After my slightly bumpy start and since my last post things have started to click. It’s been an interesting week with amazing views, stunning roads, a very long beach and even a little cycle up a river. It even stopped raining for a few days! I’ve met some moody turkeys who guard the road with a no nonesense approach, dogs who run at you but have fortunately been tied up and even a crow who decided to knock me on the head for good measure. Life on a bicycle is anything but dull!
I left Dargaville to start heading up the west coast proper. Finally off the super busy, by New Zealand standards, roads and was starting to find much quieter places to explore. There was two roads leading north out of Dargaville and I’d been warned about the logging trucks which blast along the main roads so I decided to take another road which looks a little smaller and mean’t I would join the main road about 20km further up. This road turned out to be gravel and it was great, I think in the two hours I was bumbling along it I was overtaken by two tractors and the occasional car. It was really peaceful and the views were stunning, I finally felt I was getting into the country side and into slightly less populated areas.
I’d planned a fairly short day and got to the campsite mid afternoon. It was off the main road but a DOC site which has a little communal kitchen and showers and you just put 10 dollars in an honesty box. There dotted all over NZ and are great if you want a bit more than just a field. That evening I met a couple called Rebecca and Philip who were travelling around the northlands for their honeymoon and they very kindly let me have some of their dinner. It was nice to have something other than noodles.
From the campsite I cycled up the SH12 with the plan of getting to a place called Omapere. The start of the ride from the campsite was gravel and went through some really small little towns but eventually brought me out onto the main road which lead me down through an amazing forest. It’s called the Waipoura forest and it was incredible. Some of the trees where insanely huge and the road just snaked it was through it all. It’s home to kauri trees and includes the oldest and largest ones in New Zealand. It was stunning, apart from a short blast of rain where I ducted into a small shelter to wait for it to pass it was a really nice cycle. The last obstacle before reaching Omapere was a cheeky little hill but it was bloody steep, it certainly got the legs going! Nice view at the top though and downhill all the way into Omapere.
That night I stopped at a little hostel called the globetrotters where a guy called Shaun who’s cycling the same route as me had been having a day off. I’d met him a few days previously in the motel in Wellsford and said if we ended up in the same place again we could ride up north together for a few days as we were both doing the same route up there. That evening I walked about 3km down the beach to the Opo takeaway for some fish and chips. Apparently according to a well placed information post in in the centre in 1955 a Dolphin came up the inlet and befriended a local girl. I guess a bit like free willy but in dolphin form…anyway he sadly passed away a year later but he obviously left a lasting impression so there’s a memorial to this little dude in the centre, oh and a fish and chips named after him.
The views that night were beautiful and the sky was really dramatic. This jetty was just in front of the fish and chips, it really was a stunning location. High up there on my fish and chip shops with views locations list.
From Omapere the plan was to head for a place called Herekino. It was about 75km away so we planned a steady day but the aim was to get there early evening in time to find somewhere to camp for the night. We headed down to Rawene which was a sweet little town and from there we hopped on a ferry which took us across the inlet to join the road we would be on all the way to Herekino. I was pretty hilly but with every slog up a hill came a lovely downhill section which in the scenery we were in was awesome. Lots of forest areas and big open vistas, it was amazing!
That night there were a couple of places in Herekino but about 2km from centre (I say that loosely as the centre was 4 buildings) there was a place called the Travellers Hut. We weren’t really sure it was there as it said it on the map but it didn’t look like there was much up the road. We eventually found a sign leading up a gravel road buried away was this little place on a hill top with a stunning view of the surrounding hills and valleys. A lady called Mary introduced herself and for the mighty sum of 10 dollars we could put out tents up and use all the facilities. There was a shower, kitchen and some friendly cows who took real interest in us putting our tents up. It was basic but perfect for what we wanted. Shortly after we arrived about 6 or 7 people turned up who were also staying there. They were mostly from French and Germany’s who were working locally and staying at the hut for a few months. What a place to stay at. We cooked some food up, chatted to these guys and watch the sun go down.
From Herekino it was a short 15km ride to Ahipara which was the beginning of the mighty 90 mile beach (it’s not actually 90 miles long – apparently it’s 90km long) I was told the reason it’s called 90 mile beach is because when they measured it a horse could walk 90 miles in a day and yep you guessed it, a horse took a day to walk it….hence the name. I’m sure there’s a few stories around but that one I like . (Thanks Rebecca). We had some food in Ahipara while we waited for high tide to pass and then went to check out how possible it would be to ride along it…the top of the beach near the dunes was really soft and with a fully loaded bike I wasn’t going to get very far. The tide eventually went down and the sand was firm enough to blast along. Off we went, riding along the beach. Very exciting! Unsurprisingly it was quite flat and after the novelty of riding on a beach wore off (simple things I know) we got into a bit of a rhythm. There was no headwind so it wasn’t too bad and the sun was shining so it turned out to be a a pretty good day. As the beach is a public highway the occasional 4 x 4 blasted past, one driven by a kid probably about 13 years old which was a little unnerving but otherwise it was event free. Throughout the day we met a few people walking towards us with enormous bags on their backs. Turns out they are walking the length of New Zealand along the te araroa trail. Bonkers! One of these walking types was a chap called Laurence who we met that evening in the campsite who is doing the route solo. If you want to follow him he’s doing a little blog as well (www.beardedexplorer.co.uk). Really nice guy, annoyingly good blog, it had taken him two long days to get to the campsite we met him at and he was still smiling! Good luck mate!
We were roughly half way up the beach when we camped so the idea for the second day was to get to the top of the beach, jump on the main road and do a little dance at Cape Reinga to celebrate reaching the top of New Zealand then go set up the tents for the night. Well the first hurdle to this mighty plan was a devilish little headwind. It wasn’t a lot but enough to be a right pain. Head down and legs screaming we eventually and quite slowly made out way up the beach. Weirdly I found the flat much harder, your legs constantly doing the same whereas on hilly roads at least you get a break on the way down or you stand up going up hill….none of that here obviously. Slowly the miles ticked by until we reach what our maps said was the way off the beach…I was expecting a big sign to say exit this way or something to that effect but that was nowhere to be seen, all there was was a little river and a few car tracks. We checked the map, checked again and eventually flagged a passing car down to check we had the right point. Yep that’s the way. I thought once we got off the beach it would be plain sailing…silly boy! Riding up the shallow river was tough and when we did get out it was soft sand which I had to push though, every time I tried to ride through I ended up in a heap next my bike. After what felt like ages but I think was actually only 4km or so we reached a little hut with a few cars parked around, they were used to seeing 4×4’s appear from this river so we got some strange looks as we cycled out and collapsed on a bench next to them. Checking the map again we still had 15 or so kilometres to get to cape Reinga so we set off with aim to get there before dark….it soon became clear this would be easier said than done. It must have been the hilliest 15km I’ve done all trip, right at the end of the day. I was shattered and I think Shaun was as well, so in the end we decided to abandon our cape attempt and get to a nearby campsite. We made it there just before dark, set up the tents and cooked some food and crashed out. I was shattered! The cape could wait!
The next morning rested we packed up camp and cycled up to cape Reinga. It wasn’t far but I’m so glad we decided to camp the night before. We did the obligatory pose next to distance post (see below for photographic evidence of generic pose) and took in the place. My legs after a week on the go needed a rest so we aimed to get to a place called Pukenui which had a couple of hostels where we were going to have some down time. It was a beautiful day despite an early downpour and the road was lovely, broken only by a deranged crow who decided to first attack Shaun as he passed and then me a few minuets later. Strange animal.
Today I’m having a day off, I might take tomorrow off as well but I’ll shall see how I’m feeling later. I’ve done some washing as my O my I was starting to smell a bit funky and a few other little jobs. When I do set off the plan is to head down the east coast and explore around there. It’ll be interesting to see the difference to the west coast as I’ve been told it’s much more touristy. I’ll let you know what I find!
I thought I would put this picture in of me trying to do some cool shot of me stood in front of a big view! Clearly it didn’t work…put the timer on the camera and I didn’t count it down properly, so instead ended up with a bike on its side and me stood in the middle of the road trying to count to ten! Also interestingly it also shows I need to use my hand to count to ten…fascinating! Hope you liked the post!!