Day 1: Auckland to Kaitaia by bus
Distance cycled: 2km
High point: mid afternoon nap
Memorable because: early morning goodbye to our city
Cakes consumed: shortbread cookies
Having crawled into bed at 4:15am, the alarm clock was unwelcome at 6:30. We stuffed the last remaining items into our bags and abandoned the hostel to catch the bus to Kaitaia. The bus driver wasn’t best pleased about having two bikes on board so our adventure was nearly over before it began. The weather was a tad miserable and the sound of phone interference with intercom coupled with too cold air conditioning made it a fate to endure not enjoy. We changed at Paihia for Kaitaia, arriving in a small town with a fancy library where we ate our picnic.
We went to great pains to waterproof everything to cycle a kilometre up the road to the backpackers where we unpacked and got in to bed. Kaitaia was not getting explored. So day one we mostly succeeded in sleeping and eating.
Day 2: Kaitaia to Te Paki
Distance cycled: 21kms
High point: off-roading through a stream
Challenge: Map reading
Memorable because: we started our video diary
Cakes consumed: chocolate slice
The weather looked much more promising for our adventure to the Cape. We loaded out bikes on to the back of 4 by 4’s and headed north on the Cape runner. Our first proper stop, after the carpark of the kauri museum where the tour stopped later in the day, was Honourai Heads, a beautiful beach inlet. Our bikes caught the attention of the other passengers intrigued by our journey and swapped email addresses.
The next stop was Te Kao store. The driver was very excited about the ice creams they sold. We were more excited by the brownies and stocked up for later. Every settlement we passed was a collection of houses, a store was a big deal.
We had lunch at the beautiful Toputoputo bay at the end of a steep gravel descent which we were pleased not to be attempting by bike. We then pressed on to the Cape. Cape Reinga is a spiritual place to the Maori people who believe it is where the spirits leave the earth. It is the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea.
For us it was the beginning of the journey. We strapped everything onboard and headed off to windy start. We were almost being blown off the road. It had some tough inclines and it took us a while to reach Te Paki, home of the giant sand dunes. We had to do some off roading through a stream which was challenging but good fun. Pulling out onto the beach was like something from a Sci fi movie. It was deserted and the wind made the sand dance in ripples. The waves were powerful and the dunes striped like tigers. We headed behind the dune to find a place to call home for the night. Settling upon a suitable spot we made our beds and tried to cook consuming as little sand as possible.
Day 3: Ninety Mile beach
Distance cycled: 49kms
Challenge: the never moving horizon
High point: making friends with walkers
Memorable because: stunning scenery
Cakes consumed: German cookies, but a bottle of wine
Once packed, it was quite a palaver finding our way back to the beach. The water was far in and we had to push for the first hour or so. We stopped at the stream to refill our water. When we finally could ride it was exhilarating to be riding the waters edge, through the foam and dancing in and out as the water dared and retreated. The never ending horizon though soon became a mental challenge for me though. With little to focus on there was nothing to distract from the monotony.
We followed footsteps of a walker, catching him shortly after 12.
He joined us for our lunch stop and we swapped some raisins for chocolate biscuits and a look at his map. His map literally was an unchanging straight line, a camp ground at the 50km point, a shop at 100km. From then, whenever a walker could be seen in the distance I would guess how long it would take to reach them and then peddle alongside for a quick chat. I even got Alice to play guess the nationality but that novelty wears off pretty quick when the answer is always German.
From then on it was hourly sanity stops, using a log or bird as a marker to aim for. A few cars passed us on the beach and around 3pm, the owner of the camp ground brought us some water and welcomed us to his place around 8km further on. Although we had planned to press on, the idea of a warm shower and kitchen germinated for the next ride and we pulled into Utea camp ground for the night..