Time for reflection on the Hauraki Plains

Rather than share a little time with many on Christmas day we have an ‘early’ Christmas which leaves everyone free to meet other commitments on the big day and probably enjoy it more.

This year we headed to the Coromandel to celebrate our early Christmas and it was very successful. Our AirBnB was perfect for the five children and five adults; with a playground outside and a pool table inside the kids were able to (mostly) entertain themselves.

No – that is not our accommodation in Miranda. AS we biked past I thought that it had an Ark like look to it, especially as it was sitting in the paddock not far from the sea wall – a plan B for the farmer maybe?

On our way back we had booked into an AirBnB in a dot-on-the-map place called Miranda. The intention was, amongst other things, to cycle a recently completed section of the Hauraki Rail Trail from Miranda to Thames.

The weekend also coincided with the wrap up of yet another climate talk fest in Katowice in Poland. If we expected anything other than a lot of hot air from politicians (and of course plenty of carbon from all the flights to get there) then it appears that we have not been dissapointed. However, one address that caught my attention was that of the Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who lays it out plain and clear for the so called adults attending. The video clip is worth viewing if you have not already seen it

Reading a little about Greta, she walks the talk; does not fly (the family drove by EV to Poland) and even refused a nomination for a climate award becuase it would require her to fly, she only shops when she actually needs to replace something and has dropped meat and dairy from the diet.

Little Kasey enjoys a “Christmas” outdoor bath at Coromandel. I suspect the road to Coromandel will have undergone even more drastic changes if she makes a pilgimage to the AirBNB in 2068. I suspect that with current trends she will never get to see the inside of an airplane.

I was reflecting on this as we cycled along on our ride today. The bike trail has been built along a seawall that effectively stops the extensive farmimg (and residential) areas of the Hauraki plains from being flooded by the sea, no doubt an ever increasing risk. There was little between the mangroves and the farm land and we noted during one stop that even now water was being pumped from the land back to the sea. I reckoned that in places the ‘wall’ was only about 30cm above any current high tide. I suspect something similar to that required to satisfy Trump is what may be needed in the future.

On the left was the mangroves (tide was out) – on the right farmland.

On our drive to the Coromandel I was also shocked at the extensive reinforcing that has been added to the coastal road, effectively changing the whole nature of the drive. Rather than the natural coastline that we enjoyed as kids, large lengths of the coastline now consist of man-made sea barriers. The result is not particularly attractive compared to its original state but without it the road would no longer exist.

As we were taking a breather we heard a pump kick into life and the water start to flow from the canals surrounding the farms out to the tidal eastuary. A rather unsophiticated version of what we had seen in Holland.

Our ride today was further preparation for our upcoming cycle touring in February that will take us from Rotorua to Wellington of which close to 700km will involve pedal power (with a little pedal assist on the hills). One of the negatives of the ride is that we will be sharing the roads with other (much bigger and faster) vehicles. We have tried to plan the ride to avoid busy roads and will use cycle trails where these exist.

Part of our ride today was on-road but the roads were pretty quiet and much easier riding than the metal cycleway that we had battled for 39 of our 42km ride.

What shocked me the most during our last travels was the huge growth in tourist volumes. When I researched tourism growth a little more, I discovered that; 1.46 billion passengers flew in 1998. That had grown to 3.8 billion in 2017 and is forecast to grow to 8.2 billion by 2037 which of course assumes that Greta and her supporters have not changed the World order by then. Apart from the carbon aspect, I don’t know how the current ‘must see / bucket list attractions’ will cope. They don’t now.

We decided after our return from Asia this year that we would no longer fly longer haul for our travel adventures. We may still make the odd flight for family reasons but we have redirected our attention to enjoying holidays at home and as far as possible, off the beaten tourist track.

There had not been a lot of bike traffic over this new section of trail so the metal was a little loose in places making the riding a little harder on the legs. Ruth fessed up that she had been using the battery a little.

Cycling is a great way to travel and experience your own country. However, most people who I talk too think that you are a little bonkers to go on a road where there is the likelihood of even one car passing you. Maybe we should be investing our roading expenditure a little more wisely and rather than building for bigger vehicles and more motorised traffic we should be gearing up for a future where people can also safely travel longer distances, with families, by cycle. If they cannot travel overseas, it is probably a good idea to give them more adventure options at home.  The other benefit of such adventure is that it is cheaper meaning that mum and dad don’t have to work as hard in order to afford that International get-away.

As we cycle along we get to see detail that you miss by car. This interesting ‘marina’ was built in one of the drainage canals that keep the land farmable.

By focussing on home grown adventures and getting fossil fuels (mainly) out of our transport options we should be able to reduce our carbon footprint by around 60% over the next year. Beyond that it gets a little more challenging. Food is the biggest cuplrit, dairy and meat in particular, and we are going to have to make some dietary changes if we want to lower those footprints further. Interestingly, the things that we are changing probably result in better health and finances.

Maybe we should stop cycling. Seeing what is actually happening to the countryside that we are riding through and having the time to reflect on it is all a bit life changing.

An ice cream was just the tonic in the heat but this mega sized one pretty much did the trick for Ruth – she could not get through it and will probably not eat another ice cream for some time – if ever.



  1. Totally agree with your comments on cycling in NZ. We don’t fly anywhere either. We are on a mission to see as much of NZ as we can, from the cycle track. You do see things you could never see from a car. And I know where that icecream picture was taken: The Convenient Cow Cafe at Hikutaia. Delicious icecream, but I had trouble finishing mine also…
    Desiree http://dizzysfoldingbike.blogspot.com/2015/07/hauraki-rail-trail-paeroa-to-thames.html


    1. Hi Dizzy – I have read your posts on cycling in many part of the country, especially the Wairarapa as we are cycling down route 52 to Wellington in February. Your travels on a folding bike helped to inspire us to go back to e-folders from our hybrids. We are loving the ability to deal with the hills.


  2. Good morning Cliff and Ruth, another very rumbling report from your reflective bike trips! Reducing your footprint by 60% (!!!) next year! I think we should send this report to Julie Anne Genter: it will be among her best Christmas gifts! Greta’s speech is also good for our webpage. Rolf says, it is already on facebook, but I have yet to get on it. (feels like stepping into the dark without being able to see anything). Ruth’s (last?) icecream photo is funny (and pretty) because she wears a matching colour t shirt. Off into the day with our solar and battery installers. Enjoy the Coromandel and the family! Inge


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