I’ve had a really cool couple of weeks with a bit of time off the bike to rest the old legs! I tried my hand at hitchhiking, picked fresh muscles from the rocks and was even trusted to use a chain saw! Oh my! What fun that was! I also got intoduced to the pippi shuffle! Some interesting moves right there! I cycled the Hauraki rail trail and have slowly pedalled my way to Rotarua….
After an evening in Coromandel town I had a short 35km ride to Kuaotuna which I thought would be a pretty relaxed one! By now however I should know the roads in New Zealand tend to throw up a hill more often than not. I set off along a lovely flat road leading out of town but the hills were looming ahead…uhoh! A little further along while going round a gentle left hander the road began to climb and at the side of the road was a yellow sign which told me twisty roads for the next 4km…ooh this could hurt…No matter…head down and off we go! I slowly pedalled my way to the top which in the end wasn’t too bad but there was a couple of steep sections which got the legs burning a little. It also seemed to go on for a while, every blind corner I came to revealed more uphill windy sections. Roughly half way up a group of cyclists came flying down in the other direction and one shouted “nearly there!”…15 minuets later I reached the top…nearly there…I don’t think so! Unfortunaly at the top of the hill the clouds had come in so there wasn’t a view either! Blast! On the plus side there was some lovely sections over the other side of the hill and by the time I got there the sun had appeared! Not all bad then!
I reached Kuaotuna at around lunch time and found the place I would be staying for the next week or so. I had arranged to stay with a guy called Tony through Help X which is a website with people looking for help in exchange for somewhere to sleep and food. Tony’s place is really cool, he has quite a large area of land up in the hills and from it he is pretty much self sufficient. There’s a stream running through the property which he’s used to provide himself with water and electricity. I asked if the water was ok to drink and Tony’s reply was “yeah it’s lovely and fresh, apart from maybe some possum shit”. I managed all week without getting ill so must have been possum free! He’d used an old washing machine drum which was spun using the stream to produce the electricity he needed! Really cool! He also had some solar panels which helped as well. He grows his own veg, has 10 cows, a few chickens and a very noisy rooster – every morning without fail he marched around shouting at the top of his voice like he owned the place! Noisy sod!
This is Tony’s house hidden in the hills, I stayed in a little cabin which was a short walk from his. I had one evening there on my own and then a really nice couple from France called Pierre and Elise turned up who were also travelling around New Zealand. It turned out to be a great week doing all sorts of different things. I was entrusted with a chain saw which was great fun! What a tool!! So much more exciting than using a pair of secateurs! I also got to zoom around on a quad bike, planted some pear trees (much more involved than simply digging a hole and throwing it in I discovered) and built a big net to protect the vegetables from birds and other little critters. There was loads of other jobs too so it was nice and varied which was great!
This was the view from the lookout towards the top of the property. An stunning place to sit and enjoy the scenery. What was also really nice about being there for more than a day or two was we were invited to meet Tony’s friends, his family and got to explore the local area a bit more than I would have otherwise. We took a trip with Tony’s daughter, Shian, his brother Kevin and his wife Ann to a beach which meant we all had to pile into a 4×4 and bounce along a muddy off road route over a big hill to a hidden beach over the other side! It was a stunning place! We walked around the coast to the next beach along and picked muscles from the rocks which we made into fritters later that day! So nice! Me, Pierre and Elise were also introduced to what Tony called the pippi shuffle which was at another beach when the tide was low. It involved walking into the sea until the water was just below our knees. You then stand and shuffle your feet really quickly so you sink about 2 inches into the sand while at the same time feeling for something under your feet….hopefully a pippi?! The trick was to find it with your foot….miss the incoming wave, bend down and dig the pippi out! I took a while to get into the groove…I got more waves in my face than pippi’s but eventually I got the knack! Also as a bonus I now have a very classy dance move to throw out there! Watch out everyone! When we got back to Tony’s we boiled them, removed them from their shells and mixed them with vinegar, salt and pepper and some herbs…wow! Really really nice!
A day or so after arriving at Tony’s I realised I’d left my towel at the hostel back in Coromandel town so I wondered what the best thing to do was….forget about it…cycle back and get it (that bloody hill…maybe not!) Ahah! I know I’ll hitchhike back…a good excuse for a mini adventure! Tony dropped me in town and I stood there for a good 45 minutes until eventually a guy stopped and gave me a lift. He turned out to be from Samoa and over the next half an hour we had a really cool chat about where he was from and why he had moved to New Zeland. He dropped me pretty much outside the hostel which was brilliant so I got my towel (yeah it’s a pretty damn cool towel worth making the trip back for before you ask why I bothered) and walked back out of town to stand at the beginning of the road heading back to where I needed to be. Expecting a long wait I was really surprised when after only 5 minutes a couple stopped and offered me a lift! They were from Auckland and didn’t normally stop for hitchhikers but today thought why not! Lucky for me! We got talking and I told them what I was doing and they proceeded to tell me I was insane…I tired to explain what a lovely way cycling was to see the country but they said nope…60km/h and the aircon set just right was the way to see the country. Fair point I guess! Still they were really nice and they dropped me right at the bottom of Tony’s road! Bonus! I’d say my mini adventure was a success!
After a really cool week with these guys I was back on the bike. Thanks guys! Was awesome to meet you all! Hopefully I’ll meet you again soon! I loaded everything up and wobbled back down to the main road heading towards Whitianga. There I jumped on a little ferry that took me across the 400 meters of water to the other side of the harbour…it must have been the most overpriced ferry I’ve been on so far…price for distance but hey ho. The captain, I feel this is an optimistic title for the distance too but technically I guess he was the captain, anyway, he did help me with my bike as I struggled to get it on and off, so can’t complain too much. From there I worked my way along the coast passing the sign to Hot water beach, I decided against fighting all the other tourists to dig a hole to sit in so instead carried on and tackled Pumpkin Hill…I found the hill but missed all the pumpkins which was a little disappointing! No matter, on the other side was a great flowing decent which blasted me into Tairua where I found somewhere for the night.
The next day I had quite a big cycle as I wanted to reach Paeroa, I had the choice of two routes but in the end decided to go with Tramway gulley as it looked more interesting even if it would end up being a slightly longer route. It was along here that I came across a clearing which provided a great view point. It also curiously had a burnt out camper van abandoned there. Why it was there and how it got there I don’t know but I decided they stopped for the same reason as me, decided to cook some sausages and got distracted by the view…who knows but it was well and truly cooked! One advantage for me was it made for a pretty cool picture!
The reason I wanted to make Paeroa was because I had arranged to meet Shaun and Jenny who I stayed with in Auckland a couple of weeks back and we had planned to ride the Hauraki Rail Trail which is a 20km old railway route which runs from Paeroa to Waihi. It all gravel without any traffic and takes you though a 1km tunnel, the Karangahaka gorge and you peddle past buildings left to crumble from the days of mining in the area. I got to Paeroa the night before and found an RV campsite just outside the town where I stopped for the night. While putting my tent up I realised I was probably the youngest person there by a good 30 years…They all had little shelters for their mobility scooters next to their caravans which made me chuckle! No matter though as they were all very friendly and I got talking to a guy called Robert who was originally from England but moved to New Zealand when he was 5…not sure he missed home much and we talked about all sorts. A very interesting character indeed! After my day cycling I wasn’t very late to bed, while I crashed out they all stayed up much longer than me drinking into the night…turned out to be a bit of a wild bunch after all!
The next morning I met Shaun and Jenny in town and we went to explore the railway. It was great and really nice to be cycling without traffic as the last few days it had been quite busy on the roads. The sun was out and we stopped for a pizza and beer for lunch. A very nice way to spend the day and great to catch up with Shaun and Jenny! I then cycled down to Waihi beach and met them later for a relaxed dinner at the campsite I stopped at. Thanks guys! Great to see you both!
That evening I met a girl at the campsite called Ruth who was also cycling around New Zealand. After chatting it turned out she had decided two weeks earlier to fly to New Zealand and only a few days before bought a bike which she was cycling around on! Who needs panning! How cool! We were both heading to Tauranga the next day so decided to cycle together. It was along a pretty boring road as there wasn’t much choice so it was nice to have some company! We got to Mount Maunganui which I have to say I was a little disappointed with, it was beautiful but I expected a bigger mount…it was more a mound. Still when we got there it was sunny and everyone was enjoying the beach and the area had a really nice vibe about it! Ruth had arranged a place to stay using couchsurfing so we said our goodbyes and I carried on along the beach to find somewhere for the night….eventually coming across a little campsite about 10km along the beachfront. Perfect!
From Tauranga the plan for the day was to get to Rotarua where I had arranged to stay with a family through warm showers. I set off looking for a small road to cut out the busy ones and found a nice route running in roughly the right direction. There was lots orchards growing kiwi fruit and avocados and it also appeared to be national cut your grass day as everyone was out doing so…the plus side was there was a lovely smell in the air as I cycled past them all. This little road took me to the Mangorewa Kaharoa Gorge which was very pretty even if on the way down I didn’t see too much as I forgot to put my sunglasses on and squinted with tears coming from my eyes as I barrelled down the twisty road. When I eventually slowed down and wiped the tears away at the bottom of the gorge it was really beautiful! From there I carried on until I reached Rotarua Lake and instead of going through town I went around the top which was a little quieter. From there a went in search of where I was staying for the next few days.
I’m staying with Pete, his wife Eva and their two kids Yulia and Lucas. They’ve been amazing and really welcoming. I’m staying for three nights which gives me a chance to have a bit of an explore of Rotarua. I’ve got my very own little tree house in the garden here which is pretty cool! Im not sure where to explore first but I’ve heard the redwoods are pretty amazing and also Te Puia. We shall see! I’m going to rest my legs, explore and then decide where to head next….at the moment the east cape is looking like the most likely option. I’ll be sure to let you know! Below is my little tree house for the next few days! How cool!