It was raining when I woke so no choice but to pack the tent wet. Jelle joined me as I rode downtown in search for a bike show to replace the helmet that I lost on the way to Hamilton. Bike Barn had decent helmets. Then a stop at a cafe for second breakfast before heading to the ferry terminal.
The ferry ride was long. We met a couple from the states that was also bike touring. The gray skies soon turned to rain, making the ride less scenic than it could have been. Once again this would have been spectacular on a sunny day.
We got off the ferry in a squall. The wind had picked up in proportion to the rain. The couple from the states rode off into it, but Jelle and I started looking for shelter. At first our prospects looked grim, but with some help from a lady at a backpackers hostel we found a room and another hostel. It was tiny, and I slept on the floor, but at least we were dry.
WS host to train station. Train to Wellington. Train station to hostel.
It was a gray day, but not quite raining. Got to the train station in plenty of time. Got my bike loaded fine. The ride was scenic, and would have been more so on a sunny day.
Collecting my bags after getting off the train I spotted another touring cyclist. This is when I met Jelle (he's Dutch, it's pronounced Yella). I asked if he knew where he was stayig and he said he had this app called WikiCamp that listed a hostel with the only camping in town, not far from where we were. So I followd him along the waterfront and up the hill, and sure enough we were set. Later we went out for pizza and beer. Wellington is a big city. It was a real city vibe where we ate.
Hauraki Rail Trail to Te Aroha, then highway with decent shoulder. Warm but not too hot. Headwind that continued to pickup during the day.
I made my first costly mistake today. I lost my helmet. At some point I stopped for a break and took it off, and then somehow rode off again without putting it back on. Is this age related forgetfulness?
Wonderful Warm Showers host Heather in Hamilton. Tomorrow the train to Wellington.
Once again it was straight uphill from the campground. Tom caught up to me when I was on the first downhill. He was riding a Bike Friday. He said he was a New Zealand dealer for them. I lost Tom when the road turned upward once again. Basically the same steep gravel riad climbing that I have become acustom to. There were a few places where I got off and pushed.
Eventually the road took a dive down to Port Charles. Not much there except some vacation houses. When I got to the south end of Port Charles I saw a sign for the Tangiaro Resort and Coffee LaLa. Just what I needed before tackling the nect big climb. I was then back on the road and heading upward, but not as steep as the last grade. Here I was able to stay in the saddle and keep cranking. Pretty soon Tom came along in the opposite direction. He turned around and rode with me for a while. He still has family in Oregon. Then Tom and I parted ways and it was over some more hills and then down to Waikawau and then Little Bay. Mark and Nedilka had made a sign so I could easily find the place. They were at the beach so I relaxed and had a shower before they returned.
We had some excitement on the drive home. After an hour and a half drive we stopped at Coromandel Town and I got out. I looked at my bike and something was not right. It took me a minute to realize my rear wheel was gone. It had fallen off somewhere along the way. How could this happen? There was quite a bit of rough gravel so I guessed it just shook loose. Mark did not hesitate to turn around and drive back. We had our eyes glued to the road all the way back to Waiklawau when there it was in the grass on the side of the road, completely undamaged. We took another, more scenic road back to Coromadel through Kennedy Bay. Total detour time, 2 hours and 15 minutes.
That wasn't the end of the excitement. When we got home my front tire was completely flat. Further examination reveled that it had been rubbing on the bike rack and had worn a big gash in the tire and through the tube. I would have to purchase a new tire. Bummer because I really like the Big Ben's I have on.
The day started out with a hard climb, maybe as a forewarning of things to come.The views of the gulf were spectacular however. After a few miles of climbing it was downhill to Port Jackson. There was a fancier campground there, but little else. As the road was nearing it's end there was virtually no traffic. One more climb before droping down to Fletcher Bay. Some folks stopped to talk at the top of the hill nd took a picture of me.
At Fletcher Bay was another nice Department of Conservation campground. These are quite large compared to US campgrounds and quite sprawling. I found the office and enquired about the trail. I was relieved to find it was 5 Km long not 10 Km as I first thought. As I got to the trailhead I ran into the same people who had taken my picture a bit earlier. At the trail enterance was a step ladder they helped me struggle my bike up and over. From there the very narrow trail went straight up over bumpy sod, completely unridable. Undeterred I pushed. The folks at the bottom were watching and I waved when I stopped for my first breater, amazed at how high up I was already.
Then the trail entered a cow pasture and was barely discernable in places. I had to dodge the cow pies. I tried riding a little, but mostly walked. I ran into some hikers coming the other way which assured me I was not lost. Eventually it was up and over another step ladder, still steady uphill, some ridable, most not. The hills here looked mostly like California or Oregon in summer. Every now and then I'd come around a bend and get a view of the coast behind me.
After what must have been a couple of hours of mostly pushing the trail started downhill. At first I could ride but soon it became very steep with ruts, rocks, and roots. This would have been challenging even on a full suspension mountain bike. All I could do was hold on to the brakes and fast walk along side the bike. I meet some hikers at this point who were seriously struggling just to walk up the trail. At the bottom was Poley bay. I rested for a bit before even thinking about what was next. The climb out of Poley Bay was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It was litteraly push the bike a couple of feet, clamp the brakes, step up and rest until I caught my breath. At one point I had to take the panniers off, push the bike up, and come back for the panniers. It went on like this for the entire 580 feet from seal level to the highest point. That doesn't sound like a lot of vertical, but when you do it in less than about 300 meters , over very rough terrain, it is brutal.
By the time it started letting up I was pretty well done for. If I had come to a decent place to camp I may have stopped right then and there, but there was nothing flat. Everything was vertical and the bush was getting thicker and thicker. About then the trail came out it the open right on the edge of the bluff. It was starting to look ridable were it not for the 500 foot dropoff on one side. There was a nice bench to sit and enjoy the view, which I did for a while. Just beyond that the trail turned away from the bluff and looked very ridable. I started riding thinking it would only last a few hundred feet and I'd have to get off again, but instead it kept getting better and I was treated to some of the best single track of my life for at least 2 Km on down to Stoney Bay. The trail swooped around all of the little gorges with creek crossings, most of which I could ride though but a few were rocky enough that I got off. I could almost forget the pain I had just experienced with the joy of riding this beautiful trail through the lush jungle. Too soon I was down and riding into the campground at Stoney Bay.
The first person I encountered at the campground was Tom, originally from Portland but a Kiwi for the past 21 years. He knew of Mark whom he considered a legend due to his work protesting and shutting down mining in the 1980's. I talked to Tom for a while and then setup camp in a lovely spot behind a huge Pōhutukawa tree overlooking the bay. Very nice. Later that evening I was treated to a spectacular moonrise over the bay.
Mark and Nedilka dropped me off in Colville and they continued on to Little Bay. My plan was to ride for 3 days around the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula and meet them in Little Bay. The road does not go through, so day 2 would include 5 Km of hiking trail.
It was well into the afternoon by the time I got riding, but I didn't have far to go. Altough I had bought some groceries earlier in the day, I could not pass the store in Colville without getting more, knowing it would be the last one I would see for 3 days. Like all of the roads on Coromandel there was a big hill leaving Colville, but not as steep as some. Soon the road turned to gravel and was very plesant the rest of the way, with little traffic. The campground at Fantail was nothing special but I had a nice meadow to myself. Since I was now on the west coast of the peninsula I was treated to a nice sunset over Hauraki Gulf.
Out and back on a lovely rail-to-trail. Smooth gravel following the Karangahake Gorge. Lots of people out mostly on mountain bikes. Part of the trail was not on the rail bed and offered some nice swoops and turns. The country was very interesting. Sometimes it looked like Oregon, other times California, and then you come smack into a forest of tree ferns.
Another short ride after a morning of surfing. Another gorgeous day. Two more big hills. Bluff road turned to gravel but wasn't too steep. Then it was closed due to land slide, but I snuck through. Then down to the beach where we surfed yesterday and around to the beach where we surfed this morning. Then back out on the highway north trying to get to Wangapoa. Over a big hill, across a valley, then turned around short of my goal when I got to another hill. Two big hills on the way back to Mark's house. Had to stop in the shade for a breather on the second one.
First short ride in New Zealand. Up over a steep bluff on Blackjack road. Part gravel, part paved. Warm and sunny. Looking forward to more.