under my panniers in the tent’s vestibule – scared the crap out of Basil when he saw them! Apparently they are bush cockroaches – I hope that they’re not too common!
Weather was good (fine!!!) today and the westerlies were kindly at my back – tomorrow, who knows? – I’m still on SH 35 heading south en route to Gisborne where I should be in a couple of days.
Most of Eastland, where I am riding seems to be Maori land, so even though there are miles and miles of beaches, they are, for the most part, deserted, as access seems to be restricted.
Also, I have to say that I have definitely ridden past a lot more cattle farms than sheep farms – I expected the opposite – perhaps on the South Island the sheep farms will be bigger?
Best find in the last couple of days – Cadbury’s flake ice cream cones -99’s)- highly decadent!
Day 8 -Te Araroa to Tokomaru Bay – 94 kms
Those kind, friendly westerlies ceased to be friends today – it was a tough slog all day into brisk headwinds and up some more of New Zealand’s finest hills!
I rode inland all day until reaching the motor camp here at Tokomaru Bay. What a spectacular bay and huge beach – once again deserted! The town is almost a ghost town since a meat freezing plant closed down a few years ago. There are many abandoned business buildings on the main street including two bank buildings that are vacated. But the potential for tourism here is overwhelming – I’m surprised that the locals are not capitalising on this wonderful location with its spectacular oceanfront and beach – but it is rather nice without a glut of tourists here too!
Cheapest camping yet too – only NZ$8.00 for the night with free showers. There is free camping on the beach here – one of the few oceanside places that “wild” camping is allowed – but I opted for the motor camp to garner benefit from the shower facilities, and also I look forward to the possibility of some interaction with other travellers that the kitchen and lounge facilities usually offer.
I met a young fellow by the name of Dave at last night’s camp – he’s from Montreal, and also cycling a similar route to mine. The young German fellow also showed up there last night too. I figured that they would end up here today, but it’s now 5:00 p.m. and still no sign of them. I did leave before them, but I took a detour off-route into Ruatoria for my second breaky and some supplies – nice little town with a good food store.
Mostly farm and hillside scenery today, but there were some good views after the higher climbs this morning – there were three steep hills all in row, to 115m, 205m and 220m respectively – and all descending to sea level from their summits! And they were just the start – yes, I spent a lot of time going uphill again today.
I should be in Gisborne tomorrow – a much bigger town/city. I was hoping to snag a hostel room for the night, but can’t get through to a warm body to book anything – all I get is the answering machine telling me to leave my name and number – yeah, right! I guess that I’ll have to wait until I get there, but it will be Friday, so rooms might be tough to get.
The days are going quickly too, and I should also decide whether to shuttle bus down to Wellington and catch the ferry to the South Island for some touring there. I’d also like to spend a couple of days in Wellington before leaving the North Island – after all, it is the capital city of New Zealand. Well, some things to plan and ponder during tomorrow’s ride.
Historical fact – Captain Cook landed just south of here in October, 1769. Also, a lot of the coastal towns at this side of Eastland are the first in the world to see the sun on a new day.
By the way, the weather was “fine” today; g’day, mate!