Saturday 20th February
Omokoroa to Mount Maunganui
We all had an alright nights sleep considering we’re sleeping in tents on a busy campsites.
We had sausage and beans on toast for breakfast it was good to have something different.
I tried desperately to fix my iPod with no joy, Gary tried to fix his Garmin and although he failed in the morning by mid afternoon he’d sorted it out.
Whilst we were putting the tents away we stopped and spoke to a man from St Albans he’d been living in Mount Maunganui for years and was visiting our camp site for the weekend with his young family. I asked if his move to NZ had improved his standard of living, he said initially it had but now it was expensive to live in NZ however his quality of living had improved, people work less hours then the UK and people live for the weekends and they have more time for each other. He was clearly very happy with his decision.
Immediately after leaving the camp site we had a small climb to do, we passed an older man who smiled sweetly at us, I smiled back even though my thighs were burning for me to stop cycling. It is amazing how those first few pedal strokes still hurt even though we’ve been on the road for 10 months.
The road into Tauranga City was very undulating with steep ups and downs, as we got close to the city centre the boys decided to take a detour in the hope of avoiding the main road. They stopped to consult their maps and just as they’d agreed a route a helpful ex pat from Belfast came across the road and told them about an off track route. To get to it we had to climb another big hill then descend down to a BMX track before going off road for a mile or two, not my idea of fun but the boys loved it. We did miss a photo opportunity, at one point we had to lift the bikes up on to their back wheels to get through some railings, Stuart went first and almost threw his bike up in the air and cycled it through the barrier, being the gentlemen he is Stuart came back to help me, his first attempt failed spectacularly he couldn’t even lift the front wheel off the ground, he reassessed and tried again but with the same affect, Gary had to come and help him. I think at this point he realised how heavy our bikes are compared to his.
We stopped as we entered the city so Stuart could buy some new cycle shoes as his were pinching his feet in the heat. We made use of the stop break to have some lunch by the side of the road.
In Tauranga I bought a Samsung phone to download my podcasts and music, whilst I was doing this the boys cycled off for some ice-cream.
The camp site was only 5 miles outside of the city, it was right next to the beach, Stuart had booked a pitch facing the beach but this had been given to a wedding party so we were squeezed onto a grass strip in front of some cabins with caravans literally opposite us. These caravan sites know how to maximise their profits. If Gary and I had wanted to stay in the area I think we would have looked for a freedom camping site/wild camping site. The commercial sites are OK but they have too many people on them, I feel like a fish in a gold fish bowl, there’s very little privacy and to add to the lack of space we to use a key fob to access the toilets, kitchens and break out areas.
Once the tents had been put up Stu and Gary went for a swim in the cold sea whilst I tried to sync my phone to iCloud without success. The boys returned cold and wet, the sea had been pretty wild and even the lifeguards had struggled to go out in it.
We decided to have an early dinner, we had been recommended the pizza restaurant across the road from the camp site. I put a dress on for the occasion expecting a sit down meal with food and wine instead it was nothing more than a glorified take away. That said the pizza was very good and there were lots to choose from and at a reasonable price for those that are interested the regular pizza was £5 and the large was £6.50.
After dinner we splashed out and had an ice cream before changing and walking up Mount Managuanui, the boys stopped to take photos on route, I wasn’t in the mood for dawdling and I wanted to the see the sun set at the summit so I plodded on ahead. It was a beautiful sunset over an island out to sea, the boys soon caught me just in time for us to descend the mountain before it got dark. I got to the bottom first and changed again in to my dress in the hope that we might go to a bar for a drink, but the boys didn’t seem to notice and instead of a chilled out bar I got a soft drink from the local corner shop and a night in the tent.
Gary; Ginette has always been a strong walker but now she is superset there is no catching her, she route marches and would put the SAS to shame.
Sunday 21st February
Mount Maunganui to Lake Rotoiti
It was a windy night but I slept ok, better than some of the previous nights, I did wake at one point fearing the wind had blown the tent down only to find I’d slipped off my sleeping mat and I was sleeping in the far corner of the tent.
We’d arranged to meet Sarah and Kevin (Julie’s friends) for breakfast so it was an early start. We had packed up the tents and were at the cafe opposite the campsite by 8.00am. Unfortunately for Stu he broke another tent pole in the night, he fixed it later in the day but the tent is clearly rubbish, it broke at about 1.00am so he didn’t have a good nights sleep at all.
It was really good to meet Sarah and Kevin, although breakfast was expensive it was lovely. I had the raw stack which contained toast, poached egg, avocado, beetroot, carrots and seeds whereas the boys had a Slick Stack ( a meat dish) the three meals with orange juice came to £38.50!! But they sustained us for most of the day, we only had to stop for a couple of fruit and biscuit breaks.
Whilst we ate our breakfast a triathlon was taking place on the road next to us, it was amazing to see how many people were taking part there were people of all shapes and sizes, it was very inspiring to watch.
We cycled along the coast and saw a surf ski race with some capsizes due to the rough sea.
It was a hot day although just about right for us but maybe a little too hot for Stuart. I didn’t take my jumper off until mid morning by which time Stuart was struggling with the heat, at one point the temperature hit 41 centigrade.
Just before lunch we cycled through a town called Te Puke, this amused me especially when we cycled passed the Te Puke Bakery and the Old Puke Cemetery even the sign into the village brought a smile to me fact ‘Te Puke left hand lane only’
It felt very much like a lovely English summer’s day, we cycled down some quieter roads which were much more enjoyable, you could smell freshly cut grass and hear the birds in the trees. At one point the cows in one of the fields decided to chase us down their field, they were quite amusing to watch, Stuart egged them on with occasional moo calls.
We stopped for lunch in a small town and Gary ate his over ripe avocados that he’d purchased on route whilst Stuart and I looked on in disgust they looked disgusting.
We turned inland and cycled the old coach road past loads of kiwi fruit groves and avocado trees.
There was one off road section which we didn’t like as it had loose gravel and sand which was hard to cycle on. A man stopped in his 4 x 4 and commented on the fact that we had chosen the most challenging route – well Stuart picked it so no surprises there.
Once on the paved roads we made good speed up and down the hills until we reached the camp site. It was by a lake and very quiet. As I was showering Gary took a call from Kevin (Julie’s friend) inviting us to spend the next day on their yacht, we’re really looking forward to that. The camp site also has some kayaks which are available to hire for free and a games room with table tennis, fuzz ball and a TV.
In the evening we cycled down to a cafe for some more food supplies and a beer, it was quite expensive but worth the trip, we will cycle back tomorrow so that we can explore the waterfalls and possibly watch some white water rafting which starts just by the cafe.
Monday 22nd February
Slept well until about 4.00am when both Gary and I woke for a wee.
We went back to bed and dozed and got up at about 7.30 and had a leisurely breakfast of poached eggs on toast.
The boys cycled up to the white water rafter site to have a look at the rafts coming down whilst I did some girly things like paint my names and pluck my eyebrows.
Sarah and Kevin picked us up at 11.45 for a fantastic day on the lake, it was a really chilled day with cider/beer and a picnic on the beach, followed by a dip in the hot pools, which were a little over priced.
On the way home the wind had picked up so Kevin could let the sails out on the yacht which was pretty cool. It was lovely to sit back and listen to the waves hitting the boat whilst we sipped our drinks.
We stopped off at the cafe/store for some provisions before getting dropped back off at the camp site.
Dinner was a quiet affair and very spicy. After dinner Gary took a kayak out for a spin around the lake whilst Stuart and I wrote up our diaries. We obviously hadn’t worn the puppy dog out as he then came back in and challenged us to a game of table tennis.
Tuesday 23rd February
Rotoiti to Waikite Valley Thermal Pool
We woke to the sound of the rain, we were in no rush as Stuart had booked into do some water rafting at £50 for half an hour we couldn’t justify this as we’ve done white water rafting many times before whereas this was Stuarts first time. We had breakfast and the boys went to play, Gary went to take photos whilst I packed the tent away.
Stuart loved his first white rafting experience, it included a 7ft drop which sounded amazing. Once he was changed we set off on our travels stopping in Rotoiti town to use the internet in the library, buy Stuart a new tent and for Gary to do the food shopping, he is turning into the perfect housewife (Gary; practice for when Net gets her high paid job and I become house husband).
Rotoiti is a very touristy town, with lots of shops selling souvenires including jade and hot springs. the town smells of sulpher. There were a lot of dubious characters around the library so I was a little apprehensive leaving the bikes outside but the internet connection was very weak outside of the library so I had to keep popping out to make sure the bikes were OK.
We had lunch outside of the library before setting off to our next campsite, the boys had, had a look at the New Zealand cycle network and had plotted an off road route to our destination. We were not 3 miles into this journey when we passed a tourist attraction advertising a geezer, Gary asked Stu if he’d ever seen one and as he hadn’t we encouraged him to go in. This experience cost a further £50 and as we’d already seen Geezers on route we decided to spend the time reading and looking at the internet. We sat ourselves outside the building but a very kind security guard asked us to park our bikes and escorted us to an area in the building where we could use the internet for free. Stuart was in the tourist attraction for about 2 hours, we’d just started to think it would have been a better idea for us to have gone on ahead when he came out. It had gone 4.30 and we had at least 19 miles to do and most of them were going to be up hill.
We set off on the new route only to find we could not go the way planned as cyclists were not allowed on the sealed roads in the forest area. (Gary; the route was shown as a cycle way on the NZ web site but there were signs banning cyclist from entering, a local told us it was a logging lorry route and if we tried to cycle it the driver would be sure to put a complaint in or worse) Which meant we had to double back to the main road. All was not lost as we found ourselves on another cycle track running parallel to the main road and although it was undulating (Gary had to stop twice to pick things up that had fallen off his bike as the route was a bit bumpy) the climb was easy. We arrived at the camp site just before 7.00pm.
The camp site had some more hot pools on site so after we had assembled the tents (Stu had his new 3 birth tent) and we had dinner (Gary had cooked fish, rice and a very spicy veg mix) we went into the pools. We spent a little time during the evening talking to our tent neighbours they were a couple from Canada that were travelling a similar route to us but not on bikes. It was good to exchange travel stories. Whilst washing up after dinner we also spoke to a couple from Oxford who were touring New Zealand they were heading north having covered the South Island. Everyone speaks so highly of the South Island that I’m really looking forward to it although it does sound like it may be very challenging.
After a dip in the pools we all went back to our respective tents and had sweets and biscuits whilst we wrote up our diaries, how very civilised.
Wednesday 24th February
Walkite to Tapau
Woke in the middle of the night needing the loo but as it was raining I kept rolling over hoping the feeling would go away but at about 4.00am I was forced to get up, get dressed and walk across the cold, dark wet campsite in search of the loo. It is nights like this one that I wish I was in a cozy hotel room.
We woke quite late, it had gone 8.00am we could hear Stuart talking to our camping neighbours he’d already walked up to the source of the thermal pools so we decided we had better get up.
We started the day with a walk up to the source of the pools which was awesome, the water was bubbling in the spring, the temp was 98c, you definitely wouldn’t want to fall it, it was amazing to witness such a natural phenonomen. We followed this with another dip in the pool before breakfast. We didn’t leave the campsite until 10.30am but it had been a lovely relaxing way to start the day, the mist had cleared allowing us to see the thermal pools and camp site it was quite amazing.
The cycle ride was quite eventful, we hit another gravelly road (which I hate with a passion), Gary’s chain broke ( Gary; this one only lasted 1300m the last one was 7000m) so we had to stop for an emergency repair fortunately he had a spare chain and Stuart got stung by a wasp.
I spent most of the day with my head down listening to my podcasts, my quads really hurt but as the day went on I realised i was not the only one struggling, we were all a lot slower than we had been in previous days. I found it easier to keep going at a steady speed and to let the boys catch up rather than cycling behind them, as they made regular photo stops and I’m sure they wouldn’t have wanted to hear my whinging whereas up front I felt like I was making progress. I waited for the boys at every 5 mile point or when my podcast finished. I find the worse place to be is at the back as you feel like you’re playing catch up all the time so I try to make sure I’m in the front or in the middle (Gary; Netty speedy nickers).
In the afternoon we joined a main road which was a little scary, the logging tucks and caravans drove really close to us. Gary counted the axles on the vehicles and one apparently had 11 which goes to show how big these vehicles were.
As we approached the town we stopped off at a look out point for the Huka waterfalls. We’ve seen lots of waterfalls on routes but none the colour of this one, it was almost an aqua marine colour and wild. Once we’d taken some photos we cycled down to the bottom of it for a better view. We stopped off to have an ice cream and a cold drink, which was heavenly ( Gary; this waterfall was really powerful, you could fill an olympic size pool in 12 secs).
Just before we hit our destination we stopped again this time for some much needed groceries before going to the camp site.
Not for the first time when we reached the camp site we had to ask to be moved as we’d been placed right next to the entrance. Fortunately the receptionist was lovely and moved us to an empty field which hopefully will be perfect. The only downside was the kitchen was a little distance from our tent. This did not stop Gary cooking up an gastronomic treat of Prawns and pasta in a sweet chilli sauce.
We were all knackered after dinner so wrote our diaries, charged our devices and went to bed.
Thursday 25th February
We slept on a slight slope so we all had an uncomfortable sleep, however it didn’t really matter as we had a rest day. We had all agreed it would be good to see the Maori Carvings on Lake Tapau so we decided to hire some Kayaks. To get to the kayaks we had a 2 mile walk in the sun, the walk up to and down to the lake was beautiful, really quiet and beautiful. We hired a double and a single sit on kayak for £150 for 4 hours ouch!! everything is so much more expensive in NZ. The paddle was great we paddled passed some lovely bays, watched some skydivers and looked in awe at the snow covered mountains in the distance. We paddled right up to the rock carvings which were big and had us wondering about their significance, we could have paid out an additional £150 for the tour to be told about Maori mythology instead we looked at the drawings and tried to decipher what they were for ourselves. The boys were more interested than I was as they chose to take a swim from the beach where we had lunch for a closer look. I’m glad I didn’t join them as they turned up about 1/2 hour later looking very cold. We had lunch on the beach and got attacked by some cheeky ducks, one of which bit my toe, then later my hand and then went for me not sure whether he liked the taste or whether he wanted to kill me. I was not amused, whereas Gary thought it rather funny when the duck bit his foot. The lake was a crystal blue on the way back to the hire centre we paddled in the bays, it was very tranquil, we could see why people would want to live in this area.
On the way back to the camp site we treated ourselves to some ice cream and soft drinks. We had a lazy night with an indian takeaway which wasn’t anything to write home about.
Friday 26th February
Taupo to Turarangi
Another restless night mainly due to Gary’s reaction to the Indian food, it was a very windy night in our tent need I say more? We decided to give the beans on toast for breakfast a miss and instead went for porridge and marmite on toast. As Stu and I had chosen not to eat the planned beans of toast Gary made Stu and I carry a tin of beans each in our bags as a forfeit.
We made an early stop in Taupo so that we could replace the spare chain. I should have taken advantage of the underwear store that had a sale as I desperately need a new bra, not only does mine not fit me but it no longer does up at the back, I’d hoped the next town would have a store but this was not to be the case and I will now need to wait until we reach Wellington.
The route was very scenic, we followed the Lake via a cycle path for the first 10 miles, it was a fat route but sometimes on loose soil and gravel. Once on the road the route still followed the lake edge, Gary – it reminded me of cycling by the sea in Italy or Greece with a windy road climbing slightly in places with great views across the lake.
We did have one hill climb which flattened out for a long straight stretch, which had at least 3 crosses planted for people who had died on the route. Gary – one of the crosses was for a baby, I’m not sure why so many people should have crashed on such a flat straight road but the crosses showed how dangerous this stretch of road could be.
Gary we are cycling the main road, no cycle tracks but a hard shoulder, unfortunately this disappeared often on route especially at bridges these pinch points are risky for us.
The camp site was near the town but away from the lake. We were all knackered but we needed to do some food shopping so once the tents were up we got back on our bikes and cycled into town to the supermarket. We decided to keep it simple and bought provisions for jacket potatoes, tuna and salad (which the boys love). As we were loading the bikes we bumped in to some fellow cyclists from Switzerland who had just cycled up from the South Island, they were really enthusiastic and kindly gave us a book with cycle routes in the south of the island.
Once back at the camp site we had dinner, I was pleased to be off my bike, I had cycled across a road narrowly avoiding a van in the morning, had collided with a cyclists at lunch time and had been waiting for my 3rd incident all day but fortunately all was good and I was able to end the day in one piece but knackered, I almost fell asleep downloading podcasts and charging devices whilst the boys went for a walk by the river.
Saturday 27th February
Turangi to Raetithi
A hilly day, but a rewarding day. Most of the 52 miles with the exception of the last 14 miles were up hill reaching a height of 2750ft. We had good views of the volcanoes all snow covered in the morning but as we got higher the clouds came in obscuring the view of the peaks.
At Lake Rotoaira we met a cycle tourer from Sussex a young lad who was planning on cycling back to the UK on a budget of $7 a day. He gave us some tips on best places in South Island that has us thinking of changing Stu’s route around.
The road was fairly quiet as we cycled through Tangariro National Park, However we did have one large lorry past by so fast and close that my tee shirt was blown right up my back de to the lorries slip stream.
I felt strong today, Ginette’s on blob and Stu was a little tired.
Ginette – I still manale cycle tourer who had finished her touring trip and was on her way to Taupo to take part in a triathlon.
The camp site was basic but still had a kitchen, its also the end point for canoe trips, we have met a few people that have paddled 3 and 5 days through the National Park to the camp site.
Ginette – it was a colder and wetter day, the hills were hard work, just as I thought we were going to have an easier afternoon Gary decided to take it up another level and made Stu and I work really hard to keep up with him. He suffered later as he came over really queazy whilst putting the tent up.
In the evening as we wrote up our diaries we watched the sun set on the snow capped volcano it was amazing but we were all a little too tired to really enjoy it.aged to kick your arse going up the hills.
We met another fem