Working my way down the east coast and into the bay of islands.

This week has been a mix of interesting characters, a couple more of New Zealand’s best fish and chips and a stay at a farm with a pet pig with the cracking name of Piggy. Why complicate things I guess!

As with any form of travel I’ve met loads of interesting people but this week three have stood out for some reason. In Pukenui, where I did my last post, we spent two nights with a day off in the middle. The first night two girls who were travelling the northlands were passing through but on the second night the first of these interesting characters appeared. He walks in and introduces himself as Rusty, great name I think and he shakes my hand…proper hand shake that, my hand now hurts. It turns out he’s up in the northlands for two weeks on a contract putting poles in the ground for avocado farms. 90000 of them in fact…could get boring. About an hour or so after Rusty arrived a few of his guys also working this contract turn up, Rusty was the foreman. He must have been 50 or so, well built with short hair, wore a proper pair of workmans boots and every other word he said involved a swear word. That evening him and his guys told stories of all sorts of madness. While doing so the drinks were flowing, Rusty polished off two bottles of wine…amazing…I’d be on the floor! Despite the rough appearance and much drinking they were all really nice guys, Rusty even offered me a place to stay when I get further south…if that was his idea of a quiet night I dread to think what it would be like if he was going out out!

From Pukenui we planned to cycle out towards the east coast. On the outskirts of town there was a coffee shop called “the hitman” Shaun had seen on Google maps. This was were we met the second of our interesting characters. “The hitman” or Darren as he turned out to be called was working from his van selling teas and coffees. We chatted for a short while and he had decided only recently to do this having stopped a well paid job for a more relaxed lifestyle, if there was surf he was out in it was his reasoning! Fair play! We apparently made his day after telling him he was on google maps and that my mum had found him too after she looked up where I had stopped.

To get to the junction to head east there was only one main road so we decided to take a detour and head off into the forest to find a quieter gravel track. Apart from Shaun hitting a bump in the road with a bit too much enthusiasm causing one of his panniers to make a bid for freedom it was a great route, keeping us off the main road which was nice. We passed the ancient kauri kingdom cafe which has sculptures and furniture made from old kauri trees pulled from swamps. There was a 50 tonne section which was removed and made into a staircase which was in the shop. An amazing peice! Yours for 2.5 million dollars…so if you house is missing that something slightly different…you know where to go!

That evening Shaun and I had different plans, he wanted to check out the Keri Keri peninsular but I wanted to carry on to Mangonui so we agreed to meet up again the next day. Mangonui was a nice little town which claimed to have the best fish and chips in New Zealand…if I had a pound for every time I saw that. Mangonui is the main town in doubtless bay and has very fishing port feel. Apparently Mangonui means Big shark. I didn’t see any but it was a lovely little place to wander around.

The view in the centre of Mangonui

The following day me and Shaun had arranged to meet outside this so called best fish and chip shop at lunch time, grab some food and continue on around the coast. As we leant our bikes up again the railing and started to walk into the shop a man walked close up to me…I though what’s going on here…this was interesting character number three or as I decided to call him the fish and chip whispering man. As I stood there he whispered in my ear (bit strange) and said the other fish and chips round the corner is better and this one is overpriced. Hmm ok…we walked outside and the whispering man introduced himself as Russel. A man of about 60 who could talk for England. When we told him where we were from he told us stories of his time in the uk and all the people he knew. Apparently he was a share holder in Tottenham football club…the things you find out. Anyway he almost instructed us to go to the other fish and chips and told us to follow him in his car…Now Mangonui isn’t very big and there’s one street so the chances of us not finding it were pretty slim but he was very insistent! We followed and as he pointed to where it was (I’d stayed next door the night before but didn’t have the heart to tell him) he parked his car and frog marched us in and proceeded to tell the lady who was working there to make sure they look after us! He shook our hands and marched out…to be fair we did get a big pile of chips and massive bit of fish so many the whisperer had worked his magic! Who knows!

From Mangonui we headed further south and tried wherever possible to stay off the main road so any loops we could do out to the coast we did only returning to the road when we had no other choice. It worked well and we found some nice little roads and slowly worked our way around to a place called Whangaroa, a small little coast village with a small shop, pub and sailing club.

Shaun looking out on the loop we did on the way to Whangaroa

From Whangaroa we followed the coast loop that took us through some lovely country side, unfortunately the weather didn’t want to play along and it rained most of the morning. We made an interesting discovery as we flew down one of the long hills and in certain types of rain above about 40km/h it smacks you in the face causing amazing pain…it’s like hail! I could hardly see and so had to do a bit of a look up, look down, look up all the way down the hill…not brilliant but neither of us wanted to loose these free miles on the way down the hill! I thought this ha not happened before…a bit of rain doesn’t normally hurt. It was only at the bottom when we were chatting did we both say how neither of us could see. Maybe we should have stopped after all!

Soggy at the top of a climb on the way to Keri Keri

That afternoon we stopped at a place called Keri Keri at a great hostel called the Hone Heke Lodge which was run by an English guy called David and his kiwi wife Victoria…he even said as we paid like posh and becks so it’s easy to remember our names. To be fair it worked. They were great and we decided to have the day off as a storm was due to pass through with high winds with the following day supposedly better, as we were about to head into the bay of islands the idea of some nice weather through there was much more appealing.

After our day off we headed out of Keri Keri into a really nice forest which lead us to Paihia which had a nice vibe with a sort of surfing feeling and lots of places to get a beverage or two. We stopped for a bit of food and a quick cup o tea and then jumped on a ferry which took us across the harbour to Russell. A sweet little place and where I bought a chicken and peach pie…am I missing something but I’ve never come across that combo before…it was quite nice even if it was a little random!

Views around the bay of island

Russell was the start of a lovely road which took us into the bay of island, it was undulating but there were no huge climbs and the views of the bay’s were beautiful. The colour of the water was epic! We stopped in a bay which we then discovered was called Dicks bay and had a cup of tea and then carried on along to our overnight stop which was called the farm which is where we met Piggy. I didn’t manage to get a picture of the little dude but he was a little brown piglet who followed his owner as she walked around and seemed to respond in a very dog like way to his name. Fascinating!

Overnight stop at the farm and Piggy

From our overnight stop we carried on along the the bay road to Helena bay which was a nice little spot with lots of holiday homes. As we pulled up to take in the view and have something to eat we got talking to a local lady who was really interested in what we were doing and really friendly. At the same time another lady came up and asked if we wanted a shower or anything like that. Amazing really as we had only just turned up…I clearly wasn’t smelling my best but I said thank you but for now I’m ok. Then apologised for smelling a bit fresh!

This is where we started possibly one of my favourite roads of the trip. To be fair I was planning on heading back to the main road at this point and coming back out to the coast but Shaun had spotted this road, called Webb road, which avoided the main road all together. Brilliant! It took us from Helena bay to an interesting named road called pigs head road. It was about 15km long with a 5km uphill but the views at the top were amazing and coming down the other side was so much fun although I think I’ve suffered my third puncture thanks to my enjoyment down the hill. Was totally worth it though!

After a night at a campsite in the brilliantly named Tutukaka it was mine and Shaun’s last day together, I wanted to go and check out Whangarei whereas he wanted to crack on further south so as he had a longer day he decided to shoot off in the rubbish weather and as I only had 30km or so to do waited for the rain to ease up a bit before headin off. I’ve found a nice little hostel and I’m have a day here before carrying onto Auckland where I’m hoping to stay with another Shaun who I met on my first night. From there I’m off to explore the coromandel which I’ve heard is lovely so that should hopefully be pretty cool!

Lookout over Whangarei from the Mt Parihaka lookout

I’ll let you know of any more interesting people or fish shop whisperer’s I come across and will keep you well informed of any new pie combos! I’m sure I’ve never seen a chicken and peach pie before!

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