From the east cape there were a few different routes I could take on my little adventure, one would be to continue along the coast and head south towards Wellington, another was to head along to Napier and then take the main road up to Taupo or a third choice which to me looked like the most interesting which was a little road simply called route 38. It’s about 200km long and it wiggles it’s way north from Wairoa, up into the hills, past lake Waikaremoana and continues through a rainforest to a town called Murupara before eventually joining the main road between Rotarua and Taupo. When I told people I met that I was planning on doing this route it was usually met with a response that was somewhere between surprise and concern…always a comforting expression when you don’t know what your about to tackle. First thing I had to do though was to get to Wairoa, the start of this little adventure, time to get pedalling! Below was the first sight I got of a slightly menacing looking lake Waikaremoana! Stunning!
After spending two days stuck in paradise..I did indeed decide to extend my stay, it was so relaxing and quiet I just though why not, I’m not in a rush so what’s another day. One other advantage was the rain had mostly passed so it was quite nice when I got back on the road to finish my loop around the cape. It was a simple day in terms of navigating, just follow the road until you get to Gisborne, the only challenges were a couple of hills and the traffic. I had an interesting encounter with a driver who decided to overtake in my direction, they were in a line of cars coming towards me and this car popped out to overtake, it was a straight road so fair enough but I’m not sure they saw me, I remember thinking hello…this isn’t good! Even if they did see me they carried on regardless so I decided to take the scenic route along the verge which was was a little bumpy I must admit…the car flew past and I rejoined the road just after. A little bottom clenching but all ok in the end. I also had a nice chat with some people in Tolaga Bay while I was enjoying a cheeky brownie and they declared me mad which was interesting. They seemed really nice though and we had a nice chat. As they passed me a little later on the road they tooted and waved, frightening the life out of me! It was certainly a friendly toot though…very different to the GET OUT MY WAY toot! I got to Gisborne, got some food at a supermarket where a group of kids found me very interesting…asking me what I was doing, where I’d come from and if I was homeless…I didn’t think I’d let myself go that much! I passed through Gisborne and had a quick look at poverty bay (below) and then carried on out of town to find somewhere to camp.
From my overnight stop to Wairoa I had the choice of two routes, the main road along the coast which was likely to be busy but less hilly or a smaller route that would take me over some big hills, one of which was called Gentle Annie, and would hopefully be a bit quieter. I went for the scenic option, it was lovely actually, very beautiful and as I had hoped for not too busy. I also met some really brilliant people along the way, while I was having a break at the side of the road a very beaten up old pickup rattled past, it was going very slowly and made a distinctive noise that would indicate it wasn’t very well at all, this however, didn’t seem to bother it’s driver in the slightest. I waved as he passed just to say hi and about 100 meters down the road he stopped, I wonder what’s going on here, he can’t have heard me say his pickup is crap…surely! He reversed along the road (sod the blind corner he had just come around…I won’t mention that to him) and stopped opposite me. He then shouted across and asked if I wanted a lift to the next town. How awesome, I said no but thanked him and in a cloud of diesel smoke he slowly disappeared up the hill. I was actually a little disappointed not to take him up on his offer as he looked like a right character with no teeth and a number of different tattoos dotted on him. It probably would have been a really interesting lift!
Later that day I was standing on a bridge looking at the river below having another snack when a work van turned around in front of me, they rolled their window down and I asked if they needed me to move my bike…the reply was “no mate, we just wanted to tell you your a machine”. Now anyone who knows me knows I’ve got the built of a skeleton with a few muscles thrown in for good measure so to be called a machine was very funny and something I can honestly say I’ve never been called! It made me smile though, they had passed me on a hill further back along the road which is why they had decided I was apparently worthy of this new name. They asked where I had been and where I was heading which got the reply “no wonder your such a skinny bastard!” Charming! They were both really nice, we had a good chat and before heading off they gave me some oranges and wished me luck.
I can see you now, looking at the picture above and thinking that’s a rubbish picture Tom…why’s that on here? Well along my route was this waterfall called Te Reinga Falls, a short diversion off the road so I thought why not have a look. After taking a short walk this was the view that met me…it was better in person honest but clearly your on the wrong side of the waterfall to get the best view so I decided to explore and see if I could find a better view point. I obviously wasn’t the first to think of this as there was a little path running into the woods so I went to investigate. It was muddy, very slippery and about half way down the inevitable happened…I went flying, landing hard on my backside and I slid a couple of meters down the track…woah what happened there! I got back up and did a little shake to see if everything was OK, I noticed some pain from my elbow…bruised that then! I decided that was OK as I don’t need an elbow for cycling and everything else seemed fine if a little muddy! I carried on a bit further along the track only to meet a dead end! Ah crap, that’s not on! After a bit more searching I couldn’t find a better view so wandered back along to my bike. Didn’t really go to plan at all so that’s why this was the best picture I could get, I can only apologise.
After a night in Wairoa I set off to start my adventure to lake Waikaremoana, I was a bit nervous but also really excited about what lay ahead. I have a little book of bike routes to do around New Zealand and this one comes under advanced which only added to my nervousness. I’d also met more people at the campsite in Wairoa who did more concerned facial expressions but they did all say it’s an amazing road and the lake was stunning. That’s good then. I stocked up on food with the plan to do the remote part over two days but took enough for three in case I had any problems. It became a ride of two halfs. Day one was dry and pretty sunny but there was quite a bit of wind gusting around and day two ended up being a proper washout with the wind for added effect. The first few hours riding were along a relatively flat road which was tarmaced, I remember thinking this isn’t very advanced, there’s a catch coming along soon. Eventually I reached the start of the gravel road or metal roads as they call them here (I’m not really sure why…what’s wrong with gravel?) and the road began to climb. It was tough going but I really enjoying it, I got covered in dust every time a car went past which went everywhere, it tastes horrible too! By the time I stopped I probably did look homeless! The trickiest part was around some of the corners where the camber dropped away, because I was going so slow going up the hills on a few occasions my front wheel slipped in the gravel and I ended up in a heap on the floor. The best way to avoid this was to go on the other side of the road but this obviously wasn’t the best thing to do so I tried picking the best line I could see and pedalling like mad. It sort of worked and I managed to avoid falling off on day two. I wanted to camp at the lake so continued until I found a good spot at a DOC campsite which had a nice view of the lake. It was lovely apart from all the sand flies which seem to have an annoying fondness for me!
Despite going to sleep to reasonable weather I was woken up in the night by the wind which really picked up which was then followed by a very heavy rain storm. It was proper and my tent was shaking all over the place. The rain was so heavy that in the morning the campsite was dotted with huge puddles, the local ducks loved this but I was glad I had chosen a slightly raised place to put my tent. I wondered whether to stay put for the day and see if the weather would improve or just carry on but with a break in the rain I quickly made some porridge (got my porridge to water mix wrong…nightmare or what!) and packed everything up. My aim for the day was a town called Murupara which was about 86km away and I was a little worried in case I wouldn’t make it. In the end I though if I needed to I could just stop and find somewhere to camp along the way so I cracked on regardless. I got 5km up the road and this break in the rain got back to work, at least lightly for the time being. I was such an amazing track and in some ways the rain made it feel even more remote. My vehicle count for the day was 15 cars, 2 motorbikes and 2 camper vans, pretty quiet then! In the picture below you can see the road cut into the hill which was what a lot of the track was like. I stood at this point looking down and saw a glimmer of sun…wahoo I thought, the sun is on its way! How wrong was I!
The route takes you through some really remote little villages where I didn’t see a single soul. When going through them the road was Tarmac again but once out the other side it turned back to gravel. Not long after a small village called Ruatahuna the rain picked up and quickly became a proper downpour…I got soaked and remember thinking my feet feel very soggy, my shoes were completely full of water! Lovely! I kept going and followed the road as it snaked through the rainforest! Despite the rain it was brilliant, such an amazing environment to be in! The downhills were a bit tricky and very slippery, good fun though. As I didn’t pedal I cooled down fast but once my legs got going again I warmed up and all was well! At the end of one of the downhills I noticed my sleeping bag which I put behind my seat was suddenly very close to my backside, that’s interesting, it doesn’t normally get that close. I chose to ignore this to begin with, as I was more bothered about getting up the hills but eventually I thought I better see what’s going on. I lent the bike up against a mud wall and had a look. I found my rear rack had come loose and was rocking back and forth. Oh, that’s why! I dug out my toolkit, removed a few things and found a couple of bolts had rattled loose, why do things always need fixing when it’s raining? I soon had it sorted and was back on my way. Some hunters who were also at the campsite the night before were driving past when I stopped and asked if I was ok. They said they couldn’t believe how far I’d got before they caught me which was interesting and I worked out I had about 22km to go before I reached Murupara so I pedalled away and an hour or so later I reached the end of the gravel track. I had made it! Just as I came out of the rainforest the rain stopped (how coincidental) and it was a simple flat cycle along a Tarmac road into Murupara. I was told by more than one person to be careful there as it had a bit of a bad reputation, there was a campsite so I stopped in there, put my tent up and dried out. What a day!
The next section from Murupara was all tarmac so compared to the previous couple of days I thought it would be pretty straight forward. It turned out to be a straight and boring ride, mentally I was pretty tired although my legs worked better than I thought they would. I broke the day into three stages. One was to get to the main road which was lots of long straights (below). Two, get to a town called Reporoa which had a shop and three the final bit, was to get to Taupo where I planned to have a break. When I reached the main road I saw a sign that said 26km to Rotarua…wow it’s really not far! I thought about my detour around the east cape and up past the lake and how pleased I was to have managed it! That evening I rolled into Taupo and found a hostel which I’m relaxing at for a few days. I wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing while I was here but unfortunaly the weather has turned so it’s not looking likely which is a shame. I’ll have to come back and give it go another time.
After arriving in Taupo I had a much needed shower and went to get some proper food, the last few days on porridge, noodles and beans with sausages got a wee bit old so I found a nice place for a burger and watched the sun go down! Lovely. Next I’m thinking of heading west towards New Plymouth taking a trail called the Timber trail and then linking up to a road called the forgotten highway which sounds intriguing. I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on!