New Zealand via Hong Kong

I’m back in Wellington after a really cool trip back via Hong Kong. My dad lives there so it was the perfect way to break up the journey back to New Zealand. It was really nice to check Hong Kong out again as it’s been a few years since I was last there and as with any big city it changes so quickly it was interesting to see what’s new and what’s changed. I arrived on the Friday evening and was due to leave Tuesday evening so I had nearly 4 days to explore and hang out in Hong Kong. Brilliant!


Classic Hong Kong 

My first day there I managed to persuade dad to go bouldering which was a fun experience, well I enjoyed it, I’m not sure dad was in his element but he still had a good go. The routes were pretty tricky, apparently in preparation for a competition but it was still cool to check the place out. That afternoon we went for a walk to Stanley over a couple of classic hills called violet and the twins. It was great to check them out again as I used to walk/run them when I used to live here. It wasn’t the longest walk ever but there was a good number of steps and the views were lovely.


View down to Stanley 

Sunday ended up being quite a relaxed one thanks to a few too many beers the night before but on the Monday me and dad decided to do a walk/run up Lantau and over Sunset peak starting at Tung Chung and finishing at Mui Wo. Lantau is the second highest hill in Hong Kong and sunset isn’t much lower so it was a good route with plenty of climbing. We got the train to the start and set off running up Lantau which was a good climb and towards the top got quite steep but the views at the top were lovely so certainly worth it. We then ran down to the bottom of Sunset and worked our way over the top to Mui Wo.  In the end we did about 16km with 1300m of climbing so it was a good leg workout before getting back on the bike.


Top of Lantau looking across to Sunset Peak  

My final day in Hong Kong was pretty relaxed, we went to explore the peak as I hadn’t been up there in a long time. It was a clear day so the view from the top was stunning. We had a bit of food and then got the train back down which I haven’t done for a very long time so it was cool to check that out again, it’s steeper than I remember. In the afternoon before I travelled back to the airport we went to a place called PMQ which is the old police marriage quarters which has been converted into lots of little shops. It was a really interesting place with lots of shops with things I never knew I wanted! Really worth checking out if your in Hong Kong.



That evening I went back to the airport and continued my trip out to New Zealand, my flight was via Sydney which seemed easy enough. The first flight was event free and my transfer was going ok until I glanced up at the information board to see my flight from Sydney to Auckland was on final call! Shit! A slightly mad dash through Sydney airport later I made it to the gate in time. It turned out I wasn’t the last person to arrive so it was all good in the end but I did for a short time think I was going to spending more time than I expected in Sydney. Unsurprisingly I guess, when I got to Auckland I was told my bag hadn’t made the transfer which was a shame but not the end of the world. As I was only in Auckland for one evening and leaving early the next morning I asked them to send it straight to Wellington which they did so it was all sorted pretty quickly. After a short night in Auckland I was up early to get my bus down to Wellington. Up at the same time was another English guy who was also called Tom (It was someone else honest, I wasn’t just talking to myself) so we got the bus into town together and went for some breakfast before we both dissappeared off to get our next buses. Mine would be a lovely 12 hour trip back down the north island to Pat and Doro’s in Wellington where I’d meet up with Daisy who had been chilling in their garage for the last few weeks.


Pat and Doro’s in Wellington 

I got back to Wellington all fine and have had a few days here helping out with a few jobs before setting off again on Wednesday. It was also my birthday at the weekend and everyone here was awesome, we went for a few beers and had a cool meal to celebrate which was great. The time before setting off again has also given me a chance to reorganise my things as having spent 2 and a half months around the north island I have a much better idea of what I do and don’t need to carry on the bike. As a result Daisy has been to weight watchers and now’s a lot lighter than she was. I’m curious to see what difference it makes when I set off. I’ll let you know what works and what doesn’t.


Daisy post Weight Watchers 

Like I said I’m all set to head off on Wednesday which I’m really looking forward to as its been quite a long gap off the bike and I’m excited to be off exploring again. I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on!


Me and Dad at the top of Lantau 


Sunset walking to Stanley 




Sunset Peak 


A Little Update

Wow, what an incredible few weeks. I’ve been really bad at doing any blog updates so I’m really sorry so here’s a little update about what I’ve been up to. Its all been a bit surreal really as I’ve managed to try out some sports that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, catch up with some friends and check out some amazing places! It all started about 4 weeks ago back in Wellington where I left Daisy at Pat and Doro’s who very kindly let me store some stuff while I had this little mini adventure from a big adventure (I know, ridiculous!) so I loaded up my backpack and set off for Auckland.


Raglan Beach

The first sport I wanted to try was paragliding which I’ve always been curious about. I found a place to do it up in Auckland so booked a bus to get me there, roughly a 12 hour ride away. A couple of days before I was due to get it I went out for dinner with Pat and Doro and we met a friend of theirs called Mike. It turned out he’s a bus driver with one of the tour companies and he was driving to Auckland later that week with an empty bus. Now when I first heard about this I though mini bus, there’s no way a massive coach would be traveling all that way without anyone in it…how wrong was I. On the Friday morning Pat dropped me at the station and we found Mike parked up with a huge tour coach. Now we’re talking! I jumped on and carefully picked my seat, there wasn’t much competition if I’m honest and we set off. A short way out of Wellington we picked up Mike’s brother and the three of us headed off to Auckland. Three of us in this massive coach, there was something ridiculous but brilliant about the whole situation! It felt like I was hitchhiking and I’d somehow bagged an empty bus! Brilliant! It was a great trip up, we stopped a couple of times along the way and when we got to Auckland Mike dropped me outside the hostel I was hoping to stay in, service or what! Thanks Mike!


Personal bus to Auckland

My plan was to spend a few days in Auckland and do a three day paragliding course called PG1. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas as it was either raining or too windy so in the end three days became one. There were a few advantages to this as I managed to find some cool coffee shops which meant lots of reading, never a bad thing and I met some interesting people in Auckland, one of which was called Tolsten. A german guy who was backpacking through some amazing countries. It was nice to have a beer and hear his stories about his trip so far. He’s also doing a blog so if your curious check it out. (


Me Flying

Fortunately my one day flying turned out to be a pretty epic one, the weather was great and the condition were perfect (So I was told). We drove about an hour out of Auckland to a beach on the West Coast which was a stunning location to learn at. I was taught by Reubens who owned the school and Lukas who was another instructor and amazing pilot. We started off by doing the basics like how to inflate the wing, taking off which for me meant lots of running and also how to land, quite handy that last one. After doing this a few times to get a bit of a feel for everything Lukas took me up on the tandem to give me a bit of an idea about turning and what the whole experience felt like. Really fun! After that, amazingly, they asked if I wanted to do a solo flight…yes please! I was handed a radio and got myself set up and launched off the hill out towards the sea…it was both amazingly exciting and a little scary as I thought I hope this works. Of course all went well and after a couple of small turns I landed! Brilliant. I then did three more solo’s, another pretty straight forward one and two longer ones of about 10 minutes each running along the cliff edge which were great fun! An amazing day and so much fun! I’ll certainly be doing it again in the future!



After the buzz of flying I was off to my next place to explore so I jumped on a bus to a place called Raglan. I can’t remember how I heard about it but I’m glad I did as it was a brilliant place. The reason I was heading there was to do some surfing. Another sport I’d always wanted to try but never found the time. As I cycled down the east coast I missed this section of the west coast so it was really nice to visit it. Raglan had an awesome vibe, wasn’t too touristy and very relaxed which I really liked. They also had the Raglan roast, a coffee shop and possibly the best I’ve ever had, I became slightly addicted to it while I was there! The first day I was there I met a really cool girl from America called Nina and as we both had a free day we decided to go paddle boarding, another first! There’s a little estuary that Raglan is on so we went for an explore up there, it was great and apart from a couple of falls, one involving some hidden rocks, it was great fun. All these new sports could end up getting expensive!



I decided to do something called surf and stay with a company called Green Wave Surfing. They’re a fairly new and small company and they have some rooms at their place where you can stay hence the stay bit in the name…clever this isn’t it, you get some food and you learn to surf, hence the..ah you get the idea! Its run by three guys called Ryan, Bing and Zenner who were all awesome and made me feel really welcome. The best bit however was they taught me to surf, shock horror! After a few days I was standing, turning and trying to look cool, apparently a very important part of surfing, ain’t that right Merlin. If your heading that way and want to learn to surf I can’t recommend these guys enough! The other cool thing was I was in Raglan over a weekend and on the Sunday we all went to see a band called My Baby who turned out to be really good! Check them out if you get a chance. It was a fun night with lots of bad dancing and a few drinks! Brilliant! Thank you guys! Hope to be back in Raglan soon!


Pretending to Surf

After 5 days in Raglan I headed back to Auckland to get my flight back to the UK, basically due to a slightly strange decision on my part I had a 6 month return to the UK and I still have some unfinished exploring left in New Zealand. Instead of ignoring the flight I thought I would have an adventure away from an adventure, returning to NZ in February so after a night at Shaun and Jenny’s, who it was brilliant to see again and catch up with I got on the plane back to London. The timing was great as it meant I would be back in time to go along on our family skiing trip, so I’m incredibly lucky! After a couple of days back home it was off to the alps, one of my favourite places in the world, to get my ski legs on.


View from 3200m

Its was an amazing week as I got to catch up with my family and my extended family which was lovely. It was great to hear how everyone is getting on with their own adventures and what everyone had been up to. I was also lucky to be around when Lauren found out she had become a Doctor! Pretty epic! Congratulations again Lauren!! There was some hilarious falls, Brodie, all you mate! Some brilliant food and stunning views so all in all it was very much worth the trip back to catch up with everyone! Thank you guys! Great to see you all!!


Ski Crew

I’ve now got a little bit of time before heading back to New Zealand to continue down the south island. I’m hoping the weather will be a bit more settled and it’ll be a little quieter than it was over christmas so I really can’t wait. I’m now looking at what I can’t do to reduce the weight I’m carrying around on the bike…exciting stuff I’m sure you’ll agree! ill be sure to let you know how I get on!


Auckland Harbour




Les Houches


Epic Alps


Me, Mum and Rachie

Some time off the bike

Indeed, well I’ve been hanging out in Wellington for most of the last few weeks staying with Pat and Doro while doing some Help X. It’s been really nice as its given me a chance to rest my legs, do some exploring in and around Wellington and have a little base for a few weeks over the festive period. Also as a bonus Pat and Doro have very kindly said I can leave my bike and all my stuff in their garage while I go off and do some other none bike adventures in the next few weeks which is brilliant.

What have I been getting up to, well for the Help X I’m doing roughly two hours of jobs a day which has involved doing all sorts of things from simple stuff like cutting the grass and cleaning out the chicken house to trickier things like tidying the garage…if you’d seen it before we started you understand why this was one of the trickier jobs! I’ve also done a few mechanical bits and pieces and a bit of DIY so it’s been an interesting mix of stuff. Things here are really nice and relaxed so after doing my various bits and pieces I can go off and explore or sometimes Pat and Doro have been awesome and they’ve taken me to places that are harder to reach when you haven’t got a car. I’ve also done a bit of walking with Zoey, Pat and Doro’s dog which has been lovely. Within half an hour you can be up on the top of the hills with views like the one below and with hardly anybody up there it’s lovely and peaceful.

A good rainy day activity has been exploring Te Papa which is a free museum down in the centre of Wellington. It’s amazing with loads of brilliant exhibitions. I had to go back a second time as I didn’t manage to get round everywhere the first time I went. When the suns out there’s a lovely waterfront to walk around which has a few bars and restaurants along it and at the weekend there’s a couple of cool markets with lots of interesting things in it which have been fun to explore. One of my favourite places to go was a place called Red Rocks which meant taking Pat and Doro’s 4×4 and driving around the coast. I think I mentioned this in my last post but we went back again and this time the weather was epic. The coastline is stunning and as the name rather obviously suggests there are some rocks which are well red.

There’s a little dirt road the runs along the coast line and a few interesting little rock formations to get over but within 5 minutes you wouldn’t know your anywhere near the city. It’s amazing. You meet people along there who are off to do some fishing or have a wetsuit on as they are off to dive around the rocks along the coast to find some dinner. At one point there’s a little track that heads up into the hills and we went up as far as we could before meeting a locked gate but even there the view was just stunning! Just like below, you can see the track we were following and also in the distance is the faint shapes of the hills of the South Island.

When I wasn’t walking or exploring red rocks Pat invited me along to join him on his day job. He’s a truck driver and having never been in one before I thought it would be interesting to go along and see what it was like. The first trip was a simple pick up and drop off job but sitting so high you get a new perspective on everything which was really cool. The second day we took one of Pats diggers out to a friend of his called Ward who has a farm about 30 minutes drive from Wellington. This farm was also where a big wind farm is located and when they were building the turbines they had to put an access road in which made for a pretty impressive drive up to where the digger needed to be delivered.

While at this farm we had a bit of a random half an hour or so. To get onto this track you needed a magic code to get past a big gate so there wasn’t anybody except me and Pat in the truck, Ward in his pickup and a little later Doro. The plan was to drop the digger, leave the truck and Doro would pick us up in their red 4×4 soon after. It was a bit tricky to find where we had dropped the digger as it was down a dirt track in a bit of a valley. This also meant our phones didn’t really work so while Pat was working with the digger I walked up to a high point and tired to call Doro to try and guide her where we were. As I was on the phone to her I saw a Red 4×4 on the hill opposite, it drove off and the phone line wasn’t good enough to say to Doro to stay put and not go to far away. After that I struggled to get hold of her again so Ward offered to go search for her and I jumped in for the ride. We got back onto the main track and eventually bumped into Doro. She also mentions a red 4×4 on the track which had tourists in it which was the car I had seen when I was on the phone….this is all very weird! As I said with the locked gate there shouldn’t be anyone on that road apart from us but apparently Ward was telling me people try to sneak onto the land and do farm tours with tourist which is a bit cheeky. Anyway before I could really catch up to what’s going on Ward decides we need to pursue this mystery 4×4! We blast off in pursuit powersliding around the bends in an effort to get to them before they leave out the main gate. It was brilliant, it was like a proper police chase….probably. We had two gates which needed opening on the way to the main gate so I was chief gate opener, as we skidded to a stop I jumped out, swing open the gate and leap back in! Go go go! We were flying, I think we did actually fly a couple of times! We thought we’d lost them but as we came over the last hill we spotted them in the distance! We got to them just as they were at the main gate! Fortunately, I guess and a slight anticlimax I must admit, it turned out Ward knew the people in the car he just didn’t know the car they were in hence the confusion. False alarm but a fun blast through the hills. After all that excitement we went back to find everyone else and walked to the edge of the farm to a little outhouse. What a place!! On a clear day you can apparently see the South Island. Even on a rubbish day it was beautiful.

For Christmas I decided to head back to New Plymouth. When I had passed through there a few weeks back Pamela and Ken had very kindly said if I wanted to come back for Christmas just say. So I took them up on their offer. I even got a lift up there with Jerome and Lucy, they picked me up from the outskirts of Wellington and then they even gave me a lift back on the 28th, amazing. Thank you guys! I arrived Christmas Eve and we went around to Arron and Carly’s house for a BBQ and a few drinks. The sun was out and if I’m honest it didn’t feel much like Christmas, just very odd it being so warm. On Christmas Day we had a lovely breakfast cooked by Paul and Jennifer and then in the afternoon we had an amazing meal. It was awesome and I was made to feel very welcome which was amazing. I even got a few little presents which was very unexpected but a lovely surprise! Thank you everyone!

Christmas New Zealand style, an amazing feast which we had outside and then a nice evening around a big fire. Really cool! I stayed for a couple more days which were lovely and relaxed. I went along with Paul and Ken to their squash evening which was great fun. I’ve only played it once before I think but I managed to hit the ball more than once which was good. I realised pretty quickly it was a game which involved clever tactics, I mainly found this out because I ended up running all over the place while Paul put the ball as far away from me as he could while standing still, my legs hurt for three days after! Great fun though! On my last evening we went down to the park in the middle of New Plymouth where they put a light show on, all the trees in the park are decorated and there’s different displays hanging in the trees. We got there just as it was getting dark and as the evening goes on it becomes even more impressive. Below are some jellyfish floating above one of the parks lakes.

Once back in Wellington I had a quiet few days before new year. Pat and Doro got back from their holiday on New Years Eve and there’s three guys from France living here as well called Alan, Oscar and Lucas. For New year we had a few drinks and some food at the house before heading into town to check out the fireworks. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great but the rain pretty much held off which was good. We had a few more drinks in town and then headed home. A really nice New Year.

I’ve got another week or so here and then I’m off to do a little bit of paragliding and some surfing. Neither of which I’ve really done before so while I had a bit of time I thought I would give them a go! I can’t wait. I’ll be sure to let you know how I get on…or maybe how I don’t get on. Either way it should be fun. After that I’ve got a few weeks catching up with friends and family before coming back to Wellington mid Febuary to carry on cycling down the South Island. All very exciting! Happy New Year everyone!! Hope it’s brilliant and full of lots of epic adventures!!

Which way did I Pedal around the North Island?

Good question, so I thought I would do a quick post with a map of the route I’ve taken so far which hopefully will make it a bit clearer. Below is said map with a useful blue line drawn on it with my route. It might not have been the most direct route but it’s been a great way to see a lot of the island instead of just blasting from the top to the bottom.

Starting in Auckland I first went north to the top of the island by going up along the west coast. I then came back down the east coast and quickly stopped in Auckland to see Shaun and Jenny. I then went east around the coromandel where I did my first Help X in Kuaotuna. From there I went down the coast to Rotarua with a quick detour to Paeroa to check out the Karangahake gorge. From Rotarua I kept going east and went around the east cape through to Gisborne with a stop in Tokomaru bay at the brilliant hostel called Stranded in Paradise. I then kept going around the coast past Gisborne to Wairoa where I started the route up past Waikaremoana Lake which got me up to Taupo.

From Taupo I went to the timber trail and across the Forgotten World Highway to New Plymouth where I stopped with Pamala and Ken. From there I started going south down to Ashhurst where I stayed with Mark and Lauren. I jumped over the hills to highway 2 and down to Masterton which got me down to the rail trail. After the rail trail it was a nice chilled cycle into Wellington. Not a bad route! I’ll do the same when I’ve got to the bottom of the South Island!

New Plymouth to Wellington

I’ve made it to Wellington! Its pretty cool because it’s sort of my half way point and I’ve somehow managed to clocked up 3285 kilometres which I never imagined I would end up doing never mind by Wellington. So pretty exciting! The last couple of weeks have been very cool involving some roads which went on for what felt like ages (actually that bit wasn’t so cool) with lots of traffic and some mahoosive trucks, I did a route called the Rail Trail and also got involved in a little bit of farm life which was very interesting! I caught up with with an old friend called Mark from uni and tackled some amazing winds which made me wobble into the verge on more than one occasion! Its been great even if the weather hasn’t always played along!

I had a few really relaxing days in New Plymouth with Pamela and Ken but eventually I thought I better pack my bags and get back to cycling otherwise I would end up staying there for even longer. I was a little nervous leaving because there wasn’t many route options other than the main road to get me to Ashhurst, my next aim a few days cycle away. The highway wasn’t what I would call classic cycling road but it turned out to be alright as there was a hard shoulder most of the way so I could keep out the way of all the big trucks. The weather was a bit hit and miss but the road wasn’t very hilly so I managed to do my biggest day since starting which got me closer than I had expected to a town called Whanganui which turned out to be a good thing as the following day it was raining proper and so I decided to have a short one and stop for the night in a hostel in the town. On my way there I had an interesting chat with a guy from France while I was tucking into a pie who turned out to be a monk….he didn’t look much like a monk I must admit, he looked more like a French guy travelling but I wasn’t about to tell him that. He seemed very nice and tried to persuade me to become a Monk as well which was an fascinating concept but I decided to politely decline and carry on with my cycling instead.

After a night in Whanganui where I bumped into a couple of French guys who were also cycling around who funnily enough I had met back up on the coromandel a few weeks ago I carried onto Ashhurst. It was about 30km before I could get off the main road which was a relief and I found a nice little route through the country side which brought me to a town called Fielding which proudly said it was the friendliest town in New Zealand..a bold claim. I thought a smelly cyclist would be a good test of this friendliness and while I sat outside a little cafe having some food an old lady, who’s name I didn’t catch, came over and had a very long chat with me, telling me how she used to cycle around the area when she was younger and also how she upgraded her mobility scooter when her husband passed away which was interesting topic. Just as she was about to walk off it was like she suddenly remembered something else to talk about and so our chat continued for a few minutes longer. Eventually my new friend walked off so I found my way out of town and got on my way to Ashhurst where I was going to meet Mark. Fielding wasn’t unfriendly but I’m not sure how it got its title, it wasn’t any different to most of the other towns I’d been through. Maybe I just wasn’t there long enough? Who knows.

When I got there I found Mark who I went to uni with but I unfortunately haven’t seen him for something mad like 8 years so it was pretty cool to bump into each other in New Zealand. Mark and his girlfriend Lauren very kindly put me up for three nights and took me to some of the local view points and showed me around Palmerston North which was the nearest big town. On the Saturday evening while I was there I met a few of their friends and we all went down to the beach and had a bbq. It was a stunning spot (below) and we had some hamburgers with a little bit of sand for added crunch. It was awesome! It was here I met Scott and Michele. It turned out Michele’s parents, Alan and Joane, lived on the other side of the hills near a town called Pahiatua which was where I was planning on heading to the next day so she very kindly asked them if I could stay when I passed through. They said I could so on the Sunday lunch time I packed up at Marks and headed over the hills in the rough direction of Pihiatua.

To get to Pahiatua there are three roads I could take to get me over the hilly section, one was the gorge route which Mark took me through in the car and while it was stunning it would have been properly bottom clenching on my bike thanks to the narrow road and all the traffic on it. The second option was called the saddle road which even in the car was a pretty big hill so would have been a good leg test and finally there was the third option which was another reasonably big hill but not as long or steep as the saddle road so this seemed like the best choice. From Marks to the start of this road over the hills, called the Pahaitua Track it was a nice flat road and it even stayed dry. Unfortunately as soon as I reached the bottom of the big hill the heavens opened and it continued all the way up the hill making it a very soggy climb. Once I got over the other side it stopped and I followed the main road until I turned off along a small gravel track. Michelle had given me some pretty awesome directions which were really easy to follow and I soon found Alan and Joane’s farm. Not long after I arrived Mark and Lauren also came over and Michelle and Scott gave us a bit of a tour of the farm. There was many many sheep and not quite so many cows, all in a very stunning setting as the farm was on a ridge above Pahiatua. We then all had a roast dinner which was really really nice, so I very much landed on my feet! Thank you guys! Really Amazing!

Before I set off the following morning Alan asked if I wanted to join him while he did a few jobs around the farm. Not only was I curious about farm life but also the weather was crap when I woke up so I thought hanging out for a couple of hours would give the rain a chance to sod off. The first job was to take a couple of lambs to slaughter, sorry for anyone who’s a bit squimish but on a sheep farm it’s an important part I guess, having never seen this part of life before it was an interesting experience which I didn’t expect to have but it was a good one to see. The second job was something I can honestly say I never thought I would ever do…we had to castrate a calf. Yep not something that happens every day, well not to me anyway. After Alan caught the calf we proceeded to do the deed I guess we could say. Funnily enough he wasn’t best pleased about the whole situation but after three attempts, yep three, a bit of fidgeting from the calf and the odd kick we managed to get the band on…makes my wince just thinking about it! Ooh! After that we headed back to the house and I packed up and set off on my way. As a bonus the rain had stopped, if only briefly so turned out castrating a calf was a good use of time! Well I never! Mind you not sure the calf would agree with that.

I had planned on taking a more scenic route to Masterton by taking a slightly longer route off highway 2 but in the end the road wasn’t too busy, there was a resonable shoulder and the weather wasn’t great so I  decided to just cracked on. Showers came and went all day so the waterproof got another work out. Fortunately the only real hill of the day was one called Mount Bruce which actually turned out to be a pretty steady one so wasn’t too bad at all. I got to Masterton mid afternoon and had a quick coffee but decided to keep going to the next town called Greytown which wasn’t much further along the highway meaning a slightly shorter next day. I found a cheap little campsite and then went to continue my fish and chip tour of New Zealand in town. They were not bad at all!

From Greytown it’s about 80km to Wellington so getting there in a day seemed a pretty easy target, the only problem was I had to cross back over the Tararua mountain range which I had first crossed after I left Marks. I’d been told much about this range as the main road over it is a pretty big climb. I was quite lucky though as at the campsite in Greytown I met a few people who told me about an old railway which was now a walking/cycling trail called, rather logically the Rail Trail. The start was about 10km from Featherstone and was clearly marked so it made finding my way to it was really easy. The one hiccup in my plan which Alan had warned me about was the wind! Wow! Obviously I’ve ridden in some wind over the last couple of months but this wind was epic and not like anything I’d come across so far! As I was going along the road to get to the start of the trail it was coming at me from my right, I was blown into the verge on more than one occasion, to anyone who saw me they must have though I was drunk! It was incredible! As I turned for the start of the trail the wind became a headwind which made going along the flat hard, it was like going up hill, blowing me off a couple of time! Bonkers!

The whole rail trail is 17km long but from the direction I was going the first 7km were up hill to the well named summit, it wasn’t exactly everest but it’s good to make it sound like an achievement I guess. It wasn’t a particularly steep hill but add the wind into the mix and it was tough going. There was one part which I couldn’t cycle as it was too steep and had small stream to hop over (Above). The wind made this really hard and pushing a heavy touring bike up the other side was a good work out! I was told after its referred to as Siberia as the wind is funnelled through that part, no wonder it was a little tricky! I went through a few tunnels and eventually reached the summit which I was quite relieved to get to! I had a pie at the top to celebrate. While I was sat in the little hut relaxing having fought my way to the top I heard some voices, I poked my head out to see about 10 kids cycling up from the other side, all chilled and loving it. Cheeky little blighters….I blame the headwind and obviously they had a tailwind making it a complete breeze (pun totally intended)! Someone somewhere was taking the piss out me I think…They didn’t stop long and shot through the tunnel I had just appeared from. Pah! It was a tough climb honest! From the top it was a gentle run down the other side, even the wind had a bit of a break. I did have one little moment when I had another water crossing. Two choices of how to cross said water feature, a footbridge or through the small ford! I went for the ford, it seemed like fun. I shot into it and completely forgot to change down to a smaller gear before getting there. My front wheel hit a stone causing me to come to a complete standstill mid way through. I wobbled but wasn’t quick enough getting my feet out my bindings so rather inevitably I hit the deck! A big splash and I’m drenched down one side. What a plonker! I picked myself up and walked the bike out, fortunately no one saw me but I had a little chuckle to myself. How smooth!

From the end of the trail I cycled into upper hut which is a suburb of on the outskirts of Wellington and from there I followed a cycled route all the way into town. It was a really nice ride and I soon reached Wellington. I had arranged another Help X so I found the address and got myself sorted. I’m staying with a couple called Pat and Doro with their dog Zoey who’s very cool. They live just outside the centre of town in a place called wadestown so it’s nice and easy to get into Wellington to have a bit of an explore. I’m not sure what to do yet but for now I’m going to stay here for a week or so and see what falls into place. I quite fancy staying in Wellington for a few weeks and having a proper explore instead of heading south just yet. I might see if I can get a job to keep me going until the middle of January when I’m shooting off to catch up with friends and family. When I get back from that little adventure in mid Febuary I’ll carry on cycling by catching the ferry and heading to explore the South Island. If the job idea doesn’t work I’ll think of something else! Who knows! I’ll keep you posted whatever I end up doing!

So far while I’ve been in Wellington Pat and Doro have shown me some of the harder to reach places as getting to them by bus is a little trickier. The first was a place called red rock was along the coast and was stunning. We went there in Pat’s 4 X 4 which was a good laugh. There was, as the name suggests, some rocks that were well red. We also went to one of the beaches near by and had a swim, bloody cold but lovely! On one day when the weather wasn’t great I went for my first explore of Te Papa which is a big museum in town. It’s brilliant but I’ll have to go back because I ran out of time to look around it all. So much to check out! Today we went into the centre and had a walk along the waterfront in town, a lovely spot. (Below)

Below are a few other pictures from the last couple of weeks, hope you enjoyed the post!

Timber Trail and The Forgotten World Highway

I’m slowly working my way across the middle of the north island from the east coast over to the west. Taupo was roughly the halfway point and the next part had two routes that sounded really interesting. The first was the timber trail which I had heard was a must do and the second was called the Forgotten World Highway which just sounded fascinating. These two routes would lead me along to a city called New Plymouth where I’m currently taking a few days off and having a bit of an explore. Below is New Plymouth with snow capped Mount Taranaki in the distance.

I had a few days in Taupo where unfortunately the weather wasn’t great so I didn’t get a chance to do the Tongariro Crossing which was a shame but not the end of the world, I’ll just have to get myself back there at some point to give it a go. After a bit of a break it was nice to get back on the bike and start moving again. My first day ended up being about 75km up to the start of the Timber trail. Most of the day was on nice roads which weren’t too busy and went through some nice scenery. It was a bit windy but the sun was out so not all bad. I did get a bit of a surprise as the last 20km or so were on a gravel (sorry metal…nope I still don’t get it either) road which in places was quite steep but it was a beautiful route (below) and really quiet so it worked out well. One other advantage of taking this route was I got to test out some new tyres I had fitted in Taupo, exciting stuff I’m sure you’ll agree. The ones I had been using from the start were doing well but occasionally when the going was tough on slippery roads or gravel they struggled and I was told the timber trail in particular could be slippery so I decided to get some new ones with a bit more grip. It was a new set of tyres or a skydive….I went for the more exciting choice obviously!

I eventually reached a place called Pureora which was the beginning of the trail and there was nice campsite so I stopped there for the night so I had a full day to tackle the trail. It was a DOC campsite so was super cheap, had basic facilities and water which was good. When I got there I had the whole place to myself but not long after I arrived a group of 5 Canadians turned up who were doing the Te Araroa route, walking from the top to the bottom of New Zealand. I ended up meeting a few people doing this trip while I was doing the timber trail, I felt like I was cheating a bit with my bike, they were all really cool and it was interesting to hear how they had been getting on. In the morning I woke up to rain but it wasn’t very heavy so I got packed up and headed to the start of the trail which was only about 500m or so away. It had rained most the night and the previous week had been very wet so I was expecting a bit of mud but my days, it turned out to be properly muddy!

The timber trail is 84km long and is a single dirt track right through a forest, guess that’s the link to timber…funny that! I set off and was loving it despite the rain picking up a bit, zooming through the trees was brilliant and I had to keep reminding myself that I was on a touring bike not a mountain bike. I kept getting too close to the trees forgetting my panniers were sticking out, more than once I had to take avoiding action to miss the various solid objects at the side of trail! For the first 8km or so it was pretty flat but I eventually reached the first hill which turned out to be the biggest of the day. I got to the top ok but it was a bit of a slog in the mud and there were a few massive puddles. One in particular was a deceptive bugga and nearly swallowed my whole front wheel as I plunged into it. I nearly went straight over the handlebars I stopped so quickly. I pulled Daisy out and had mud above the brake disc, shit that was a deep one. I carried on until I found small stream where I managed to wash most of the mud off, it had got into the calliper and on the disc so was making an awful noise. Also rather unsurprisingly it made the front brake as good as useless, not great but fortunately after a bit of a clean it was all good so I continued down the other side of the hill.

It was a really cool route but in these conditions on my bike it was tough going, I lost count of how many times I fell off and a few occasions I had to walk the bike up the hills. It was really muddy! I’m not sure I’ve said that enough…it was really muddy just to be sure that’s coming across. The rain didn’t stop until the last hour of the route so I got well and truly soaked so after 3 hours or so I decided to stop, there are 4 shelters along the route and this was the first one I came across so I ducted in and cooked up some noodles to try and warm myself up a bit. Now I know all instant noodles are pretty rubbish but the ones I had on this occasion were particulate shite. They had been amazingly cheap so I should have known better but still! According to the awful packaging they were chicken flavour, you could have fooled me! I poured one pack in my pan but hardly anything came out so I cooked up three in the end. Despite being rubbish it did warm me up and I had a healthy apple to offset my rubbish noodles. I cracked on and after a couple more hours I reached the half way point which was another campsite, it was only 1 o clock and I wasn’t ready to stop so decided to keep going. The afternoon ended up being even tougher, not because the route was particularly hard but I was getting tired and a bit fed up with the rain. I was also cold and everything was damp, at one point I stopped and shouted to the sky to tell the rain to sod off…amazingly it made no difference at all but for some reason I felt the need to have a bit of a moan.

After a little grumble I eventually pulled myself together, cheered up and kept going. One really cool thing about this route was there were 4 big wooden suspension bridges to cross, they gave you a great view to the valleys below and were fun to cross as they wobbled around as you went over them. They all had netting along the edges to stop people disappearing to a untimely ending below and on one occasion I lost my balance and caught it with one of my bags, again stopping pretty quickly and getting a bit of a shock as I bounced into the edge, long way down in a couple of places let me tell you! The last part of the trail ran along a path which used to be a railway. It went through the forest, past high walls of rock and around an old section called the Ongarue Spiral which was fun. The path went in a spiral (shock horror) and back underneath itself through an old tunnel, it was all cut into the rock and must have been a serious challenge when they built it. It was on this spiral I heard a noise from the back of my bike, at first I ignored it as it was raining and I didn’t want to stop but I eventually thought I should and found a tree which gave me a bit of shelter. I had a look and found my pannier rack was loose again but this time it was a different bolt and it had completely dissapeared meaning one side had come loose, not great! I stood there scratching my head for a minute wondering how to fix it when I remembered I had put some spare bolts in my toolkit. I know, I was a little impressed with myself as well! After I dug them out I had it sorted in no time. I’d checked all the bolts were tight in Taupo so it was a bit of a surprise they had come loose but I guess it was a pretty bumpy route! No matter I was back on my way and not long after that got to the end of the trail, the sun even came out for 5 minutes, I nearly cried with joy!

I reached the end and was pretty pleased to do the whole route in a day, I hadn’t really intended to so it was a cool little achievement. I looked for somewhere to camp at the end of the route but didn’t have much luck so I continued into the first town I could see on the map as it wasn’t far up the road. I talked to the only person I came across in the whole place and he showed me somewhere I could put my tent up which was very nice of him. He also let me use the hose at his place to have a bit of a wash off and gave me a free can of coke which was pretty cool! I camped on a patch of grass at the side of the road which was about 6 meters from a railway, I got there at about 6 and fell asleep a few hours later and no trains had gone past so I’d assumed it was a line that wasn’t used any more. I have no idea what time it was but in the night my theory of a quiet railway disappeared when a huge freight train went screaming past! It was so loud and frightened the life out of me, I thought I was being run over and I remember thinking shit have I pitched my tent on the track! It happened three more times in the night but the first time gave me the biggest shock!

The next day the rain had gone and sun was back! Happy Days! I had a pretty relaxed day cycling into the next town which was called Taumarunui (It’s a dyslexics nightmare here, people ask where I’ve been and I have to show them on a map as I keep saying everywhere wrong!) where I stocked up on food. The only hiccup was a puncture but that was sorted pretty quickly. Taumarunui was the start of the Forgotten World Highway and my plan was to take about three days to get to New Plymouth. As there wasn’t any shops along the route I got what I needed and got to a lovely little free campsite about 20km out of town. It was next to the river, not very busy and very relaxing. I was lying in my tent that evening reading with just the sound of the river next to me when a dog started barking somewhere up in the hills, no big deal but it did keep doing it for a while, I just ignored it and carried on reading. Suddenly out of nowhere a man shouted at the top of his voice “SHUT UP!” which echoed around the valley, the dog stopped but 5 minutes later he started barking again which resulted in another shout from the man. This carried on for about half an hour until eventually they both stopped it was all quiet again but every time they barked or shouted it made me laugh.

The Forgotten Highway turned out to be an amazing road, it was quite hilly but the views were stunning. There was a number of saddles which I quickly learnt was code for big hill. Fortunately they were never very steep and at the top you got some amazing views of the valleys all around so it was certainly worth it. My favourite was Tahore Saddle which had this amazing view at the top and a road that followed the ridge for a few kilometres. I stopped for a least half an hour at this one and just took it all in! About half way along the highway was the Tangarakau Gorge, it was a gravel road through it which was about 20km long and was all still covered in forest. Apparently this is what the whole road used to be like before it was cleared to make way for farming land. I stopped for lunch in this gorge at a little table at the side of the road. I had another classic noodle dish but just as I was clearing away an Australian couple arrived who were driving around New Zealand, they had a feast with them and very kindly said if I wanted to join I could. It was epic, lovely rolls with ham, tomatoes and cucumber. They also gave me a cola to wash it down with! Amazing!

I stopped for the night in the town of Whangamomona (another cracking name!) which is an interesting little place. It was a funny town with a pub, a few houses, a campsite and it’s also a republic. Apparently it had become a republic about 27 years ago when it turned out they were on boarder for two districts meaning they were paying two lots of taxes and it sort of carried on from there. You can get your own Whangamomona passport or if you’d rather you can get your normal passport stamped as you pass through. Another interesting thing I heard was they have a president which they elect every few years, apparently it was once Billy Gumboot the Goat (yep really) and another time it was Tai the poodle who apparently retired due to a failed assassination attempt, yeh I know, bonkers! It’s written on Wikipedia so obviously it must be true! A brilliantly random place I think you’ll agree! Turns out it’s not only America who elects interesting presidents after all! I had a beer at the pub in the evening and met some of the locals who were all very friendly, one even said he knew Phil Colins! I didn’t ask for proof of this but he was very convincing so I must have been true!

The final day on the Forgotten highway was another beautiful day, the sun was out and there wasn’t too much wind around. I carried on  for about 20km before turning off the main highway to take a cross country route. It avoided the last straight road from Stratford to New Plymouth and was even quieter than the main highway which was a bonus. The first part was all gravel and sand, a bit slippery in places but with views like the one above it was no worries at all! Along this section I only saw two people, one was hurding sheep and the other was an old man on a quad bike, I waved and all he did was shout at me “have a great day” and flew past me in the other direction which made me chuckle! I followed the route into New Plymouth and then got onto the coastal pathway which was really nice and took me across a bridge which gave me a great view of Mount Taranaki. I’d love to take credit for the idea of framing of the mountain in the bridge arch but an old man who was stood nearby told me about doing it, Im pretty sure I’m not the first person he’s told about doing it either. To be fair it did make a cool picture!

I’m in New Plymouth for a few days and I’m staying with Pamela and her husband Ken who are the relatives of some good friends back in England. They have been amazing and really welcoming. I’ve been shown a local art peice called the wind wand, had a look at the view from the top of a hill called Paritutu and Ken very kindly lent me one of his motorbikes so we went for a blast to the bottom of mount Taranaki. Hopefully I’ll get back at some point to maybe climb that too. After a bit of a break here I’m going to continue down to Palmaston North where I’m hoping to catch up with a friend from university and from there I’ll work my way down to Wellington!

Here’s a few other pictures from the last few days exploring.

Lake Waikaremoana

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!

Some other snaps from along the way.