New Zealand Part 1 – Day 313 to 321

New Zealand
Day 313

It was a very hot in our room so neither of us slept very well, this was not helped by noisy backpackers talking on phones until the wee hours and an alarm set for 4.15am.

We woke before the alarm and caught the shuttle bus to the airport. The airport was very quiet we were able to walk straight up to the check in desk and checked in without any hassle at all, we were also informed that we didn’t need to collect our bags in Melbourne they would be transferred direct to Auckland for us which was an added bonus.

We only had 2 hours transfer time in Melbourne which was just enough time to get some breakfast have a browse around and go through security.

The flight went by fairly quickly, I dozed on the plane whilst Gary read his book. On arrival in Auckland we went through passport control very quickly but we had to declare the bikes and camping goods through customs which led to the bikes and tent being inspected for dirt and mud. They had a cursory look at the bikes and they passed without any problem but the tent had to go to the Bio Diversity unit for a fuller inspection, we were informed this would take about 20 minutes. W used this time to take the bikes to the bike port so that Gary could start assembling the bikes. I went back and waited for the tent. I didn’t have long to wait but when they produced it, they’d taken it apart so the inner tent had been removed, everything was handed to be in one lump. This meant in the middle of the airport I had to pack the tent, not a big problem but slightly annoying, especially as when we put the tent up later that evening we realised they’d kept the fly sheet to the tent.

Gary was still putting the bikes together when I returned with the tent, this gave me time to unload the bags and pack the panniers and purchase a sim for the phone.

In all it took about an 1 hour and half behalf we were ready to cycle the 8 miles to the campsite. Once we left the airport we were surprised to find that New Zealand looked just like the UK. The cars looked similar, their was english music playing in most cars, the roads looked the same the only noticeable difference was there was more Maori looking people than you would see on an average day in the UK. Unlike Tasmania the people here look a lot bigger than their Australian neighbours some are morbidly obese.

The camp site was easy to find and very close to shops and restaurants however it was clear to see from the outset that it would be a noisy site. We pitched our tent in the ‘orchard’ but this was right next to the entrance of the camp so all the cars and motorhomes have to drive pass our tent to get in and out of the site. We are set back a little but it would still prove to be noisy the alternative was squeezing into a camp ground which had a children’s playground on it.

It had gone 7pm by the time we put the tent up and as we had no food or drink as we’d had to give this all up in Tasmania we decided to treat ourselves to a meal out. The receptionist at the camp site had recommended the Irish bar and restaurant so that was our first stop. We don’t normally go to Irish bars abroad it feels wrong, we stayed for one drink and decided we would rather have an indian meal at £5 than an irish stew at £10. The indian take away come restaurant was basic but the food was good and spicy and there was plenty of vegetarian options unlike the pub which only offered the standard salad or veggie burger option. On leaving the Indian restaurant we stopped at the bottle shop for a bottle of wine so that we could chill in the tent. We went to sleep at 9.30pm New Zealand time, but as New Zealand are 2 hours ahead of Australia it was only 7.30pm for our bodies, we were knackered, it had been a long but enjoyable day.

Day 314
Friday 12th February
rest day

Restless night due to noisy campsite, naff pillow and the tent being on a slope, I think I need a night in the Hilton.

We decided to divide the chores for the morning I would do the food shopping whilst Gary went to the airport to pick the fly net up from the Biodiversity Unit.

I spent ages in the supermarket, every item had to pass the following test:
not too heavy, or big
not expensive
would be used regularly
Unfortunately I had chosen to shop in a hypermarket and everything was sold in bulk and was not designed for the camper on a bike.

I managed to get everything on my mental list except jam which failed the test above, it was too big, too expensive and would only be used occasionally. Once back at the tent we had lunch and in the kitchen much to my initial annoyance their was a big box full of food items people had left behind which included a lot of the staple food I’d just purchased including rice, pasta, chilli powder, pepper and porridge oats. On closer inspection it also had a lot of things I had not purchased including peppermint tea, raisin bread, chilli and lime dressing and fresh fruit including some succulent nectarines. We were in heaven we had to keep reminding ourselves that anything we took from the box we had to carry but it was clear to see there was plenty in the box to feed us for the next couple of days without us hardly touching our supplies – oh boy how we’ve changed.

Gary
One young boy had mistakenly left his gas cooker by the box and someone had taken it thinking it had been donated, he didn’t seem too fazed by this and his loss became our gain as he donated his gas bottle to us.

All this free food is greta – we can really relate to Julie (my sister) she would have had a field day

We wonder how this new frugal spending lifestyle will impact our lives when we are back in the fold in the UK, we think it will be interesting to see of we revert back to our western greedy wasteful ways of not!

GInette
After brunch we caught the bus into Auckland to see the city and the harbour, as we’ve mentioned before we’re not city people and Auckland is very much like any other big city. The layout was pretty and there were a few interesting statutes and art work but as we were watching the pennies we made our way to the library to do more internet work including booking tickets home. The library was full of people reading books and newspapers and using their IT devices it was great to see, there was even a cafe on site so we treated ourselves to a hot drink and a comfy chair to do our research.

Gary
The city was very modern and stylish the biggest difference was that 1 in 7 people you met were Maori/Maori descent and most of these guys and girls are big units.

Ginette
On the way back to the bus stop we stopped off and purchased a few things that I’d not managed to buy in the morning including ear plugs to block out all the noise from the campsite. We struggled to see which bus we needed and as we were right by the train station we agreed to catch the train back to the camp site. The train fare was the same as the bus £4 each and took just as long about 1 hour but on the downside it dropped us off 1.5 miles from the site compared to the bus which we caught just across the road from the camp site.

I stopped at the bottle shop for some cold lagers whilst Gary went back to the campsite to start dinner, he is really getting into his cooking. We had fresh fish with a chilli and lemon sauce and wild brown rice it was lovely. Whilst we were cooking we spoke to a Scottish couple who were visiting their son in Auckland and had spent 2 weeks touring the North Island, they were lovely and whilst we ate our dinner a journalist stopped to talk to us he was travelling around New Zealand his home place and he shared some of his travels with us. We have met so many interesting people on this trip and talking to them makes the world feel like a much smaller place with so many places still to visit.
Day 315
Saturday 13th February
Rest day

Lazy morning, chilling at the camp site

Went into Auckland in late morning and caught a ferry across to Ragatoto which is a volcanic island. We had an hour to kill before it left the harbour which gave us time to have our lunch and to people watch. We saw some amazing sights, one guy had the strangest outfit on, he looked Italian but clearly had no dress sense, he had the swagger and obviously thought he looked good but he just looked strange. We even had a man pitch up and do some busking right behind us. The hour flew on the ferry we stood on the upper deck and watched the Auckland sky line with the wind in our air. I took a picture of Gary who looked like Tin Tin, bless him. We had a lovely walk on the island walking to the summit and through some lava caves. The views across to Auckland and some of the other islands were amazing, we took some photos but they don’t do justice to the views. We had hoped to see a Kiwi bird on our travels but it was not to be.

Returned to the mainland to realise we’d just missed a bus so had to wait 20 minutes for the next
one to arrive, which wasn’t a problem it gave us more time to people watch. The buses are interesting in Auckland, most people use a travel card which they present to a machine when boarding and again when leaving, this in itself is not that unusual but the majority of the passengers make a point of saying hello to the bus driver and thanking him or her when they get off the bus. The buses are also very clean and are accessible to wheelchair users. On all 3 of our trips we have had a change of driver on route, the bus stops, the driver gets off and gets into a waiting a car and a new driver gets on to complete the journey, all done efficiently without much time lost.

Back at the campsite we were disappointed to see that someone had emptied the freeby box of all the goodies, we were forced to use our own rice and veg to go along with the fish we had left over from the previous day.

Day 316
Sunday 14th February
Camp Site to meet Stuart in Auckland back passed our campsite to Ramarama
46 miles

Woke early and had breakfast before packing up the tent to meet Stuart.

We hadn’t really taken any notice of where Stuart had booked for the night other than it involved a coast road and it was approx 25 miles outside of Auckland. We decided to have a look at the map and were highly amused to find that the description met the camp site we’d been staying in for the passed 3 nights. I thought it wise to check with reception whether Stuart had booked into our site and was slightly relieved when she confirmed he hadn’t booked that site.

We had a lovely ride to the bike shop with some challenging steep hills to tackle on route. However we nearly went down a motorway, we stopped just in time and turned the bikes around only to get a lot of abuse from the drivers coming on to the motorway, one really pi**ed Gary off as he had bikes on the back of his car so he should have been more considerate, after all we all make mistakes.

We arrived at the bike shop before Stuart so went and had our lunch in a park where we met some interesting birds. The park was next to the zoo and had a park in it, which was full of families enjoying the sun.

Gary; the cycle shop was really just a small workshop with several young kids working there, they had not set Stuarts bike up at all so we had to wait 3 hours while they did so, including drilling holes in the bikes front forks so they could bolt on a front pannier rack, not a very professional outfit, more like something you would see in Asia.

Not long after going back to the bike shop Stuart arrived looking very pale and tired, he had set off at 10pm on Friday and hadn’t slept on the plane, it was going to be a long day for him. He also looked a lot bigger than we’d seen him for a while this was due to the fact he’d not been training due to two lots of surgery for his skin cancer and he’d also fallen off his bike, 7 weeks with us and we’ll soon have him sorted out.
It took several hours for his bike to be put together we used some of this time to take Stuart for a walk around the park and Gary and I went to the shop for some more groceries. The bike was finally finished at 4.30pm, Stuart had planned a 38 mile route but he was tired and it would have taken a good 3 to 4 hours to complete so we agreed to take a more direct route. Unfortunately not long after leaving the shop we encountered some men in a car with road rage, they shouted all kinds of profanities at us as wearied to negotiate our way across a busy intersection. Its amazing to think we’ve been on the road for 10 months and other than a stroppy woman in Italy we have been pleasantly surprised at how accommodating the drivers have been.
Gary, It strikes me that the more rules and the more cycle paths in a country the stroppier the car drivers become. In Asia no rules but happy drivers. The western attitude on the roads is aggressive and rude. You cant even blame work pressures as it was a Sunday evening.

We rode hard and fast, the roads were boring, main roads lined with shops and broken up with lots of traffic lights. Stuart struggled with the heat and drank several bottles of water on route. Just before we got to our destination we went passed a sign for Clevedon we pulled over for a photoshoot even though it meant cycling up the road the wrong way and standing in the middle of a roundabout, it was Sunday and fairly quiet.

We arrived at the campsite at 7.30pm only stopping on route for a quick drink and snack. We had hoped there was going to be a restaurant or bar on site or close by but unfortunately there was only a shop and a greasy take away so we cooked for ourselves in the campsite kitchen. Gary and Stuart put the tents up whilst I purchased more fizzy pop to along with our dinner.

Stuart struggled to stay awake long enough to eat his dinner, he had a headache and didn’t look well at all, which is not surprising as he’d not slept for over 48 hours.

Day 317
Monday 15th February
Ramarama to Miranda
37 miles

Woke early although I woke several times in the night I felt very rested. Stuart had apparently had an uncomfortable night waking at 11.00pm with a migraine but managed to get some sleep.

We had breakfast in the onsite kitchen porridge and scrambled eggs on toast for ease we’ve agreed we’ll pay for the food and Stu will pay for the accommodation and we will split the bills at the end of the trip.

After checking maps and sharing routes we set off. Not 2 miles into the route and we found a Stuart hill, it was very steep and just as we were reaching the top the road turned to shingle and rock. I was riding ahead (Gary; she was tearing off up the hill like a streak of lightning) and in the middle of the road trying to follow the smooth bits when I heard a car behind me, I turned to see where the driver would like me to go either left or right of him. He indicated right with a smile (the opposite side of the road) but by slowing down his car started to slip and slide. I was taking no risks and got off my bike and pushed it off the road, as I looked back I could see the guys (2 young men and a young lady) were stuck in their front wheel drive car. Gary was coming up behind them, I indicated for him to park his bike and we agreed to go down and push the car out of the rut. The car was precariously perched riight next to a ditch, fortunately after some revving and pushing we managed to get the car to move, which meant they didn’t need a tractor to pull it out.

Not 10 miles into the trip and Stuart had his first puncture he had also realised that he was missing several of his gears. All of this on top of the fact that he was feeling weary from the jet lag and the heat of the day. We really felt for him, he had a hard day and struggled but typical Stuart he kept smiling although it was clear to see he was hurting.

We stopped for lunch outside of a closed cafe and downed more cold fizzy drinks, ate the sandwiches we’d made at breakfast and had an ice lolly to cool us down further.

Although we only had 37 miles to do it took us just under 6 hours to complete them, it was hilly day the views were of rolling hills very similar to the hills in the UK they were beautiful and green.

We arrived at the campsite at 4.30pm and after putting the tents up we went for a dip in the sulphur hot pool, pure luxury and relaxing.

It was another good campsite with a purpose built kitchen, I managed to retrieve some weetabix and some rice from the free box which was a bonus. Gary cooked rice and a salmon stir fry, it was lovely but Stuart struggled to eat all of his, he was really tired and struggled to stay awake.

After dinner we retired to the TV room to do our diaries, look at the internet as we were interested in an earth quake that had taken place in Christchurch and upload podcasts etc. Stuart was knackered and was happy to sit in front of the TV and chill.

Day 318

Tuesday 16th February
Miranda to Tapu
33 miles

We slept well, unfortunately Stuart didn’t he only slept for 2 hours but he greeted me with a big smile.

We made use of the kitchen and had a healthy breakfast of weetabix and scrambled egg and tomato on toast (although separate dishes). We chatted with a woman we’d met the previous evening who was from Auckland and she told us about some of the sights we would see on route. There was another freebie box so we helped ourselves to pasta, pasta sauce, porridge and a carrot (Gary’s favourite-NOT). It is great to have all this free food but it is weighing the bags down.

Fortunately it was a very flat day, the first 18 miles were fairly boring we rode along a main road with mountain views ahead of us. Gary amused himself by imagining a Tsunami coming in from the coast whilst Stuart provided us protection from the wind.

On route we stopped to take a couple of pictures one of a cafe called ‘Bugger cafe’ and one of a rest home called ‘Paul Corr’s’ (Gary, my name is Gary Paul Corr).

We stopped in a town called Thames in the hope that Stuart could change the gears on his bike but it wasn’t to be, so he had to cycle on with the gear range the bike came with which is very poor. 30 tooth small front chain ring with the largest of 25 on the back – not good with the extra bag weight. Gary was highly amused by the fact that the shop was called Paki Paki bike shop.

After lunch we stopped in a gold mine for a tour, the guide was chatty and informative but I thought the tour was a little expensive at £7.50 each. The guide was impressed by our cycling endeavour and asked lots of questions although he did keep swearing at us, he used the ‘hills’ word lots.

The ride in the afternoon was more scenic we cycled along the coast on a narrow windy road, it was a little drizzly so we stopped to put our coats on, we also stopped on route to take photos of the sea birds huddled on the beach.

We reached the camp site at about 4.30pm and pitched our tent near the outside kitchen. The site was fairly basic but hopefully it will be quiet and Stuart will get a good nights sleep. Dinner was the pasta and sauce from the freebie box topped up with some fresh veg bought on route.

Gary, there is a nice stream running next to the site, this became my swimming pool, a bit chilly but very refreshing.

Day 319

Wednesday 17th February
Tapu to Hot Beach Area
36 miles

It rained heavily all night so we all had another disturbed nights sleep, it sounded like someone beating a tight drum above our heads and on my feet which were wedged at the bottom of the tent.

We had breakfast under a covered outside space before setting off on our short journey. We only had 21 miles to do to cross the Cormantle but we had a big climb to tackle. We had expected it to be really hard and shingly but much to our delight the road had been sealed and it was an easy ride up. Although it was drizzly and windy we decided to stop half way up to walk up to the square tree which was advertised from the road side. It was only a short walk up and nothing spectacular in fact I think if it had not been advertised and had not been surrounded by a protective barrier we wouldn’t have noticed it. Legend had it that a Maori planted the tree in a square pot and that is way it was a square tree, but biologists have stated the tree is in excess of 1000 years so this is unlikely

We stopped for lunch on the way down the mountain, the sun came out briefly so that we could enjoy the view and eat our cheese and onion wraps. The views were lovely and we stopped to take several photos.

We arrived at the campsite at 12.30 and set up the tents in between the showers. As it was still very early in the day we agreed to take a bike ride to the Cathedral Cove about 7 miles away from the campsite. No sooner had we left the camp site than Gary had a puncture so we stopped to fix this before setting off into the head wind down to the cove.

The cove was beautiful, Gary went for a swim in the wild sea, Stuart and I decided to watch from the beach and take photos. It was a stunning setting although very hazardous we saw one young man come in from the sea with scrapes and scratches down his back and arms, he had obviously been caught out by some rocks.

The ride back to the camp site was much easier as we had the wind behind us, we’d stopped at the store in Cathedral Cove for some supplies for dinner, I was starving so I was grateful that we made good speed. In the shop we purchased some eggs, Stuart picked these up and commented on the fact that he’d never bought eggs before, how is that possible?

Dinner was sausage and mash for the boys (although it was a little dry) I had mixed beans, mushrooms and spuds, which was much more tasty than it sounds. The kitchen was really busy, which was a pain, we’re so used to cooking on our own at a slow leisurely pace instead of the frantic rush of everyone trying to find a space to prepare, cook and eat their meals.

After dinner we all charged our devices and updated our diaries and went to the onsite pub for a beer, where we tried 6 locally brewed beers in little tiny glasses.

Gary; we made the beer drinking into a fun game where we had to grade the beers with our eyes closed, this led to us opting for a Porter and a Light beer. The WIFI here is rubbish so we are being weened off our Facebook addiction which is not a bad thing.

Day 320

Thursday 18th February
Hot Beach Area to Wangamatta
32 miles
Another blustery night in the tent we had intended to go to the hot sand beach but as it was still raining we decided to give this a miss. As we ate breakfast we reflected on the fact that the weather had been fine until Stuart joined us, Stuart was still finding it warm whereas I wearing two jumpers, a dress and leggings. We are trying to adjust to the cooler climate, Stuart is still trying to adjust to the heat even in the sun.

We packed up in the rain, we were all tired but in good spirits. The day was uneventful, it was very wet and windy so although there may have been some lovely views I missed them because my head was down and tuned into my iPod. Stuart continued to struggle with his gears on the steeper hills but managed to stay with us as we slowly plodded up and over them.

We met a man mid morning who was living in NZ for half of the year and in Devon the other half, he was fascinated by our bikes and even asked if he could feel the weight of one of them. He was suitably impressed and asked how we were going to get up the next set of hills…

Gary managed to get 2 more punctures in the afternoon, he was not a happy bunny, he even changed the tyre on his bike but this didn’t help. Fortunately although it was windy and miserable it was warmish.

Fortunately as we hit our destination we found a bike shop which was able to supply Gary with his inner tubes and tyre, although not necessarily the right ones and Stuart managed to get a new gear set for his bike. Once at the camp site we decided to book a cabin instead of using the wet tents. As I sorted the bags, Gary fitted his new tyre and one of his inner tubes, I heard a loud bang and didn’t think anything of it until Gary walked in and asked if I’d heard it. It turned out to be the new inner tube going bang apparently the tyre was cheap and flimsy so he had to go back to the shop to exchange it for a better quality one (Gary, better but still thin and rubbish).

Gary was chef again and did a lovely dish of fish and rice, mine was a little spicy as it turned out I had the jalapeño dish.

After dinner Gary and Stu changed the tyres around on Gary’s bike, the new tyre doesn’t seem to be as good as our existing tyres so the boys have decided to change the front and back tyres as there is more weight on the back of Gary’s bike, fingers crossed this work.

Day 321
Friday 19h February
Wangamatta to Omokoroa
52 miles

Stu and Gary slept well in the cabin I struggled, I was too hot and had some moisture dripping from the ceiling onto me I also had a strange dream about sultanas and raisins.

We had a leisurely morning in the cabin listening to the rain whilst having breakfast and packing our gear. It was good to have dry clothes from the tumble dryer to put on even though our shoes were wet through.

The morning ride was scenic a bit like cycling through telly tubby land, lots of rolling green hills, the sun tried its hardest to push the rain clouds away and it was not long before we had to stop to take our jackets off. We had a number of big climbs in the morning, Starts new gears meant he could easily keep up and although Gary’s new tyre felt weird for the first 10 miles or so he soon adjusted to the new feel of it.

We cycled passed lots of avocado, orange and Kiwi fruit farms today which were interesting and very tempting.

We stopped for lunch by the sea, it was a very scenic spot with a picnic table and toilets close at hand.

In the afternoon we cycled down the Pacific Coastal Highway but other than our stop at lunch time we did not get to see much of the coast. This was made worse by the fact that the road was very busy, undulating and I had no iPod as it had packed up on me (Gary, Ginette the monster with no music, I am glad Stu is here to cushion the effect). Ginette – I did ask the boys to sing to me but Staurt confessed later that he thought I was in enough pain without his singing.

One of Stuarts tent posts has broken so we stopped in a town close to our end destination to see if he could buy another one, unfortunately he couldn’t. At the camp site he asked if there was any other accommodation available and he was offered a cabin which just contained a bed for £35. he chose to make a temporary repair to his pole with tape and Cable clips in the hope that this will last until we can find a replacement pole.

The camp site we stayed in was very nice, it had a modern kitchen and bathrooms and three hot pools, which ranged from warm, hot and very hot. Once we’d put the tents up, purchased dinner from the supermarket opposite the site we wasted no time in going in the pools, it was heavenly, just what our aching limbs needed.

Dinner was jacket potato and vegetable chilli con carne washed down with a beer (not so good). The boys went to the supermarket for an ice cream after dinner whilst I watched the electronic devices charging up and typed my diary up.

Gary; I waved at some young faces that were peering at me from the school bus and the only response I received was a thew surprised frowns, so different to Asia.

Whilst writing our diaries an older guy turned up with a top box in mesh, I made some polite small talk as the boys were written their diaries only to be told he was opening his friends box who had been involved in a major road accident. He was on a motorbike and had ended up wrapped around a crash barrier, it looks like he will survive but he will be in hospital for the next couple of months, which was a very sobering thought.