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New Zealand
 

 
Country Summary
 

We flew from Hong Kong to New Zealand in early January 2006. We stayed with friends in Auckland before heading off on a planned clockwise tour of North and South Island. The plan was to take 3-4 months on the tour and from there return to Auckland and fly to Melbourne. But all good plans have to be flexible. After 3 1/2 months around New Zealand we flew from Wellington to Brisbane.

Below are the maps and summaries of the stages of our cycle route around New Zealand:

 

 

     

 
Map
 

North Island

 

 

 
 

South Island

   

 

 

 
Entry & Visas

 

As we are both EU citizens it was no problem with immigration. There are no visas required and the permit to stay (a stamp on entry) lasts for 3 months for EU citizens and 6 months for UK citizens. Isa needed a visa extension. This was a painless process involving dropping an application form in one of the immigration offices together with a passport and NZ$80. The visa extension was granted in a few working days.

Care needs to be taken when bringing in camping equipment and bicycles to the country. New Zealand appears to be fastidious in checking for "Biohazards" to keep the country free of the blight of viscous agricultural diseases that seem to be common elsewhere. We carefully scrubbed the bikes clean and washed all of panniers - they haven't looked so good since we bought them!

A biohazard form needs to be completed on entry to the country, we ticked this with "yes" to camping, "Yes" to hiking/tramping and informed them that we had been in China. Despite this (and another recent outbreak of bird flu in our last camping Chinese province) we were waved through the checks with the minimum of fuss - not even a shoe was inspected for cleanliness.

 

 
Camping
 

Wild camping is allowed in New Zealand, but the problem is to find a spot. We struggled finding a place in the busy Coromandel area (camping is forbidden on most of the beaches) and the countryside suffers from fencemania. We sometimes have a problem to find a spot for picnicking or relieving our bladders. It has not been such a big issue in the South Island, which is quieter and the gates are usually unlocked. Many areas are also farming deer - this exacerbates the fence problem to one of 2 1/2 metres in height.

 

(above) Fences, fences everywhere in Northern North Island. It is very difficult to find a place to camp, most gates have been locked

(left) Welcome to New Zealand

 

 

 

On the other hand, campsites abound and cost between $18 and $30. The New Zealanders are also extremely friendly and we have already had a few invitations to camp in people's gardens. Normally the organised campsites have full kitchen facilities, TV lounge and laundry facilities - 5 star luxury for us!

The Department of Conservation also has informal campsites, normally with a water source and perhaps a "Long Drop" toilet. These are usually in quite remote but beautiful unspoilt areas. Payment is often by use of an honesty box

 

(above) Camping high above the pacific near Waihua

(left) Camping at the top of Upcott saddle - a bugger of a climb on gravel roads

 

 
Cycle Shops
 

As we have travelled through North Island there has been no shortage of bicycle shops. Every reasonable size town has facilities available (although once again Shimano V brake cartridges can be quite difficult to find). There are two persons we would like to mention:

- In Wellington, Chris at Puresport is a distributor of Rohloff parts and spares and was most helpful,
- In Christchurch, Chris at bikeworks has done a quality job rebuilding Terry's back wheel using a Mavic rim.

Cycling routes and maps

In the North Island, it was busy around the Coromandel area and the main States Highway between Tauranga and Rotorua, Waihi and Napier. The gravel road (120 km) to lake Waikaremoana was an oasis of calm. We were told that the East Cape road is also pretty quiet, but did not make the detour.

In the South Island, we have followed a few long "out of the way" tracks, namely the Molesworth station road, the Otago Railtrail and the Mavora lakes route. They are all stunning and there are a few more gravel roads around too. Otherwise, do not expect the quiet roads that we were promised. There is much traffic, mainly made up of tourist buses and campervans. The roads are wide and straight, and if they are not, they are in the process of being made so. Alternative routes are few and far between.

We are using the "Peddler's Paradise" guides (available in the bigger bookshops - North Island ISBN 0-473-07952-6 and South Island ISBN 0-473-07953-4) to tour around the two islands and we have purchased a road atlas. For the more out of the way tracks, there is a good book by the Kennet brothers: "Classic NZ Mountain bike rides" (ISBN 0-9583490-6-1). We did not need any topographical maps of NZ while using these two books.

And if you don't have one before you come to NZ, be aware that wearing a cycling helmet is compulsory here (to Isa's great dismay!). It's a $55 dollar fine otherwise!

 

 
 

Cycling information aboard the Interislander ferry between North and South Island

 

 
 
 
 
 

(above left) The old road through Glenhope. This is how all of New Zealand's roads used to look - small, winding, tree lined and interesting, especially for cyclists. (above right) The new road next to Glenhope. This summarises 90% of roads in New Zealand, they are wide, straight, with significant cuttings and embankments, graded at up to 13% slope with cars, campervans, coaches and trucks passing at 100 km/hr +, ie poor for cycle touring. Bear this in mind when planning your trip!

 

 
  Flying With Bicycles      
 

Hum... This is a bit of a problem and we have not found a way around the excess luggage fees.

When we booked our tickets in Hong Kong, our travel agent manage to increase our personal allowance to 30 kg each instead of 20kg. Despite this and throwing away all our food and sending back home what we could spare, we still had 14 kg excess at the airport. With a fee of 177 HK$ per kilo, we were facing a big bill. The girl who checked us in did us a favour and counted only 7 kg excess. This meant 1240 HK$ or around £90.

We wrapped the bicycles in cardboard, with the wheels either side of the frame, handlebars turned and twisted, a little bit of plastic bag on the bits that were over hanging and that was it. They arrived without any problems (which is more than can be said for train travel in China)

 

Bikes partly boxed and ready to fly, we had to scour the back streets of Central Hong Kong to find some suitable cardboard - we resembled a couple of homeless beggars, looking in bins and wandering through the business district with our cardboard beds under our arms.

 

 
 

What an excellent idea - Auckland airport has a bicycle assembly area! Also a warning that cycle helmets are compulsory in new Zealand - otherwise a $55 fine - Isa was less than pleased with this.

 

As there is a limit to the quantity of bags checked in on international flights we tied our panniers together in pairs with the ever trusty plastic cable ties

 

 


We have been lucky but we are still worry about the rest of our trip on plane to Australia and then back home. So we have been to Air New Zealand offices in Auckland and ask them if they could help us with our excess luggage problem. We were meet with "We need at least 6 months to process your application" and "it is absolutely impossible to increase your baggage allowance" and other corporate policy bullshit. The charity tack did not work either. Overall a big thumbs down to Air New Zealand. It is really frustrating because we have already met two couples cyclotouring and both had an allowance to take their bikes on board - and one of the couple were travelling with Air NZ!

We had an ongoing ticket with Air New Zealand from Auckland to Melbourne but we found out that it costs a total of NZ$310 to change our departure date for both of our paper tickets and we also expected to have to send our bikes on unaccompanied luggage as the luggage allowance is only 20 kg. This is when we spotted an advert from Virgin Blue and we found a flight from Wellington to Brisbane for NZ$231. The luggage allowance is still 20 kg, but each sporting equipment is counted as 5kg. Bikes must be packed in a box provided by Virgin blue (NZ$15). An offer too tempting to be resisted!

 

 
Food & Drink
 

Improvised cheese festival

 

Cheese report first: we are so excited about it! After a long desert crossing, cheese is finally appearing on the horizon. It was a long way to go, but yes, we found some decent stuff in NZ. They have the milk and no EU regulations to tell them what name to put on their products, so we have munched on Camembert, feta cheese with cow milk, gruyere and cheddar.

Food report: As for food, it is pretty back to normal salads, sandwiches and camping cooking for us. It clearly lacks the excitement and uncertainty of China as we are now sure what we are buying and eating. One special treat is the delicious, cheap and enormous ice cream cones found everywhere in dairies (the local newsagents). A yummy treat before, during and after a hard days cycling.

 
 


Fresh fruits and vegs are easy to source (in the North Island mainly): the locals set up little stands with whatever they grow for sale. You help yourself and pop some money in the box. We are blessed with gorgeous red plums and big "avos" (avocados), which are in season.

There is also a lot of seafood around, but after our Chinese experience, we have not felt hardy enough yet to try anything too exotic and we are content with the classic cycling pasta and rice dishes.

Drink report: divine and not too pricey white wines. A typical bottle of new Zealand white plonk is about $NZ 9 , quite palatable and excellent to wind down after a hard days cycling with a salad on the beach. Otherwise, New Zealand wine is quite expensive - even in New Zealand. The reds aren't much cop but the Sauvignon Blancs are excellent - they have been well tested. Our friend Paddy was hurt by the last comment and finely wined us on Hawkes bay red wines. We settled on the fact that good red can be found, but at a price.

 
 

Boiled Sultana cake - sounds disgusting - but was full of natural ingredients and unsurprisingly big fat, juicy sultanas

 

 

New Zealand beer consists of a few major players - Speights, Monteiths, Macs, DB and Tui. Almost all the beer is keg type and fizzy. No chance of good old English warm, flat beer here.

The favourite has been Monteiths, brewed in Greymouth. They do an excellent selection of beers including a summer ale (flavoured with a little ginger) which disguises its 5% alcohol contact rather dangerously, a great "Black" beer and a refreshing lemony "Radler", which is a beer for the cyclist and indeed means "cyclist" in German (whatever the link between Monteiths and Germany might be).

New Zealand abounds with cafes, on the State Highways and in every small town. What they all have in common is excellent coffee. Russia, Mongolia and China were devoid of real coffee (excluding powdered nescafe muck, or worse still the ever present "Three in One").

 

 

 

Excellent coffee in New Zealand - quite often served in a bucket

 

Two-cones greedy Terry (in a pathetic attempt to conceal a second ice-cream behind his back)

 

 
Weather
 

We arrived in Auckland in early January and were met with big blue skies and white fluffy clouds. Sometimes the clouds thickened up to give a little rain. The temperature for the first couple of weeks was in the mid-20's dC. The temperature dropped as we cycled further South and advanced into autumn. It dropped down to 12dC when we reached Invercargill and the Catlins in mid-March. We have been extremely lucky with the rain until we reached the West Coast of the South island and received 150m of head in 24hrs on our heads. From then on, we were wet one day out of two until we reached Motueka.

The one thing to remember is that the climate is classified maritime - ie one may really see all four seasons in a day.

The wind can be a real problem here. During our first month, a reasonable keen wind was blowing but with our twisting and turning, up and down route around the Coromandel peninsula and down to Rotorua this did not present a big problem. In the South Island however, the wind made some otherwise easy cycling days very very difficult or extremely easy (we reached 35 km/hr on a uphill!), but this is obviously rarer. It can also be dangerous and made you swerve onto the middle of the road or send you in the gutter. We had to give up reaching Mt Cook by bike on such a day.

 

 
 

Beautiful clear skies and sunset before reaching the West Coast - where the rain started in earnest

 

The West Coast receives 6 metres of rain a year - 150mm on one day whilst we were there!

 

 

     

 
Medical
 

Two essentials: at least 30+ waterproof suntan cream and an insect repellent to give you some peace when faced with sandflies (Bushman do a waterproof repellent, but usually sandflies don't bother the cycling cyclists). As for the sun, it is rather fierce: from the Airport to central Auckland (90 minutes) terry's delicate skin turned a subtle shade of beetroot/pillar box red. Since then we have have been using factor 35 (kids formula) with no ill affects.

 

 

 

The kids formula sun cream was something that the sales lady in the chemist insisted that Isa needed. The change in climate and season caused an allergic reaction from Isabelle. With some form of hayfever type symptoms a nasty rash appeared on her neck and itchy eyes. Our supplies of anti histamine have helped to keep Isa looking respectable in public.

 

 
Flora & Fauna
 

A mangrove swamp, each tree has root coverage of 25 sqm, with the roots growing upwards, like thousands of little fingers sticking out of the mud, to get oxygen when the tide is out. The mangrove has been officially selected as "Tree of the Trip"

The mammal of the arboreal kingdom - not your average kind of bud: these are young mangrove tree capsules not seeds but live young (pre germinated) trees in a protective coating

 

 

 



Second place in the "tree of the trip" competition goes to the bright and colourful New Zealand Christmas tree - the Pohutukawa. We arrived just after their peak - most of the bright red needles formed a red carpet on the roads and ground below the trees

 
 

(left and right) Thick rainforest in the Te Urewera National park

Lichens and mosses on tree branches in Fjordland national park

 

 

 

 
 

The Otago Peninsula

Whilst in Dunedin we visited the Otago peninsula. This was part of an organised tour because access to the best beaches is restricted by land ownership issues. Individual tour companies come to monetary arrangements with individual farmers to allow access over their land. Access by sea is also possible as the foreshore has public access.

(Left) The Royal albatross breeding centre on the head of the peninsula offers great views of these monstrous birds - the largest flying bird in the world, weighing up to 9 kg with a wing span of 3.3 metres. On a good windy day the unattached adults can be seen gliding around the headland and out across the swell of the Pacific Ocean (in comparison the largest gull has a wingspan of just 1.2 metres)

(above) A juvenile fur seal on the Otago peninsula. Different from the common seal because they walk properly on their flippers

 

 

 
 

Mother and child fur seals - the colony has about 500 seals with 250 cubs each year, all wriggling and playing on the rocks and in the pools. The cubs go on to make good food for Orcas and the local sea lions!

 

A 4 year old male Hooker Sea Lion relaxing on the beach. Being the top of their food chain they are not afraid of humans. One can walk to a within a few metres of them - the only normal response being a brief flittering of the eyelids and then - back to sunbathing.

 

 
 

 

 

(left) The yellow eyed penguin, now very rare due to habitat loss and predators. The third largest penguin is shy and lives in woodland and shrubs along the coast

 

The native fauna of New Zealand has suffered almost irreversibly due to the European introduction of land mammals. New Zealand's flightless birds had very few natural enemies or threats - thus creating a unique ecosystem. Europeans introduced rabbits for food, then possums for fur (it took three attempts to introduce possums), then stoats, weasels and pine martens to eat the rabbits. In addition cats escaped, rats were washed up from shipwrecks and hedgehogs arrived somehow. All these new predators eat the eggs, kill the chicks and destroy the habitat of New Zealand's native ground living flightless birds.

A visit to any New Zealand natural history museum is a sad tour through the collection of unique extinct species.

 
 

A stand off that lasted for over 10 minutes. We were glad to see that the penguin refused to back down to another of the introduced species of New Zealand

 

 

Hooker sea lions on the beach - the tiny little grey sea lion on the left is a female - not really an even match!

 
 

New Zealand Parakeet

 

According to most Kiwis "The only good possum is a dead Possum"- there are now an estimated 70 millions of them, eating 20,000 tonnes of leaves a night

 

 

 
Left - Seal pups in the Abel Tasman National Park. The Shag Harbour tidal lagoon was home to about 20 young pups. They were all learning their swimming, fighting acrobatics tricks and were fascinated by the bright yellow kayaks and paddles
 

 
Statistics

 

From New Zealand we cycled:

Total distance cycled: 4,826 kms (1433 NI, 3393 SI)
Total height climbed: 44,075 metres (14541 NI, 29534 SI)
In 72 cycling days (23 NI, 49 SI)
An average of 67 kms per cycling day, 612 m climbed per cycling day

North Island averaged 10.1 m climbed for every km cycled, South Island averaged 8.7 m climbed per km cycled. This means that North Island can be officially considered 16% hillier than the South Island. Judging by the complaints from our legs this was definitely the case.

 

 
Cycling Kiwi Reports
 

7th - 12th January 2006 - Auckland

Luckily an old work colleague of ours, Simon, had a project underway in Auckland so we managed to scrounge a room with him. It turned out that he had a fantastic pad overlooking the harbour and right next to the viaduct bars and restaurants. He provided a great tour of all the happening places - he seemed to know someone in every other restaurant!

After refuelling, restocking supplies, replacing broken bits, sourcing maps and quizzing the locals about the places to go we set off for our tour of kiwi land.

 

 

Azur blue of the Auckland harbour, when we landed the pilot claimed reasonable visibility at 50km's - we were lucky to get 50 metres in parts of China

 
 

Isa chilling out in style with Simon after one day in Auckland.

 

After only two days in Auckland, Terry was already scaring the locals!

 
 

If there is a tongue pointing out, it is Maori art.

 

All made on our camping stove, promise!

 
 

12th January 2006 - Auckland to Kawakawa bay - 61 km

We left Auckland under glorious sunshine and cycled passed some fine beaches - and it was only the beginning. It took us some time to leave the sprawling suburbs of Auckland behind (25 km following the coast) but finally we reached the rolling green hills which reminded us so much of England. Fenced fields, greenery, sheep: they were all there. But every parcel of the land left to itself was covered in the most luxurious rainforest. They call it bush here and it is packed with giant fern trees, pine trees and many other plants we cannot identify. No wild camping option here. As for the nice green fields, it turned out to be a problem too because everything is fenced and locked off.

We persisted and finally found an old field with a broken gate right in view of the road. The least secret wild camping of our trip so far.

 

The Firth of Thames with the popular "big flowers" that have been planted in peoples gardens and seem to readily escape into the surrounding countryside - the Agapanthus soon to be banned as a "BioSecurity Risk"

 
 

The mountains of the Coromandel peninsula, looking across the bird infested waters of the Firth of Thames, a bird watchers paradise.

 

13th January 2006 - Kawakawa bay to Thames - 83 km

After more rolly green hills, we followed the coastal road to Thames. The beaches are awesome and they are actually growing because of the huge amount of shells being deposited. The cheniers thus formed fill up thanks to the Mangrove, which has become Terry's favourite tree since our visit to Miranda bird watching centre (see our flora and fauna report).

We spent the night in Thames, which is the biggest town we have seen since leaving Auckland. 10,000 inhabitants, but where are they all? It is such a quiet little town. Maybe they are down in some mines, still looking for gold, which abounded in the area last century.

 
 

Our first encounter with the rainforest on the edges of Auckland suburbs, massive tree ferns and loads of stuff we have no names for

 


And a bit further, our first encounter with the mountains of the Coromandel peninsula along the busy SH25

 

 

 

Rolling hills, blue skies and locked gates. On the route from Auckland to Rotarua it was very difficult to find places to wild camp, there are no footpaths, the fields are all completely fenced and the gates are locked

 

 

Shells everywhere on the beach near Miranda

 

A nice picnic spot overlooking the Coromandel peninsula

 
 

14th January 2006 - Thames to Coromandel - 62 km

We took a quick tour of the Thames Saturday market and managed to weigh ourselves down a little more. Isa invested in a sarong to cover her worn out cycling shorts and a selection of spices mean that our camp cooking should take on a little more variety.

The road from Thames to Coromandel town hugged the coast for 40 kms providing us with wonderful views of the Firth of Thames and the rugged mountains of the Coromandel peninsula. The road then dived viscously inland as we began to experience our first proper hills. Unlike China the road gradients are not there to accommodate overloaded trucks by climbing gradually - the hills here go straight up - typically ranging from 8% to 16% in gradient. This makes for hard and painful uphills. We were rewarded with great views of distant islands, mountains and beaches before screeching back down hill.

We camped that evening just North of Coromandel town - with 4 other cycle tourists - HansPeter and Ursula from Switzerland (we had previously met in Auckland) and Axel and Brigit on their honeymoon from Germany.

 

 

Brigit and Axel, 2 german cyclotourists we met on the route. They chose a 3 month tour of New Zealand as their perfect Honeymoon trip - congratulations!

 
 

After the complication of the Chinese characters it was nice to come across some simple, clear and concise signposting in a language we understand

 

 

15th January 2006 - Coromandel Town to Whitianga - 50 km

Poor legs!!! The day started with a nasty 400m, 12% climb, which put off some of our fellow cyclotourists. We thought we were up for it, but we did not expect the next three steep hills. One of them was 18% steep for a section of 100m. Nothing else to do but curse and slowly push on.

But the beaches on the Pacific side of the Coromandel peninsula were well worth it. White sand, superb blue sea. We added a note of colour with our bright red noses despite three applications of our factor 35 suntan cream.

We stopped for the evening in Whitianga, which has a fabulous beach. Plenty has happened here: it is said that it is in this bay that the first Polynesian explorer, Kupe, has landed. The bay is also called Mercury bay because captain Cook stopped here to do some astronomical observations (of the planet Mercury as it happened).

 
 

The wonderful views across the Northern section of the Coromandel peninsula

 

 

The imposing Castle Rock on the northern Coromandel peninsula

 

 
 

16th January 2006 - Trying to rest in Whitianga

Since there was no high structure (cathedral, tower or other) to be climbed, Terry decided to spend our day of rest doing a bit of sea-kayaking. It was without counting on the fierce wind that started to blow from the coast on our way back. We made it back to Whitianga beach after much struggling. For once it was not our legs that were hurting!

 

17th January 2006 - Whitianga to Hahei beach - 20 km

The Coromandel peninsula is far too beautiful and the Kiwis far too friendly. After a few chats with the locals in Whitianga and having gathered a long list of places to visit in the area, we stopped shortly after in Hahei. The day was so beautiful that we decided to stroll to Cathedral Cove (a big carved out arch in the cliff) and to do a bit of snorkeling in the marine nature reserve.

Things did not quite go to plan though. Isa lost her ring in between some rocks and after an unsuccessful hour trying to find it, we did not have enough time to walk to Cathedral Cove. As for the snorkelling, the water turned out to be too murky to see further than one meter ahead!

 

 

A sweeping descent on the Coromandel peninsula, the road either goes up or down - there is no in between

 
 

The Coromandel peninsula is littered with gorgeous beaches and coves - it makes it very difficult to keep on cycling.

 

 

New Zealand has been really quiet and easy compared to China. Here is an example of the type of things that happens to us now. In the morning, Isa was waiting for Terry on a car park space. She was too lazy to make it onto the pavement and was cleaning her sunglasses. She heard a light bipping, turned around and saw a woman waiting to park her car. So Isa moved to the pavement and carried on cleaning her sunglasses, thinking no more of it. The woman came right up to her and... apologised... for not having bipped. "It was the car behind me, I am sorry, really, I would not have bipped at you". Hey??? This is a bit far too civilised for us after more than two months spent cycling in the midst of the vicious Chinese lorry drivers.

18th January 2006 - Hahei beach to Whangamata - 75 km

Up and down, up and down, and again would summarise the day nicely. The views were not so outstanding because we mainly crossed a logging area. We only saw the Pacific again when we arrived in Whangamata, famous for its surfing beach, but we did not get a chance to try it. We left the busy camping sites behind (it is the holiday season here) and headed for a quiet site in the bush.

 
 

The Norfolk pines look like they should be smaller, they are like photoshop trees - just stretched from normal to gigantic size

 

 

Quiet roads and green valleys, but a little too hot for sweaty Terry

 

 
 

Isa surfs in with style, poise and grace on the sea kayak (our rest day from cycling), 5 out of 5

 

 

Terry should just count himself lucky that he didn't lose his hat or glasses, 1 out of 5

 

 
 

Whitianga and Buffalo beach

 

19th January 2006 - Whangamata to Katikati - 73 km

Another big uphill to warm up our legs straight from the beginning. But the rain caught up with us in Waihi. We just had time to reach a coffee in time to escape being properly drenched. We managed to spend 2 hours and a half munching sandwiches and drinking huge coffee bowls before running out of things to do, eat and talk about. Luckily the rain stopped shortly after we were back on the bikes.

 

 
 

We cycled along Wahei beach (not much view as it is lined with houses) before going back onto the SH2 (State Highway 2). From then on it was quite an unpleasant ride: the road is wide and busy with lorries going to Tauranga, the biggest export port of New Zealand.

We however found a lovely wild camping spot by the beach in Katikati. On top of a fabulous sunset and fabulous sunrise over Tauranga harbour, we had toilets with toilet paper and soap!

 

At last a single lane road. On the way to Cathedral cove and Hahei Beach

 

 
 

Stingray bay, where we decided to try our hand at a bit of snorkelling

 

 

Stingray bay. Under doctors orders to ensure full recovery of the frozen toes, Isa was forced kicking and screaming to the beach

 

 
 


 

(Left) Over the last 5 years New Zealand has become synonymous with Middle Earth, hobbits and the return of The Ring to mount doom. We were determined not to jump onto the popularist Lord of the Rings bandwagon - but just like the book fate can have the strangest twists. Isa was carefully applying her factor 35 anti-Orc cream when her silver and diamond ring (bought by Terry and forged in the furnaces of Hereford) popped off her finger and bounced down into the crevices of the surrounding boulders.

Despite an hour lifting rocks and boulders, with sticks, by hand and rummaging amongst the crabs, crayfish and shellfish the ring had mysteriously vanished. The tide was coming in and we had still not tried our snorkelling - it was no loss as the waves in the maritime reserve had reduced the visibility to less than a metre.

We packed our bags with a last look for the ring - with no joy - but as we walked away the incoming tide gurgled on the underside of the rocks something that sounded eerily like " My precious".

 
 

It seemed to be along time coming but 12,000 kms from Worcester appeared in the Wentworth Valley

 

The far North of the Coromandel peninsula, with Islands poking out to the Pacific Ocean

 
 

The Pinnacles, a beautiful clear river and the very common bright orange flax flowers

 

 

 

Maori wood carving from the meeting house in Rotarua

 

 
 

Sunrise over the Tauranga natural harbour

 

20th January 2006 - Katikati to Rotorua - 101 km

We carried on along the far too busy SH2 before turning South on a quieter road towards Rotorua. Unfortunately, the road was not as quiet as it was supposed to be. It has been recently widened and cut through the hill with cruel steep ascents and descents. We did not enjoy it at all and we were happy to reach Rotorua in the evening.

And it was no surprise we were tired (Isa was anyway): we did more than 100km and climbed 1316m. This is insane!!! And the highest point of the day was only 486m. Everything is up and down in New Zealand.

 

 
 

(above and below) The Kuira park in central Rotarua, a fascinating, steaming, stinking, bubbling selection of the earth opening its bowels.

 

 

The Kiwi's have all been very friendly so far - but we wouldn't like to get into their bad books

 

 
 

 

 

21st - 22nd January 2006 - Malodour in Rotorua

We spent a couple of days recovering in Rotorua. And what best to poke your noses over some stinking bubbling holes smelling of rotten eggs. There are some really strange things happening under the earth crust around here. We soothed our nose in the impressive ice cream parlour of Lady Janes (thanks for the recommendation Camilla!)

 
 

Maori wood carving for the entrance gate to a cemetary

 

 

The SH2 from Waihi to Tauranga - too busy, too fast, too wide, too much up and down. Tauranga is New Zealand's busiest export port - so too many trucks. Many cyclist get the bus for this 40km stretch

 

 
 

23rd January 2006 - Rotorua to Green Lake - 52 km

We headed off in the direction of the pretty lake district South-East of Rotorua. There are no less than four lakes there and stuck in between, a buried village under a few meters of mud. The nearby Mount Tarawera decided to erupt in 1896, burying the whole village under mud. It also destroyed some silica terraces that Victorian tourists used as hot pools. These pink and white terraces were named at the time the 8th wonder of the world.

 

The tongue gives it away as Maori art, recovered from the buried village

 

 
 

One of the buried village's houses. The nearby volcano erupted into the base of a lake and spewed mud and rocks over the surrounding area to a depth of 1.5 metres

 

 

New Zealand is a country full of greenery and waterfalls - we were to find out where all that water comes from in the next few days

 

 
 

The Mount Tarawere volcano - it last went off in the 1896 killing locals, Victorian Tourists and burying the local villages

 

 

24th January 2006 -Green Lake to Murrapara - 51 km

We started the day by visiting Waita-O-Tapu site where there is a concentration of fuming holes, but this time with weird and wonderful colours. There is also a geyser there that starts everyday at 10.15 for the pleasure of about 200 tourists all sat in a small outdoor theater designed for the purpose. A chap came along and dropped some detergent powder in the geyser hole to start it. After two minutes, there is a jet of water about 20m high. But is this really a geyser then?

When we left Waita-O-Tapu, the weather has decided to turn for the worse. We had strong rain and strong wind against us. We stopped 15 km short of Murrapara, our target for the day, and were getting ready for a very wet and windy nights camping.

A chap in a truck came along and said he could take us to Murrapara. Needless to say, we were more than happy to accept a lift. This was quite a hairy 15 km. Dave drove very fast, which would have been okay, but with us two in the car, the windows steamed right up and we could not see anything at all. In Murrapara, we drove around the deserted campsite and Dave decided to put us up for the night. After being treated to a delicious meal of Venison hunted in the forest, we watched a psychic show on TV. Two psychic were given the police clues about a 35 years old murder, which happened pretty much in the lay by by where we camped the night before. Scary!

 
 

At last Terry met someone who finds it more difficult to get a cycling helmet that fits

 

 

Lichens and mosses on the trees surrounding the hot bubbling mud pools

 

 
 

The champagne pool, 74 degrees C, with different elements precipitating at different temperatures to produce a fantastic selection of colours

 

 

Snickers used to be Marathon and Starburst used to be Opal Fruits. This sulphurous lake was exactly the same colour as the lime flavoured Opal Fruit

 

 
 

 

It was also great to have a chance to talk to Dave and his wife about the area problems. Since the closure of most of the local logging industry, the booming little town of Murrapara is slowly dying. Out of 5000 inhabitants, only 1500 remain and out of 30 shops, only four are still there and struggling with burglaries. Dave seemed to think that most of the problems are down to the younger Maoris, who are not interested in doing any work. But as he put it himself: "there is only two things I hate in life: racism and black people!". Big mouthed but despite the appearances, a heart in the right place.

 

 

Unsealed road for the next 90 kms - perfect for cycling - less cars and usually much slower

 

 
 

Rivers and forest with a rare glimpse of grass in the wild Te Urewera National Park

 

Camping in the hut at Taupeupe Saddle - most of the graffiti was unreadable to us as it was in Maori

Waterfalls, rain and gravel roads on the descent to Lake Waikaremoana

 

 
 

Lake Waikaremoana and the roller coaster road that dips and swerves around the lake

 

 

25th January 2006 - Murrapara to Taupeupe Saddle - 66 km

Mostly off road for another rollercoster of a drive on gravel roads. But the lack of cars and the fantastic native rainforest (or bush) made up for the effort. Another record was beaten that day: 1469 meters were climbed to the greatest joy of Terry!

The bush was fantastic. As soon as we entered Te Urewera national park, the forest was everywhere, on every slope. No room for grass here. Giant ferns, all types of podocarps (trees that grow in only a few parts of the Southern Hemisphere) and beeches are thriving. Most of the trees are new to us and named in Maori, so we really struggle to remember what they are.

Strong rain started falling towards the end of the afternoon and we stopped under a concrete shelter on top of the last pass for a very wet night amongst the graffiti and spiders.

 
 

The impressive, rain engorged Mokau falls on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana, Isa is just visible cycling over the bridge

 

 

The State Highway 38 through Te Urewera National park - if only all state highways were this quiet. Terry was delighted to be deep inside the native New Zealand bush.

 
 

26th January 2006 - Taupeupe Saddle to Lake Waikaremoana- 101 km

It was then all downhill to the jewel of the park, lake Waikaremoana. Unfortunately, the rain had not stopped all night and seemed to be set for the day. We reached the lake absolutely soaked and sought refuge in a little cabin by the lake. All our gear needed drying. The combined rain and wind were so bad that some of our holey Ortlieb bags had started leaking!

 

27th January 2006 - Lake Waikaremoana

We decided that one day in the dry would not be too much of a luxury before heading off on some more gravel roads. We took the day off to visit another lake nearby, lake Waikareiti. The walk through the bush was awesome and the water of the lake absolutely pristine. There are a few islands which are totally rat, stoat and possom free in the middle of the lake and so are a haven for many of New Zealand threatened bird species.

The possom was introduced from Australia to New Zealand for the fur trade. Since then they have escaped and it is estimated that there are now 70 million roaming over New Zealand. They eat the native bush and win the competition for food over the endemic birdlife such as the Kiwi. The DOC are actively encouraging their destruction with possom traps; possum fur sells for $75 a kilo. Amazingly in Australia the possum is threatened and protected species.

 

 

The intrepid explorers deep in the unexplored rain forest on the easy 1 hour family track up to Lake Waikareiti

 

 
 

The rain cleared away for a trip down towards Napier. The view across Lake Waikaremoana and Panekiri Bluff

 

 

28th January 2006 - Lake Waikaremoana to Waihua - 90km

Back on the bike, but this time in the sun and with some lollies offered by the campsite lady to get us over the big hill. She must have meant "hills" because even though the day was mostly downhill, we climbed a lot. New Zealanders do not know the meaning of flat. When they say "undulating", they mean "a long series of steep short hills will kill your legs and crush your spirit".

Anyway, we could finally see the lake Waikaremoana in all its splendour. As soon as we reached the border of the national park, the native bush disappeared in quite a dramatic fashion, leaving room for sheep and fields or planted forests, which look utterly boring in comparison with the native bush madness.

 

 
 

The gravel State Highway 38 continues down towards Wairoa

 

 

The impressive cliffs, cloud and pacific breakers on the Waihua beach looking back towards Wairoa

 

 
 

We reached the town of Waiora just before 16.00 and were lucky to enter the supermarket just before it closed. Everything was closed and quiet in this only big town between Gisborne and Napier. We pushed on the Waihua, where we stopped for the night. We had a beautiful view on Hawkes bay and were getting mentally ready for the following day: nearly the whole bay is bordered by high hills, which fall straight into the sea with dramatic cliffs.

29th January 2006 - Waihua to Napier - 103 km

A bugger of a day. We passed three beautiful river valleys, which involved steep downhill followed by steep uphills. We lost count of the hills - there were hills on top of the hills. Overall, the landscape reminded us of Wales: pretty, green fields with sheep, wet and misty. Hey, we can do a bit of self-advertising here: refer to our previous trip section to see what I mean!

 

The last view of Lake Waikaremoana before the 500 metres uphill descent to Wairoa - things are never straightforward with New Zealand rolling terrain. If someone tells you that the road "undulates" beware - it will be a tiring day.

 

 
 

It was the day before Isa's 30th birthday - as this wasn't a serious enough occasion by itself, Isa discovered her first grey hair

 

 
 

The tallest railway bridge in Australasia - great for bungy jumping or a cycle route when the railway closes

 

 

2 happy cyclists, the sun shining again, all those hills are completed and a nice warm shower is waiting to improve their odour

 

 
 

Mountains and gorges on the SH2 from Wairoa to Napier - if you like hills then you'll enjoy this route

 

 

30-31st January 2006 - Art Deco in Napier

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me! Yup, the big 30's has finally caught up with me in Napier. We spent the day not cycling (a good beginning), looking around some fine examples of art deco architecture, for which the town is famous, dining and wining on the beach. Quite a peaceful day in the midst of a travelling year.

1st February 2006 - Napier to Blackhead beach - 106 km

The day started with a disappointment: our planned trip to see a colony of gannets was cancelled due to rock fall on the track. But the road made up for it. We followed "middle road" south after Hastings. It started flat and gradually became rolly. The landscape started then to look frankly like Wales. There are only green hills and sheep everywhere. It is all really pretty, though not very varied and the road is so twisty that it is impossible to guess where it will lead you. Though part of the track was called the coastal trail, we only saw the sea at the very end of the day when we reached the beautiful Blackhead beach. There is a small campsite there where a teenage girl asked me: "Is it tiring?" After 106km, yes, it jolly is my darling!

 
 
 

Above and left - examples of the Art Deco architecture of Napier. All thanks to the rebuilding on the city in the 1930's after a 7.9 richter earthquake flattened the old town.

 
 

2nd February 2006 - Blackhead beach to Weber - 72 km

More sheep, more hills, more fences. We are now noticing serious signs of erosion and eutrophisation in the rivers and ponds. It is such a great change from the pristine water of the rivers around lake Waikaremoana.

Two things stood out in the sheep country. The beautiful beach of Porangahau and the hill which has the longest place name in the world. We have counted 85 letters but may have missed one or two - see below!

The old cinema in Hastings

 

 
 

If you cannot pronounce this is one go, try the English translation: "the brow of a hill where Tamatea, The man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as Land Eater, played his Flute to his brother"

 
 

Hastings to Blackbeach, the beginning of sheep country

 

 

Porangahau beach, absolutely fantastic, 10km long and only 3 other people

 

 

 

(above) A rarity in the Wairarapa region - trees
(left) The usual site in the Wairarapa region - old tree stumps

3rd February 2006 - Weber to Ihuraua - 88 km

More sheep, more hills, more fences again. However, we gatecrashed a sheep shearing centre to ask for water in the evening and gathered our "fact of the week": the record for sheep shearing in NZ is 948 sheep sheared in a 9-hours shift. But "the man is a freak", said our new acquaintance Wayne. The normal shearer does 400 to 500 sheep in a 8 hours shift and hardly anybody can do 900 sheep in a day. Though Isa asked, nobody dared dealing with Terry's hair.

 
 

Pongaroa - our first shop for a couple of days - they are very proud of their sheep handling skills. Unfortunately we were a day too early for the speed sheep shearing contest

 

 

View across sheep country - just down the road from where the first sheep station was established in the 19th century

 

 
 

Sorry to bang on and on about this one - but there really are fences everywhere. The Welsh manage to farm sheep with just the one fence - Offa's Dyke!

 

 

Sweeping downhills followed by more tortuously slow uphills, the Wairarapa region is anything but flat - beware if a Kiwi says "It rolls a bit"

 

 
 

An old sheep station in the Wairarapa

 

A normal road obstruction in the sheeplands

Most trees have been chopped down but cabbage trees can still find a spot

 
 

4th February 2006 - Ihuraua to Summit of Rimutaka incline - 90km

Less sheep, less hills, still fences. We left the mountains behind and stop in the middle of the flat plateau at Masterton. After a five cakes shop (our record for greediness so far), Terry was finally convinced to get a haircut.

Terry chose Jim's shop for a haircut, which cleverly combined two shops in one: Hairdresser and tobacconist, even though no smoking is allowed at work by law. The two ladies hairdresser did not mind Terry at all and carried on their conversation on how to explain the periods to their daughters. "It is like having an egg, but without the shell" was selected as the best example. It's amazing the things you can learn when you get your hair cut!

In the evening, we started climbing the Rimutaka incline, which is a 6 miles off road path, avoiding the busy SH2 into Wellington. There is a 2 km single track, a bit tricky with loaded bikes, before following an easy track to the Summit, where there is a fabulous camping spot. The track follows an old railway line, which linked Wellington to Masterton plain on the other side of the Rimutaka mountain range. The incline was famous for its steepness (1 in 15 or 6.5%) and the train had a special horizontal grip to keep them on the track. The line is now disused as modern techniques allowed an 8 km long tunnel to be dug at the the bottom of the mountain.

 

(both above) The narrow, twisting single track eventually gave way to the lovely wide Rimutaka incline - much better suited to fully loaded touring bikes

 
 

A passage through the Rimutaka incline known as Siberia - where an old embankment has been washed away. Terry received a suitably icy reception for only lending a hand with his big zoom lens.

 

The lovely quiet campsite at the summit of the Rimutaka incline

5th February 2006 - Summit of Rimutaka inline to Wellington - 62 km

All downhill to Wellington, but we had forgotten that Wellington is also know as "Windy Welly". So the day was a bit harder than expected. We gave up trying to follow the cycle path on the left hand-side of the river Hutt as there were far too many cumbersome gates to pass. Just before climbing the 250m hill to our friends Simon and Louise's house (a potential killer at the end of the day), we had a beautiful view on Wellington and the massive harbour from the side of SH2. It simply looked amazing.

 

 
 

6th to 9th February 2006 - Chilling out and mending the bikes in Wellington

Much maintenance is needed on our bikes (see our maintenance page). and we are taking advantage of the excellent bike shops selection of Wellington as well as Simon and Louise's hospitality to sort them out.

Wellington is a very pretty and very relaxing capital. The setting is ideal with beaches and plenty of walking/cycling tracks in the hills. And obviously, there is plenty to visit, like the big Te Papa museum which kept us entertained for a few hours with its varied exhibits and its earthquake isolators.

Simon, Terry and Isa at the top of Mount Victoria overlooking Wellington Harbour

 

Simon, Louise, Robert and Terry waiting for the music to start for the Waitangi day celebrations

 

 
 

Please follow this link for our continuing journey to the South Island of New Zealand

 
         

 
For more information or questions please contact us at isaetterry@mac.com