Tuesday, 28 October 2014

28/10/2014 Featherston - Wellington and day off

2014-10-28 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect Rimutaka trail
28/10/2014 Featherston to Wellington. 29/10/2014 Day off in Wellington

Having had awful weather yesterday on an ordinary connector ride day it was even better to wake up to full sunshine for a beautiful and long days ride on the Rimutaka track to Wellington.
The track follows the route of an old railway line. The first part was 1:15 according to the signs and was used by special Fell trains, but it was actually an easy steady climb on a good track. The only difficult bit was the Siberia stretch where the old railway had fallen away and we had to scramble through the creek. Having reached the summit and passed through a 600m unlit tunnel (in which  Malcolm fell off ) the track turned downhill. It was plain sailing although there were a lot of gates to negotiate and they were definitely not created with touring bikes in mind. We had to take our bags of repeatedly to get through them. We stayed on the track or cycleways all the way to Wellington at the 80 kms mark. The final 10 kms of 

cycling required several stops to blow up a slow puncture.

A beautiful sunny day which became wet and stormy once we were settled in our hotel leaving us feeling very snug.
North Island has done us proud. Shame we couldn't see it all. We will have to come back one day. No matter how much time you have when you are travelling there always things you have to miss.
The next day was spent exploring Wellington, especially its amazing interactive Te Papa museum. Once again on our rare days off we eat constantly it seemed.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

27/10/2014 Masterton - Featherston

Garmin Connect
27/10/2014 Masterton – Featherston
We are not seeing the best side of the Wairarapa region of NZ. It's supposed to be a dry region popular with cyclists. Well, today it is not. The weather is about as miserably wet as it can get so we decided to give the scenic route (almost twice as far) a miss and just scoot down the State Highway on the hard shoulder. The flat road got us to the motel in Featherston in no time. Hoping for a bit of dry weather tomorrow when we will be riding the Rimutaka trail to Wellington and our last day riding in North Island. From what we have heard the Rimutaka trail is really beautiful.
Some observations
x We've seen more calves then sheep
x We often hear very tuneful bird song.
x So far we have only spotted dead possums ( the only good possums according to Kiwi's)
x Public loo's in mostly excellent condition can be found in the most unlikely of places and far more frequently then in the UK
x Far more trees and exotic plants then I expected
x Lots of underpasses for farm animals to pass safely under the road.
x Little roadside stalls offer very good quality and cheap produce
x You can buy very decent bread almost anywhere
x The weather can change very quickly and drastically
x Southerly winds bring cold air!
x I sites (tourist information offices) offer excellent services and are well worth a visit.
X Some amazing mtb trails. NZ has invested hugely in these.
x NZ drivers are no less courteous then there UK counterpart so far
x And most importantly of all we have met soooo many helpful and kind NZ-ders. If you look puzzled on a street corner they rush over to help. If a motel is full they ring around until they find you another one. They make you feel very welcome and often go beyond the 'call of duty' to sort you out. Hopefully South Island will be no different!

26/10/2014 Palmerston North - Masterston

Garmin Connect Route 52
26/10/2014 Palmerston North to Masterton
Another death by Kiwi !
Bad weather with strong winds forecast for a day through standard farming countryside . A stiff and sweaty 400m climb to a wind swept mountain pass where it was too windy and cold to stop. All day the wind was the predominant feature with 60 km gusts blowing us off the tarmac and into the grass at times [ fortunately not blowing us into the middle of the road ]. A midday fuel stop in Eketahuna allowed us to check the maps and realise that we had missed the intended route and were on the relatively busier State Highway 2. This would in fact shave 15 or so kms off the days trip which would have been a mission so we carried on thankful for small mercies. The final section into Masterton was predominantly downhill and with a change in direction we had the wind on our backs with good weather. Bliss. We had expected to arrive late but finally got into the Isite office 5 minutes before it closed. A good end to a day that could have been awful.

25/10/2014 Ohingaiti - Palmerston North

2014-10-25 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect Manawatu Cycle way
25/10/2014 Ohingaiti – Palmerston North
The sun was out and the sky was blue and it looked a different world today. It was freezing though. Literally. With ice on the road in places where it was wet. Gloves, long trousers and booties all came in handy. Climbing up to 660 meters also helped to warm us up. It was a beautiful ride and we hardly saw anybody all day. The biggest entertainment was a little plane with it's own lorry to restock it. The plane repeatedly landed and took off again. We guess it was spraying or fertilising the surrounding fields. It barely seemed to clear the trees on take off but happily buzzed around. We got some amazing views of the snowy mountains in the distance. We were tired when we arrived in Ashhurst after 9hrs on the move but on enquiring there didn't seem anywhere to stay so we pushed on to Palmerston North. We had climbed just short of 1500m and covered 112km. Enough for one day and after we wolfed down the food we hit the sack early.

24/10/2014 Whanganui - Ohingaiti (North of Hunterville)

2014-10-24 click for more 
Garmin Connect Gorges to Sea Cycleway
24/10/2014 Whanganui – Ohingaiti
A lift up the longest earthbound elevator in the Southern
hemisphere with the bikes was a good start (65m up) no sweat!
We had very variable weather today. Light rain, torrential downpours, drizzle, hail and on the mountain snow. So it was a wet story. Luckily we didn't have too far to go to get to Hunterville our destination. We decided to skip our usual road side stop for brunch on account of it being so cold and wet and pushed on to the motel/takeaway. Unfortunately for us there was a big wedding on and every bed in town was booked. But the lady in the take away cafe,in typical Kiwi fashion came to the rescue and sorted us out in an old pub on the State Highway 1. Luckily it only 15 km further and there was a big shoulder to cycle on because there was a lot of bank holiday traffic. Lots of vehicles towing big boats on the way to Lake Taupo. The pub was adequate. Once upon a time it must have been quite a busy place with a big bar and lots of rooms. Tonight we were the only guests staying with a few interesting locals in the bar to talk to.
There would have been a sea view from here on a clear day.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

23/10/2014 Bridge to Nowhere - Whanganui ( Mountains to Sea day 2 )

2014-10-23 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
23/10/2014 Bridge to Nowhere to Whanganui
It was still quite chilly speeding along in the jetboat
As we were the only guests in the lodge we could determine the time of breakfast and when to leave in the jet boat and as a result we were on our way for the 40 minute trip downriver to civilisation by 8.30. Having reached Pipiriki where we could rejoin the roads again allowed us to restart the journey South. The road was narrow and quiet and meandered down the valley never far from the Whanganui river with only 2 climbs of 200m. A straightforward sort of day with good progress as opposed to the laborious slogging [ albeit beautiful and worthwhile ] of yesterday. Once again it was dry and mainly sunny. Long may it last!

Once in Whanganui we headed straight for the Isite information centre where as usual the helpful staff rang around to find a good place for us to stay within our budget. Since we are in NZ we bought a huge amount of lamb chops and had ourselves a feast.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

22/10/2014 Whakahoro - Bridge to Nowhere (Mountains to Sea day 1)

2014-10-22 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
22/10/2014 Whakahro – Mangapurua Landing (Bridge to Nowhere)
A very beautiful ride indeed. We started relatively early when everything was still covered in dew but the sun came through soon and burned off the mist. It was a glorious ride but it soon turned into a tough one. Once we had ridden up the farm track which was very muddy in places the going got really tough going up a single track. It took us two hours to climb up to 300 meters (from 130m) Often my heart was in my mouth. It was really scary skidding in the mud with some significant drops. If you fell they wouldn't kill you but they would certainly hurt ! Carrying panniers was a real pain because you frequently couldn't take the line you wanted for fear of bumping into the sides with your bags. I was glad I was wearing a long sleeved tee shirt when I brushed too close to the side and ripped it on a rock. That would have been my skin otherwise! Malc was very conscious of the time we were supposed to be at the landing where we would be picked up by the jet boat so I just about scoffed down an apple in a five minute break before we pushed on. Luckily the track improved significantly right up to 600 metres and we sailed up. It was the same for the first part of the way down and we thought we would arrive well ahead of time. Until it all changed to single track again. With a dry track and no panniers it would have been fantastic but as it was it was slow going. Lots of really narrow bridges to cross, almost impossible with our fully laden bikes and a number of obligatory walking sections because of steep drops. Malc went ahead to try and catch the jet boat at the arranged time while I struggled on behind. Very tired and hungry . The track ends at Mangapurua Landing which is just a large rock jutting out into the river against which a boat can moor. A 15 minute boat trip downstream took us to the lodge which is completely isolated with only the river for access. Luckily when we eventually got to the lodge there was a big starter and main meal to fill us up. All in all it had been an outstanding day cycling ( with the trail all to ourselves for the whole day) but we had just pushed it a bit too hard.

Struggling over rock fall on a narrow path

21/10/2014 Taumarunui- Whakahoro

2014-10-21 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
21/10/2014 Taumarunui to Whakahro
We decided to follow the route as described in the book and follow the gravel road not the highway to Owhango. It was certainly more beautiful but riding gravel requires a lot of concentration. Follow the rut you're in for too long and you'll end up in deep gravel on the inside of the bend with no way out, you always have to look thirty feet ahead to plan the best line. After a 300m climb we found the expected sealed road again but were disappointed to discover it only went on for 1 km before reverting to more gravel.
The rest of the ride was gently undulating and not too taxing. We were very much cycling through rural countryside with cattle and sheep farms  along the way. Just as we arrived at Blue Duck Station one of the few vehicles we had seen all day pulled up along side and called to us by name. It was the owner of the lodge [ and all the land to be seen for miles around (a bit too isolated for Marjet. An hours drive on a gravel road if you forget to buy the beers)  ] we were the only cyclists expected and thus not too difficult to identify on a dead end road. The lodge we were put in was designed with three bedrooms and for 24 people and we had it in its entirety to ourselves including the living room and log burner. Very cosy . A quick clothes wash is often put off as the clothes won't dry in time but with the log burner everything dried out in a jiffy.

Monday, 20 October 2014

20/10/2014 Piropiro camping to Taumarunui

2014-10-20 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect  Timbertrail day 2
20/10/2014 Piropiro camping to Taumarunui
Whilst breaking camp we were surprised to see a group of 5 other cyclists arrive. We hadn't seen anyone all day yesterday and 5 all at once was almost unsettling. Their group was also doing Cape Reinga to the Bluff but they were doing smaller sections for two or three days before returning home and planning their next section. Once again the track was spectacular in its beauty and cycling quality. Lots and lots of swing bridges just for the benefit of the cyclists. Apparently the NZ PM pushed to invest 50 million dollars in developing these tracks throughout NZ to keep people in work during a recession. Money well spent and an example I wish our country would follow.
Fortunately the quality of the track began to improve as did our speed. Having spent 9 1/2 hrs on the saddle yesterday and arriving at dusk we were hoping to get to Taumarunui a little earlier. Despite 400m of climbing the track was predominantly downhill and so we got to town at 4.30. Time enough to ring ahead for tomorrow nights stay, shop and have fish and chips with wine yet again. The fish and chips in NZ is usually excellent. Great choice of fresh fish and freshly cooked chips in huge portions.

19/10/2014 Mangakino -Piri Piri flats

2014-10-19 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
19/10/2014 Mangakino to Piropiro flats camping.
Soo many bridges.
More rain forecast but on awaking it looked dry and the sun was forcing its way through. We continued down the river trail for 8kms before heading  South to find the Timber trail, unfortunately the weather well and truly broke and we were sodden as we arrived at the beginning of the trail. So far we are not to impressed with the accuracy of NZ weather forecasts. The only shelter was a  WC ( which was spacious and spotless as usual) where we  had soup and cheese sandwiches yet again . So exotic. Then we climbed some more. The track was very wet and muddy so progress was slow. Even when we finished the climb to 1000m and started the descent our speed remained the same due to the difficult conditions. Single track, deeply rutted and slippy. Exciting but slow. We weren't sure we'd make it and were planning alternatives but did finally make it to the camping area 1/2 hr before dark. The campsite was very remote with nothing along the single track for 45 kms on either side. Fortunately there was a woodburner  which we got going to dry out shoes, clothes and cook our eggs. All finished off by some well travelled and shaken wine. Magic.
Malcolm getting the wood burner going at the campsite

18/10/2014 Arapuni - Mangakino

2014-10-18click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
18/10/2014 Arapuni to Mangakino The Waikato River Trail
wonderful switch backs 
It was supposed to be a rainy day and so the short 54 km to Mangakino seemed appropiate. We had vaguely planned to go further but were repeatedly told that what we were planning was a full days worth.
The inital road section was easy and then we started the Waikato River trail. We were immediately immersed in thick subtropical forest on single track. Beautiful. Shortly after starting the track we found ourselves on a 200m descent with switchback after switchback, 37 in all, technically challenging on a good mountain bike and even more interesting on a heavily laden bike with panniers. This was graded as a Grade 4 Advanced mountain bike route and so progress was slow. Some of the ascending proved to be too difficult on a few occasions due to the steepness and the wet and slippy conditions and so we were forced to push which was also a struggle. The descending was also pretty exciting with a few brake locked wheel skidding moments. Thank goodness we were at least tracking OK at the front with the new freebie tyres. The track was interspersed with occasional small gates which we had to lift our bikes over as the panniers wouldn't fit through and as there hadn't been enough non cycling exercise we had 8 sets of stairs to descend as we arrived at Waipapa dam.
Mangakino was a fairly basic small town with a ubiquitous Four Square supermarket next to fish and chip shop. We felt compelled to visit both of them.
The Lake Maraetia lodge at the end of the day was surprisingly nearly fully booked by a family of 14, but fortunately they didn't have a loud celebratory party and we had a peaceful night.

17/10/2014 Te Ahora - Arapuni

2014-10-17 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect
17/10/14 Te Aroha - Arupuni
Hobbit town Info centre
Plans kept changing, the original plan was to cycle to Cambridge and Arapuni the next day but after spending ¾ hr with Murray, the property owner, we revised our plans when he told us of several short cuts and where the flattest route would be. He even printed off an A3 photocopy of the route. With mainly flat countryside and a tailwind we made rapid progress only stopping at Matamata for a fabulous Sushi lunch. Matamata is the starting place for all the tours to Hobbaton ( the location of the Hobbit film set) and has even got a thatched tourist info office in the shape of a Hobbit home. We decided to give the guided tour a miss. It would have been nice to have a look but guided tours aren't really our thing. We arrived in Arapuni just as the rain began. Sheltering in the cover of the Rhubarb Cafe we were encouraged to come in and have a coffee which we did. Brian the owner was very chatty and a keen cyclist and after we bemoaned the fact that we had probably chosen the wrong tyres he went to the back of the shop and returne
d with two perfect tyres for the front wheels which do all the tracking. Probably £50 of tyres which he wanted us to have for free. He even offered to fit them for us. I must be nicer to people . I must be nicer to people. Marjet is feeling guilty for not having offered to pay for them.

The backpackers lodge proved a nice place to stay with a huge outside gas bbq for our use.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

15/10/2014 Auckland - Waiheke Island and back

2014-10-15 click for more
Garmin Connect Auckland to Waiheke including ferry

Auckland - Waiheke Island and back
Leaving Auckland harbour

We caught the

ferry to the island with the intention of cycling across and then
catching another ferry to Coromandel. When we looked at the
timetables for the ferry at the end of Septeber it seemed like a good
idea as it was also suggested in our guide. As it turned out there is
only a weekend crossing to Coromandel so plan B was hatched. We
cycled around on Waiheke and found some stunning beaches but the
island is quite populated. It would appear that quite a few Kiwi's
have a lovely home on the island and commute to Auckland by ferry.
Must beat the tube I guess! We found a lovely beach to relax on and
even had a swim. It was after all a beautiful sunny day. Gas bbq's and picnic tables all provided.
The water was crystal clear.

16/10/2014 Auckland – Thames ( by bus) Thames -Te Aroha ( by bicycle)

2014-10-16 click for more
Garmin Connect Thames to Te Aroha

Auckland – Thames ( by bus) Thames -Te Aroha ( by bicycle)
One of the many many bridges we crossed.Leading into the
  tunnel this time.
After the fruitless attempt of getting out of Auckland by ferry we decided to
get out by bus. Which nearly failed us as well because the lady in the
tourist office accidentally issued us wit a ticket for 16/10/2015
which we didn't spot. In true Kiwi fashion this was not considered to
be an insurmountable problem so we arrived in Thames in good time. We
cycled just over 80 km completely traffic free on a disused railway.
A bit like home from home really. The scenery wasn't that different
either for most of the way although in parts the number of palms and
lush flowers would have been unlikely in North Devon. Lots of cows
though and tons of bridges and little cattle grids. NZ makes sure
that farm animals can move unhindered by roads or tracks between
fields and or farms. We had spotted all the under road tunnels
especially for cattle movement previously. It was an easy day cycling
with little wind and no inclines. It even stayed dry.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

14/10/2014 Pouto Point – Auckland

2014-10-14 click on date for more photo's

14/10/2014 Pouto Point – Auckland
What an amazing day we've had. We woke up to blue skies and an amazing view out to see from our idyllic spot. Originally the fishing boat was going to pick us up at 10 but this was pushed back to after midday and then three o'clock so we had a lazy day walking on the beach and enjoying the sunshine. The fishing boat turned out to be a full on working affair. It sailed off at great speed and we had to hang on for fear of falling over board. Once we got into more sheltered water the boat slowed down and the woman set to work weighing and gutting their catch ( Including three sharks) so we had a good following of seagulls. There was nothing very gentile about the whole operation. It was all serious business. When the work was done we had some interesting conversations with some of the anglers who all were passionate about their fishing. When we got into harbour of Parakai we helped carry everything on shore and waved goodbye before getting our own stuff off the boat. We carefully checked that nothing was left behind only to realise just after the boat left that our rucksack with phone etc was missing. One of the woman had accidently taken it. Once again the Kiwi spirit of generosity and helpfulness came to the fore. We borrowed phones from total strangers, had offers of places to sleep but most of all Rod ( the skipper ) and his wife Cheryl pulled out all stops to help us out. They invited us into their home managed to locate our bag by phoning all the woman and then they drove some 90 odd km to retrieve our belongings and drive us to Auckland to our hotel. They could not have been kinder. A late finish to an exciting day. 
Weighing one of the sharks
Rod and Sheryl dropping us off in Auckland 

12/10/2014 Relaxing in Dargaville 13/10/2014 -Dargaville to Pouto Point

2014-10-13 click for more photo's
2014-10-12 click for more photo's
12/10/2014 Relaxing in Dargaville 13/10/2014 -Dargaville to Pouto Point
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
End of speed limit on Baylys Beach Dargaville
As before Pam and and Pete's hospitality knew no bounds with their simple continental breakfast including egg, bacon, cereal, peaches, yoghurt, toast, jam, marmalade, coffee and tea and just when we thought we'd finished she brought out the second round of freshly baked scones , muffins, apple pies etc.
There had been a lot of agonising over the route to follow as Cheryl from Shamrock charter boats couldn't confirm that Rod her husband would be able to take us out from Pouto point which is 70 kms down at the end of a peninsula. If we gambled on them being thee to pick us up but they couldn't then we would have to retreat the 70 kms. In addition Pouto point has no food and dodgy phone reception. After a bit of negotiating Cheryl agreed to convince Rod to predict whether he could take us or not before we set off for Pouto as his usual routine is to commit himself only 12 hrs beforehand. A green light was given and we set off late at 11 am. Further delay occurred as we met Dave from two nights previously as he was mending fence and we lost another ½ hr happily chatting.
The day was warm and sunny with a light headwind and beautiful scenery. Progress was rapid until we came to the final 23 kms into Pouto where the road surface changed to gravel. Within 5 kms I had fallen off my bike twice and we were both very worried by the downhills. We paid the price for having changed our 2” tyres for 1.75”of a different type. Tracing a straight line in the gravel was very difficult and there was a lot of wheel spinning. The difference was enormous. The track had just been graded so that didn't help matters.
After only 5kms on the gravel we were struggling more than at any time last year in South America and so when an enormous logging lorry pulled up alongside and said he'd return in 10 minutes with his pickup to drive us into Pouto we didn't hesitate for a second. Steve the driver had realised how much difficulty we were having and immediately came to the rescue. This generous , kind act is not untypical and we had been told several times already that if we got stuck someone would help us out---- and they did.
Ann at Pouto point only had one chalet which had already been let out so we were offered the hall which has 14 beds a kitchen ,showers and cliff top view. We were the sole occupants. Not bad for £7 each.

Looking forward to the boat trip tomorrow and travelling to Helensville with a boat of female deep sea anglers.
Knight Steve in shining armour to the rescue

Saturday, 11 October 2014

11/10/2014 Opanoni - Dargaville

2014-10-11 click for more photo's
Garmin Connect Opanoni- Dargaville

11/10/2014 Opononi – Dargaville
We woke to a beautiful sunny day with lovely views out to the bay. Most of our clothes had dried out but unfortunately my brand new camera had suffered rain damage and all photo's now show a blurry bit but at least it is still functioning. The road remained quiet and became very beautiful once we started climbing up into the subtropical rainforest of Waipoua with it's many Kauri trees. We stopped off to have a look at Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest estimated to be around 2000 years old and one of NZ largest trees. The Kauri trees with their shallow fragile roots are now protected and we were surprised to find numerous roadside places selling crafts made from Kauri wood until it was explained to us that the wood used for crafts are all from preserved dug up trees from peat swamps not from current trees.
So far the going had been very pleasant even though we had climbed over 1200 meters so far but this soon changed. I expected an easy ride into Dargaville but a fierce headwind put paid to that idea. Progress became tediously slow and I was beginning to wonder if we would make it into Dargaville before dusk. Luckily once we had descended to nearer sea level I was able to tuck in behind Malcolm who bravely took the brunt of the wind. We arrived in Dargaville around five and really landed on our feet in the beautiful Commercial Hotel with the incredibly friendly hosts Peter and Pam. The welcoming cup of tea soon turned into wine [ provided by the landlady ]which was also shared by our hosts friends and many travel adventure were shared in this excellent company. All topped off by a visit with them to the local Thai restaurant.

Kauri tree approximately 2000 years old