Day 4: Ninety Mile Beach to Taipa Distance cycled: 57 kms
Challenge: the tide
High point: sun, beautiful beaches
Memorable because: we crashed a wake
Treats consumed: ice cream
Again we pulled on to the beach and were fighting the waves for sand so we pushed for nearly 2 hours. There was very little wildlife alive, a few birds circling overhead, however lots of dead things. We saw several dead cuttlefish, birds, pelicans and strangely enough, a dolphin!
Once we could ride it was a hot 11km to our turning. We continued along the winding, quiet road and stopped at a pub for lunch. It was surprisingly busy and everyone looked well dressed. They seemed more than happy to serve two grubby cyclists, however as soon as we sat down we realised we were at the after party of a funeral. Moving on quickly once we finished our toasties we headed to Awanui.
There was time for a quick ice cream stop before heading east to Doubtless bay. The winding road introduced us to much wildlife and we soon caught sight of doubtless bay, a completely different ocean than the one we woke up next to. We kept the dazzling blue waters to our left into the little town of Taipa where we parked up and dipped our toes into the cold, clear ocean.
We camped on the green overlooking the ocean in a gorgeous spot and set about oiling our bikes which sounded choked with the effect of the sea water, now looking years rather than months old.
Day 5: Taipa to Paihia
Distance cycled: 89kms
High point: a friendly passer by gave us ice cream money
Challenge: all the hills
Memorable because: comfy bed and shower, Alice knowingly ate a fly
Cakes consumed: caramel slice, apple twist
Waking up was just as picturesque as the dusk had been. We visited the bakery even before our days exercise began. Alice’s caramel slice had a small fly visitor, which to my amazement she ate whilst making eye contact with.
The first 37km went fast, climbing before long downhills stretches, passing fields of cows and goats. We stopped at midday for a fruit snack in small town Keaoand felt confident about our days progress. The next 25km were a tortuous climb and challenged our quads and our progress. We still enjoyed the scenery through salty tears of sweat.
We stopped at a little cafe, a stones throw from Kerikeri and were enjoying chatting to the owner and other friendly customers between gulping cold water and refuelling. As we pulled out of the car park on our bikes, armed with new ideas about what to see, a car flagged us down. The man held $20 out of the window and told us to buy ourselves some ice cream. It was a touching moment and much more representative of the kind kiwi reputation than all the warnings we had been receiving regarding our safety.
We ploughed on for Paihia, the distance between the km markers growing a as our legs tightened and the hills steepend. After 89kms we made it and checked ourselves into a hostel for a comfy bed and shower. As soon as we were in the room with other humans, we realised how bad we had become accustomed to smelling.
Day 6: Paihia to Whangarei
Distance cycled: 20kms?
High point: watching the Maori cultural performance at Waitangi Treaty grounds
Memorable because: we saw glow worms!
Cakes consumed: scone, chocolate buttons, chocolate pudding
In the morning the weather wasn’t on our side and our 60km ride for the day did not excite us. We planned to have the morning sightseeing Bay of Islands. I headed for Waitangi treaty grounds to dose up on my history nerd whilst Alice devoured some Timtams.
Waitangi was New Zealand’s first European settlement and ugly significant in the development of the nation. From first discovery, there began to be Europeans settling here and over time it developed to be a huge economic base of whaling and fishing. With this came missionaries to convert the locals, and brothels and bars appeared across the water at Russell to entertain the needs of new settlers. Over time, the necessity of a strong relationship with the crown became apparent to control the population under law and to get recognition for ships in International Waters. James Busby was the British governments minister and had a close relationship with the Maori living at Waitangi. A Declaration of Independence was signed in 1835 and the flag, the United tribes, was said to welcome who wanted to dwell in this area.
The Waitangi Treaty was therefore contaversial leading to its signing on 6th Feb 1940, but eventually was signed by most of the head chiefs around the country over a 9 year period. To this day, the differences in wording in the Maori and English versions lead to strained relations and misunderstandings over the power of the crown in Maori land.
We also visited the ceremonial war canoe Ngātokimatawhaorua, the world’s largest. The 35-metre-long canoe needs a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on the water. It weighs 6 tonnes when dry and 12 tonnes when saturated. It was built to mark the centenary of the signing of the treaty and is launched each year on 6th Feb- Waitangi Day.
Our final stop was a cultural performance in the House of Assembly. A chief was chosen to represent our clan and then we had to have a formal welcome to show our intentions, approached using sticks and weapons, but once we resisted violence, the chief took the symbol of peace and we were allowed to be seated to watch the men perform the haka, the women dance and both groups play music and sing.
With the weather still looking miserable we took the bus to Whangarei, missing only a long stretch of state highway. We felt productive as we got our tent up before the rain commenced again, however did not feel so smug when a new lake formed next to it. A fellow camper said, I’d watch out, they might charge you more for the new scenery!
Making the most of a break in the weather we set off on our bikes, unloaded for a bit of sightseeing. We followed a path adjacent to the river, bouncing over tree roots and round mounds to get to Whangarei falls, an impressive charge of water for a fall unexpected in an urban area. The cascade of water was more impressive following the deluge.
From the falls we explored the beautiful kauri forest full of imposing giants, then retraced our steps to go on the hunt for Glow worms. We climbed out of the town to the abbey caves which had three caves you could explore. This was more serious caving than I had experienced before, a scramble down into the depths which at dusk was quite a task. We passed the first two, the sound of water gushing below putting us off, however we were convinced to part with our shoes and socks to wade through the icy depths by the third cave. It was worth it. At first I could see only two glow worms, but as the torch light hit them, more and more grew strong with light until the cave roof was sparkling like the nights sky. It was very special.
We headed back into town and cycled the town basin, the boat park and ‘hub’ of Whangarei, although you might have missed any sign of life on this drizzly night. The restaurant owner took pity on us, seating us by the fire to warm up. We had a warm shower to recuperate us ahead of a wet night.
Day 7: Whangarei to Maungawhai
Distance cycled: 59kms
High point: lots of cows
Challenge: state highway traffic
Memorable because: we snuck into someone’s caravan to sleep
Cakes consumed: date slice, rocky road, chocolate fingers
Leaving Whangarei demanded we take state highway one, borrowing the hard shoulder from tourist buses and logging trucks. We also had more rain but were both in good spirits. There was plenty of wildlife to pass the journey. The cows are particularly fascinating, staring at you as you emerge into view. Many bolt, surprising considering how unconcerned they are by the noise of the traffic.
On our way through to Maunagwhai, we passed by some walkers on the Te Aroroa trail (3000km Cape Reinga to Bluff) and swapped stories before pressing on to follow the Cape through Langs Beach to Maungawhai. We consulted the information lady at the visitor centre who caught onto our love of chocolate who sent us to a chocolate shop, which we followed up by perusing a few of the quaint stores before heading to camp for the night. Upon being offered a vacant caravan lean to to store our stuff for the night, we spotted a bed which was going spare and welcomed ourselves to it. Who was going to pass up a mattress?