Monday, 22 April 2013

New Zealand, North Island - Cycle Tour Map

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A Summary of the North Island Tour


View NZ North Island Cycle Tour in a larger map

Overall distance was about 2500km or 1500 miles between April 10th and May 9th 1993. The total for the South and North Islands was about 5000km or 3000 miles.

I finished off in Wellington where Jo held a farewell party for me and her friends. I was leaving for the Cook Islands and Tahiti soon. We drank the case of wines we'd picked up on our walk around the Marlborough Vineyards.

Here are my cheats

Wellington to Auckland by train, 400 miles
Auckland to Whangerei by bus, 100 miles
Swanson to Auckland, Suburban Rail, 12 Miles
Auckland to Waitakaruru by bus, 55 miles
Te Aroha to Rotorua, by bus 60 miles
Gisborne to Napier by bus 130 miles
Napier to Taupo by bus 90 miles
Taumarunui to National Park, by train 25 miles
Marton to Wellington, by train 100 miles


Regrets

Running out of time because of flights booked was a drag
No time for Taranaki Region and New Plymouth
More time needed for central and east coasts
No photographs of Napier!
Haven't been back

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Wanganui River Road

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Spiral Train to National Park

At Tokaanu the camp had a thermal spa and a mineral pool too which helped Neil and I recover from the grey and drizzly ride down the coast of Taupo Lake. From Tokaanu to Tauramanni was a long uphill ride to a saddle, where I got soaked in a massive downpour' I then managed to find Rick and Jen, who I'd met in Otago, and they invited me around for dinner. An hours train ride took me up to National park via the famous spiral. Up top it was very cloudy and I saw nothing of the mountains and volcanoes. I did however meet up with Neil again and we had some drinks and another spa.

Down the River Road

The next day we had a very fast twenty mile descent in low cloud and drizzle. We then took the Wanganui River road which is a wonderfully scenic, but often unmade, road following the river valley down to the coast. We had lunch in Pipiriki, and had a quick look around the Colonial House there. After passing through many villages named after European capitals we arrived at Ranana (London in Maori) and camped in a very damp field. The amenities building had been taken over by a travelling Maori family, but we had a very pleasant evening sharing the facilities and chatting over dinner. I went through 3000 miles today.

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The final section of the road down to Wanganui was accompanied by fine weather and we enjoyed the ride, chasing sheep as we went. We finally had to climb steeply from the the river valley and could look back to the winding greenness of the valley below us. That evening we stayed at a haunted YHA (though I didn't hear anything go bump in the night) and went out for a Chinese dinner to celebrate my last evening out.

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Final Train to Wellington

Today I had to ride 25 miles to Marton to catch the train. All the buses from Wanganui were full. After a tedious five hour wait for the train I was almost refused passage as the train was extremely busy. On the train, finally, I chatted to a group of country ladies going to Wellington for the first time. I was met by Jo at Wellington Station and I had to ride the last two or three miles up the steep hills to her flat. This almost finished me off! After a quick shower we went out to a cocktail party and got slaughtered.

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Friday, 19 April 2013

Craters of the Moon

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Lake Taupo

Again I caught the bus; this time to Taupo. I was in town early enough to get a haircut before checking into a backpackers. I met Norbert, a German, and we went out drinking. In the morning I rode out to Huka Falls and along a mountain-bike trail for a few miles. At the 'Craters of the Moon' thermal area I met a couiple of German girls; we then visited a prawn farm! We bought some and had them in the evening before going out drinking again. Had a sauna before going to bed.

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Rainbows and Earthquakes

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Rainbows to Gisborne

I stayed at Tokomuru Bay next, again in a backpackers by myself. The trees are beginning to yellow now for autumn. Today's ride was interspersed with showers and sunshine and `I saw several rainbows. I stopped at Tikitiki but didn't visit the famous church with Maori decorations. From the many hills I fine views of the often weirdly shaped mountains.

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The ride down to Gisborne continued the up and down theme of the East Cape. It was clear and sunny, though slightly cold. I had lunch on the graveyard of a beach at Paranga Bay. In Gisborne itself I settle into the YHA and went to see 'Last of the Mohicans' on the largest screen in NZ. Staying in town the next day I visited museums and wandered around town. The museums were populated with people dressed in pioneer costumes. I was disappointed not to find a decent place to sample some of the local wines.

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Earthquake in Napier

From here I caught the bus to Napier (running out of time!) and spent two days there. More cinema. 'West Side Story', and an examination of the town's Art Deco buildings. I was woken by an earthquake at 7am; it measured 4.9 on the Richter scale. I hardly disturbed my Japanese room-mate. Couldn't get to the vineyards here either!

Monday, 15 April 2013

To the East Cape

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Cricket and Football at Hick's Bay

After over 2650 miles I finally get a puncture! Actually two in a row, and a tyre so thin I can see through it. I hitch the last 5 miles into Opotiki getting a lift from the very first car. I stayed at the backpackers here and re-met Sandy from the Cape Reinga trip. Went out for a drink in the evening.

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The next days ride was along a beautiful coast with the White Island volcano on my left almost all day. It was especially nice sitting on the beach with some Maori lads watching the sun go down behind the island which had a permanent volcanic plume. This part of NZ is strongly Maori and I pass several Whares (Meeting Houses) and what look like Totem poles. I also got stung by a wasp today whilst climbing a steep hill. I just gritted my teeth and rode on. This was my first night camping for a while; it was lonely listening to the thunder and seeing the lightning flash, but the rail held off.

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The following days ride was also along the coast, until the last few miles to Hick's Bay. On arrival at the backpackers here, on a makeshift road around a headland to an isolated cove, I played cricket on the beach. Friendly atmosphere. I stayed here two nights. In the morning we got up at 5am to get to the East Cape Lighthouse in time for sunrise. This is NZ's most easterly point, and the new day begins here for the whole world! We shivered in the cold and watched the sun come up. Not very spectacular, but at least I'd brought by stove to make coffee. In the afternoon we kicked a football around before going fishing off the rocks. Julian managed to catch a Snapper and a couple of Rock Cod.

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Friday, 12 April 2013

To Hell and Back

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Rotorua, Mud-Pools and Geysers

Lazily I caught a bus today to Rotorua. The bus was free to anyone staying in the YHA so I couldn't resist it! Rotorua's sulphurous smell takes some getting used to. I visited a trout farm and a forest before finding Ray and Doreen. These are relations of Sandras (and Dales) and I cheekily knocked on their door. No problem and I stayed here for an enjoyable three nights. Ray told me some stories from his wrestling days when he travelled around the US and the UK as a professional wrestler, grappling all the famous guys of that era. It was also ANZAC when I was there so he told me some war stories too. And he still plays in the brass band.


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I visited the Maori Cultural Centre and Thermal Reserve. Here I admire the boiling lakes and mud pools and the geysers. I'm slowly getting used to the sulphur smell! Steam seems to come out of the ground everywhere. I then rode through a forest to the Blue and Green lakes and onto a buried village. Thge village was buried in 1886 by a volcanic eruption. very eerie. I visited another crater lake and then rode back. Strange day.

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On my final day in Rotorua I went out with Ray and visited his mother and sister. His brother-in-law collects vintage cars, he has five, including a 1926 Cadillac. We then went to the Polynesian Pools and sat in the radium and Priest pools for an hour or so. Ray has a free entry for his arthritis. In the afternoon I visited the Kaura Park, the Government Gardens and the museum.

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I finally left Rotorua and rode around the lake to Hell's Kitchen (now called Hells Gate). This is, of course, another thermal area. from here it was a ride over the mountains through the northern lake district, past a volcano and across a plain to Whakatane and finally over a hill to a small backpackers at Ohape Bay.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

Opoutere YHA

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Pipi and Green Mussels

I spent three days at this wonderfully secluded YHA at Opoutere. The ride from Hot-Water Beach was fairly short but included two long and steep climbs. The rain held off. Everyone seemed friendly at the YHA and the facilities were excellent. In the afternoon I walked up the hill behind the YHA and examined the view over the bay, looking down on a river making its way to the sea. The endangered NZ Dotterel nests on the sand spit where the river meets the sea. The evening was cosily spent in the living room with a big log fire and a chat with some of the other residents.

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In the morning I packed early and left only to get as far as Whangamata. Here I bumped into Rick (last seen on the Milford Sound road) and I decided to go back to the YHA as he was travelling north. In the afternoon we went wading for Pipi (a kind of mussel) with Rory who is almost a permanent resident of this place. I think he's been 17 times! We got a bucketful of Pipi and cooked them for our evening meal in garlic and wine. Very nice. After going fishing in the rowing boat in the evening, catching nothing, we spent the night chatting and playing Scrabble.

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I decided to spend another day here, but Rick after another walk up to the summit, left that day. Rory and I played some badminton. In the afternoon we took the canoes out (with Rory and Jo) and managed to catch three fish! We also dived for a bucketful of green mussels. For dinner I make bread and Chelsea buns and Mussels Provencal. Sumptious. Another perfect day.

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The next morning I managed to drag myself away, but consoled myself by buying a couple of surf T-shirts in the sales at Whanagamata. Today's ride was long and cold with a strong southerly breeze. After lunch at Waiki I rode through the Karangahake Gorge, partly along an old railway line, then through Paroroa. It was flat all the way then to Te Aroha where I stayed at a YHA again. I was alone. As usual I visited the spa pool in the evening.

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Hot Water Beach

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Over the Coramandel Range

The following day I rode back to Coramandel Township and then took the mountain road over the Coramandel Ranges to the east coast. It was a long slow climb, particularly as the road was unsurfaced. The descent was tricky as the mud was slightly wet as I rode down through the forest. The views, both east and west, were spectacular from the summit. I had lunch at Matarangi on the beach all by myself and then continued along the coastal road to Kuaotunu. I was the only one camping here too.

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The next days ride took me to Hot Water beach via Whitianga. A short ferry ride here saved me 25 miles (to go around the inlet) and I bumped into Stefan (riding north) who I'd ridden with in Otago! After walking up to the Cook Memorial on Shakespeare Cliff I rode into Hahei Beach, where the sand is supposed to be pink and sat down and wrote some letters.

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On the road to Hot Water Beach I passed a winery and popped in for a tasting. It was mostly fruit wine made by a Yorkshireman. I set up camp and went for a walk along the famous beach, and met a Dutch guy, Mathias, who was busy digging a spa-pool in the sand. When I returned from my walk he was still hard at it, but I think the tide was to far out for him to get the proper hot-water effect.

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In the evening Matthias drove us into Whitianga for dinner and on our return we walked across the beach again looking at the stars.

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Onto Coramandel

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Driving Creek Railway and Hot Springs

I left Auckland this morning by bus and went as far as Waitakaruru. It was hard to ask for a ticket to this place! From there it was only a four mile ride to the Miranda Hot Springs. I lazed in the pool for a few hours before retiring early. Tough life!

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The next day I rode to Tapu and camped beside a small river as it entered the Firth of Thames. I spent all afternoon lying in the sun and reading. After that it was a ride up the coast to Amodeo Bay in a slight drizzle. After lunch at the Coramandel Township I visited the Driving Creek Railway, a fifteen inch gauge light railway built by enthusiasts from old mining rails. The locomotives were hand built and the track was originally laid up the hillside to fetch down clay and wood for his pottery. Now he runs a tourist train in the afternoon. The tracks climb up the hills for several kilometres backing up on itself with several bridges and a viaduct (including a double-decker) before reaching the top.

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From here it was a short twelve mile ride up the coast to the camp-site and another long soak in the spa-pool. In the evening I took a stroll along the beach and watched the sun go down over Northland.

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Monday, 8 April 2013

The Road to Auckland

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Kauri Trees and Hot Springs

Today was a long ride through the Kauri Forest. I had to ride 25 miles of winding mountain roads through the forest. I visited some of the largest trees on a short walk. At lunch in Omapere I bumped into a couple I'd met in Pohara in the South Island. I also realised that I'd left a T-shirt in Rawene, so I wrote a letter to the camp-ground enclosing five dollars and asking them to send it to Wellington. They did. Sweet.

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I camped beside a river in a camp-ground almost taken over by a club of all-terrain vehicle drivers. They had had some kind of race meeting at the weekend. They were friendly though. Unfortunately it rained.

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The road to Pahi was relatively flat but I was thwarted by a stiff head-wind and although the day was clear and warm, the country-side was less dramatic than before. I spent a couple of hours at the Pioneer Museum where I learnt about the Kauri trees and its gum.

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As I got nearer to Auckland the traffic gets busier and I was  forced onto the main road for five of six miles. This is where I lost my bottom water-bottle cage. A screw had worked its way out. The ride ended up being almost seven hours, some of it on gravel and mostly up and down all day. I remember putting up a rabbit and chasing it for a while. I also had a huge lunch at Wellsford. The toil was worth it though as I ended up at Parakai Hot Springs and camping gave you free access to the thermal springs. Just the way to spend the evening after a long ride.

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The final days ride into Auckland took me through Waitakere and its surrounding vineyards, before reaching the outskirts and deciding to catch a suburban train into the city. Whilst checking into the backpackers I met Caroline and Sue (from the Cape Reinga trip) and had a drink with them that evening. In the afternoon I made all the arrangements for my forthcoming holiday in the Cook Islands and Tahiti.

I spent one further day in Auckland. I managed to find an English Sunday paper and spent the morning catching up on the news. After wandering around town for a while I visited the aquarium. In this one you walk through a perspex tunnel inside the tank, with sharks and rays swimming all around you. Amazing. they also had sea-horses, a couple of species be indigenous. I had a quiet evening doing my laundry.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Sailing the High Seas

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The R. Tucker Thompson

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I spent the whole day on the R. Tucker Thompson a schooner with a square-rigged foremast. In the summer she does day tripos in the Bay of Islands, but in the winter she does cruises through the Pacific Islands. For a price you can crw on her. Today I ran around pulling ropes as directed by the official crew and climbed up the rigging and out onto the bowsprit. At lunch we anchored in a bay and swam. We also swung from a rope on the yard-arm. All good fun on a beautiful day.

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In the evening I played pool down the pub with a bunch of German lads. A fish and chip supper and a sleep undisturbed by mosquitoes.

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Northland East Coast

The following morning I was back on my bicycle after the short ferry trip to Pahia. The day was sunny, the road undulating, but the countryside was a bit bland. I did bump into two other cyclist though. The camp-ground at Rawene was very bleak. I was the only one there and decided I may as well stay in the bunk-room. I'm now on the west coast of the northern peninsular. The estuary here is very muddy; a complete contrast to the pristine beaches on the eastern side. At least I'm riding again.