Day 331 to 336 – New Zealand, North Island

Day 331
Monday 29th February
40 miles
YMCA camp Nr Waimarino to Lake Wiritoa (Nr Whanganui).

We all seemed to sleep well for a tent, (longing for my bed and private bathroom)

We had been told a school party was coming at 9.00am so we made sure we were up and packed up before they arrived although this did mean putting the tent down in the rain yuk.

The first 10 miles were very wet, I got so wet I remained cold all day. Gary; the cheap waterproof macs we had purchased in Tasmania are good for a while but they are not breathable so we ended up as wet inside the jacket from sweat, we both changed at the top of a hill when the rain had stopped as it was starting to feel cold.

It was clear to see at our first break that it was going to be a hilly day and the planned 52 miles was going to be a challenge. My energy levels were low due in part to me having my period and in part due to my bike playing up apparently my chain and back cassette needed to be changed as the chain was now so stretched, on a plus note it had managed in excess of 8500miles. Fortunately we were able to get this done in Whanganui.

At the ten mile mark I could happily have set up camp and finished for the day. I did ask Stuart what the mileage was like the next day and he said it was another 50+ day but the following day was only 16 miles. This seemed really silly to me, there’s little point packing up tent and moving for less than 30 miles cycling unless you’re heading for a ferry or plane. We agreed to look at the camp sites at the next big town to see if we could jig the mileage to make it evenly spread across the 3 days, which fortunately we did.

The following 10 miles were a little easier however I got dropped on all the down hill stretches as there was a head wind and no matter how fast I cycled I couldn’t keep up. Gary said this could also have been due to me breaking on the bends, I have to admit he has a point. Gary; after Ginette told her high gear wasn’t working we cycled without using our high gears to keep us all together.

The following 10 miles were a little easier, especially as this meant it was a lunch break and I was hungry. We stopped in a little village where both the store and the cafe were shut! Luckily we had provisions but it would have been nice to have had a coffee.

We cycled the next 7 miles into town where we stopped at the library to use the wifi. Gary looked up bike shops, Stuart changed the camping stops and I downloaded photos and uploaded podcasts for my phone, I must confess to having a peek at our word press site it is always interesting to see who has viewed it and a quick look at Facebook to see what was going on with friends and family.

Gary; I found a bike shop but they were too busy to change the rear cassette and chain but they were kind enough to let me use their workshop and tools to do it myself, they did help me a couple of times so was really pleased with the service.

After Gary had fixed my bike (another £60) we cycled off to find a camp site just out of town. It was an undulating 5 miles but worth it, we stayed on a school camp site with only a couple of other campers. We pitched our tents next to the lake, the boys went for a swim in the lake whilst I went for a hot shower in the hope of getting warm, unfortunately it was only luke warm, so I quickly dressed in thermals and clothes and was amused to see Stuart standing in the kitchen in his shorts and teeshirt.

Gary did us proud on the food front we had salmon with rice and peas it was very tasty. We bought a number of treats for desert and no surprise Gary wanted a little bit of everything I persuaded him to just have two a yogurt and some banana bread and to have a treat later. He is so funny he would eat and eat and yet he seems to burn it off, I think it’s all the wind he produces, if he carries on they’ll start taxing him for polluting the atmosphere. (Gary; I am being rationed, all these treats need to be in my belly not in my cycle bag slowing me down on the uphills, or is that Ginettes plan!)

We had a lazy and relaxed evening writing up our diaries and reading, the camp site was very quiet and peaceful much better than the noisy over crowded sites, bliss.
Day 332

I woke feeling cold, so as soon as I got up I had to get dressed in several layers, it was amusing to watch Stuart arrive in the kitchen with just his shorts and teeshirt on.

We set off just before the school buses arrived. Our first ten miles were on a busy, windy highway, although I rode up front I was very weary and glad of our first break. Gary arrived a couple of minutes later and insisted we changed onto a different road as the highway was very dangerous. As we were having our break an elderly touring lady crossed the road to see us. She gave us some advice about the road ahead, but barely stopped for breathe so we didn’t get a chance to have a conversation with her.

We changed the route which was great but to do this we had to add another 11 miles to our scheduled 50 mile day. I found this mentally hard and struggled with the next 20 miles. I was cold most of the day not really warming up from the day before. We stopped at the 20 mile mark for more food provisions at which point I should have had a hot drink but stupidly didn’t so remained cold.

Fortunately after the 30 mile mark the sun got hotter and the terrain became easier, the wind even eased a little at times. Whilst the wind was in full throttle we could barely cycle 7 miles an hour on the flat, later when it decided to give us a helping hand we managed 20 miles an hour on the flat with very little effort.

Although it was a hard days ride we remained in good spirits and agreed that we would treat ourselves to a hotel room for the night. This was the first day that Stuart had the stronger legs and he set a cracking pace all day.

On arriving in the town we stopped at the first hotel only to find the rooms were priced at £55 and the single room did not have an ensuite. The manager was lovely and when I explained our situation she directed me to another hotel slightly down the road. This meant doubling back but as the rooms were only £35 we agreed to give it a go. The hotel was closed when we arrived but the sales assistant in the liquor store next door to the hotel kindly rang the manager of the hotel for us. She arrived 5 minutes later with her children in tow and explained that the hotel and bar closed early in the week as business was slow. The hotel was empty and although the rooms were not ensuite it didn’t matter as we were the only guest and had a choice of bathrooms

We treated ourselves to a take away (fish and chips for me, chicken and chips for Gary, fishcake and chips for stu and curry sauce all for less than £10) and some beers and had these on the table and chairs out side of the kitchen area. The hotel was a little run down but had everything to meet our needs for the night. Gary spooked himself by imagining the hotel was from the Shining film he even went to the extent of taking a photo of himself with a knife silly boy.

As I changed to go out for the take away I suddenly realised that I’d left my shoes at the previous camp site, I am such a dozy mare at times, it’s not a big problem they were falling apart and we’re not far from Wellington where I should be able to buy some more.
Day 333
Wednesday 2nd March

I had hoped for a good nights sleep, we had a nice comfy bed, a hotel to ourselves but it was not to be… Gary had a stiff neck, he suspected he had a bug in bed with him and whenever he moved it felt like he was doing somersaults on the bed. In fairness it turned out he’d been bitten in the night by a spider so perhaps he had good cause to be concerned.

In the morning we went in search of some breakfast and returned with danish pastries to go along with our porridge yum yum. The town was quite interesting it had a number of murals on the walls depicting the towns history including earthquakes and strippers. It was obviously a town that had experienced some troubles the local doctor had been killed in his home and a rose garden had been planted in his memory, and on the wall of one bar it explicitly banned gang members.

We had a leisurely breakfast and were packed up and on the road by 9.30am

It was quite an uneventful ride, it was less windy than the previous day but there was still a little bit of a headwind. Stuart had kindly replotted the route to ensure we stayed off the main highway as much as possible but there were still a few scary sections to cycle, these included cycling over a bridge with no hard shoulder with heavy goods vehicles.

The views were pretty spectacular we could see the mountains in the distance and they made an interesting background to the mornings ride.

We arrived at the campsite just after lunch, it was right next to a beach so we made this our first stop before setting up the tent. Whilst the boys went for a swim in the sea. I cycled back to the library to down load some podcasts and to buy some shopping.

In the evening we sat in the kitchen area and looked at the map for the South Island we have met a lot of travellers on route who have made recommendations of places to see and go but it will be impossible to incorporate all of them.

Day 334
Thursday 3rd March
32 miles

It was a cold night so we all slept a little erratically, Gary still has a poorly neck so probably had the least sleep.

Whilst we ate our breakfast we talked to a french woman who had camped in her car the previous night. She was a bit of a sour puss, she didn’t sound like she’d enjoyed the South Island because of the poor weather, she didn’t like Indonesian people because she’d met some on her travels in Indonesia that were not very smily, she didn’t look like she liked the camp site as there were no pots and pans for her to use. Perhaps she was just not a morning person but she didn’t come across as the happiest of travellers.

Before setting off I returned to the library and worked out how to transfer my iTunes music to my new android phone, unfortunately I didn’t have all morning to sit there and wait for them to download but at least I have some music now, which made me a happy bunny.

We had a short and easy ride much of it on a designated cycle route which gave us plenty of time to amble along and stop and look at things on route. Gary was finding the slower pace a little bit hard but by the afternoon his mood lifted.
Gary; A short days cycle which if I had planned the route we would have blended today and tomorrow to reach Wellington, but after I got my head round the leisurely pace I relaxed and enjoyed the middle class coastal housing estates, sunny weather and well signed cycle paths.

Even though we took it easy we still arrived at our camp site at 2.30pm. Fortunately we were by the beach so we took a gentle stroll along the coast to the shops and walked backed along the beach, it was lovely to walk in the sea with the sun beaming down on us. Stuart is still finding the heat difficult whereas Gary and I think it is a lovely temperature.

On route today we passed through some very picturesque seaside towns with lots of individually designed houses. We stopped and had lunch by a very posh park, Gary couldn’t resist having a go on the swings, tractor and car, I think if it had not been for a maori couple rowing at one end of the car park, the children playing in the playground and the number of elderly people watching I may have joined him but I felt a little self conscious so cried off on the grounds that the park is for children and my inner child was asleep.
Gary; she found it again as her and Stuart played on a bouncy castle at the campsite.
Ginette – you had a go too..

Day 335
4th March
Paekakariti to Wellngton
36 miles

Gary’s diary

Ginette treated us to pancakes with bananas and blueberries for breakfast, the flour was a freebie left by a previous camper and the oil for the pan was retrieved from the recycling bin, Net had to dig it out as Stuart had thrown it away the previous day – Julie would be so proud of her.
Ginette – look what has this adventure has reduced me to searching in bins for food

The route was flat at first along a cycle path by the sea and main road to Poritua, but after this Stuart diverted us into a housing estate which involved a lot of hill climbing. We did manage another flat section after Porirua Station along the railway track.

Ginette – I am quite oblivious to the route and the changes made during the day but I swaar blind that at one point Stuart confessed he’d plotted the route wrong and that we would be doing additional miles but the route would be flat! Instead it was a very hilly day

Stu found an interesting toilet with music and a mans voice issuing instructions on what to do.
Ginette it was so interesting that we all had to have a go. Even more amusing was the looks Gary received when he posed next to a dogs bowl for a photo for Stuarts mum, as he got up he realised he had an audience and feeling rather embarrassed he tried to explain the pose, I don’t think the onlookers were convinced.

When we neared Wellington the hill climbing started all over again but we did get some spectacular views over Wellington Harbour with a sweeping steep downhill to the the ferry port.

We stayed in a backpackers hotels called the ‘Hotel Waterloo’ which was handy as it had a kitchen we could use to keep the cost of eating out down.

Ginette went shopping in the afternoon for new shoes and a new bra whilst Stu and I had a look around the harbour area. It had a really nice vive to it helped by the sunny day and the fact they’d laid the course in the bay for the weekends dragon boating event.

Ginette – I not only got one pair but as they were in the sale and it was buy one get one half price I bought two pairs – very indulgent. I also got measured for a new bra and was politely informed they didn’t stock bras in my size. I had hoped with all this weight loss that I would be a standard 34 B/C but no apparently I am now a 28 D/DD (which is hard to believe perhaps its a NZ sizing?) the shop assistant was very willing to please and eventually found something that would do the job until I returned back to the UK

We saw a Maori canoe but it had tourists on board, it did look good as they were chanting and paddling across the bay.

We took a walk in the evening to Cuba Street where a night market had been advertised, it was a little disappointing it was a much smaller version of the Asian markets but more expensive, but Stu enjoyed it.
Ginette – it is good to see NZ through Stu’s eyes, everything is new to him whereas I think we have been exposed to too many new things that we are a little blaze about some sights we see.

We had dinner out in an Indian restaurant, the food was OK but not great and quite expensive for what it was. Net was really cold, she has no fat on her to keep her warm so spends a lot of the time with goose bumps and shivering.

On our way back to the hotel we saw a steel fun fair, powered by hand or fewer, on one ride a dad was used to ride the bike, the back wheel drove the merry go round, on another mini ferris wheel the kids were sat on toilets instead of seats. It looked really good and every one got to participate as the fairground operators talked and egged the parents on and even sprayed them with water guns.

Day 336

Rest day in Wellington

We spent the day watching dragon boating in the bay, it was really choppy, the boys saw at least 3 boats capsize as I was doing my hair and nails in the room and looking around the museum.

We met Janet (one of our dragon boating friends from the UK) for a coffee, it was great to see her, she was in Wellington visiting a neighbour who had emigrated to NZ a couple of years ago.

As we watched the dragon boats in the afternoon we were so glad we were not taking part, it was very windy and cold. The boats were being swamped and it was quiet a slow turn around for the races.

In the afternoon the boys went to the museum whilst I wrote up the diary and blog and had some me time. I had planned on getting my hair cut but I couldn’t find anyone who would do it for less than £40 so i decided to wait until we got to a smaller town in the hope it might be cheaper than the city.