I have picked up where I left off in Rawene. Ruth obligingly dropped me out there in the car – well no point in going over the same territory twice – is there? She also kindly carried my gear onto Omapere where we both spent the night. In short, the first afternoon’s ride was a doddle, giving me a bloated opinion of my match fitness.
That illusion lasted for about five minutes on day two when I immediately hit the first of what was to be an unrelenting wave of hills and a nasty side wind, all the way to Auckland.
Day 2 and 1290m of climbing was my highest cumulative elevation on any ride in both islands and the 84km in very warm conditions was a more sobering test of my fitness. I got a slight lift in spirits when I stopped at Tane Mahuta after a 380m climb. There was a group of ladies from the Wairarapa (Team Grit) who are heading to bluff. They admitted to me later that they were looking for my electric motor because I looked too fresh after the climb. They happened to be in the cabin next door in Dargaville, the destination, and I was looking every bit as shattered as them at the end of the ride. However, the privilege of riding through a grand Kauri forest took my mind off the grind.
To make matters worse, I needed to be a lot more vigilant on the downhills ensuring that I avoided any bumps. I had discovered a broken spoke on my rear wheel the day before leaving. I rushed up to the bike shop but they had decided to close for the long weekend. I had made some very dodgy repairs but on the rougher gravel they needed constant attention.
Day 3 started with a visit to the bike shop in Dargaville to get my spoke replaced. My derailleur was also giving me problems and, the lady mechanic also suggested that my rear tyre might not see the distance. With a much improved bike and 3 hours later than intended, I pedalled out of Dargaville along the Pouto Peninsular to Pouto Point. The hills were not as high as the previous day but the quality was replaced by quantity. It was 67km of nothingness – no shops where I could quench my thirst for a cold drink. The only redeeming factor was that the other 6 riders I was meeting there, had found it as tough as I did. We were also notified that the boat that we had chartered to get us across the harbour was arriving an hour earlier due to the high winds blowing. A 5am wake up! As none of us wanted to be packing tents up in the dark we pleaded with the camp commandant to let us bunk down inside. She was reluctant but finally gave in. It is sad to see adults crying.
It felt like a scene out of a spy movie the following morning. Looking out across the darkness for a flashing light then the boat running up onto the beach, we hurriedly flung our gear on and then powered off the beach. Mission accomplished!
We disembarked amongst the mangroves at Parakai and were again soon slogging up the hills of north west Auckland.
After a couple of route issues (bad map planning, a missing sign post and a detour) I made it onto the North Western Cycleway for a slog into Auckland against the ever present nor’easter.
Being mid-week I was able to get the ferry to Pine Harbour which chops out some serious navigating through the burbs. The bike got a good dousing in salt water thanks to that same nor’easter but a bucket of fresh water countered that.
The ride from Maraetai through to Miranda was dreamy. Only a couple of sizeable hills, little wind and no traffic. As a bonus, the coastal scenery was easy on the eye. With the tide in, I spotted some Godwits. My puny 3,000km effort was embarrassing compared to their annual 22,000km flight – a carbon zero one to boot. Hat Tip to the Godwits.
The tent got its first airing since Curio Bay, at Miranda. I had forgot how comfy my little air bed is, or maybe how tired I get. I slept in and did not get away from Miranda until after 8am. This was not good as the unusual weather forecast was telling me that “it was going to be significantly hot”. Haven’t heard that one before but I can confirm that my dead flat 83km ride to Te Aroha was in pretty warm conditions.
The ride along the southern end of The Firth of Thames, with a near high tide, made it glaringly obvious that our ‘Netherlands moment’, when we drained the Piako Swamp, will probably be something that we will regret. The mean high water level must be between 1-2m above the farm land, held at bay by an extensive network of dykes and floodgates. Pleased I don’t live there.
Tomorrow I head to Arapuni where I am meeting Ruth, Jill and Howard who are driving down from Kerikeri. Howard is going to join me for the rides through the central North Island to Whanganui. This is the real wilderness segment of my trip. With Covid again raging, I keep telling myself that the chances of encountering a ‘location of interest’ out there in the wilderness is pretty slight. Every cloud….