New Zealand: Northland & Rotorua
Aug. 18 to Sept. 8, 2001

Michael J. Ferguson
Montréal

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index

Contents

1  Christchurch to Wellington, Sat. Aug. 18
2  Wellington to Auckland, Sun. Aug. 19
3  Devonport to Orewa, Mon. Aug. 20
4  Orewa to Warkworth, Tues. Aug. 21
5  Warkworth to Brynderwyn, Wed. Aug. 22
6  Brynderwyn to Dargaville, Thurs. Aug. 23
7  Dargaville to Kaihu, Fri. Aug. 24
8  Kaihu Farm Backpackers to Waipoua Forest, Sat. Aug. 25
9  Waipoua Forest Reserve to Hokianga Harbour, Sun. Aug. 26
10  Tree House, Hokianga Harbour to Herekino, Mon. Aug. 27
11  Herekino to Kaitaia, Tues. Aug. 28
12  Kaitaia to Kahoe Farm Hostel, Wed. Aug. 29
13  Kahoe to Paihia, Thurs. Aug. 30
14  Paihia, Fri. Aug. 31
15  Paihia to Kamo, Sat. Sept. 1
16  Kamo to Auckland, Sun. Sept. 2
17  Auckland to Rotorua, Mon. Sep. 3
18  Rotorua, Tues., Sept. 4
19  Rotorua, Wed. Sept. 5
20  Rotorua, Thurs. Sept. 6
21  Auckland, Fri., Sept. 7
22  Wellington, Sat. Sept. 8
23  Random Comments
24  Maps
This is first major bicycle trip in New Zealand, three weeks in the North Island. This is the Univ. of Canterbury's "Spring Break", during the two weeks before the beginning of spring. Spring, in New Zealand starts, by legislative decree, Sept. 1.
I will take the train from Christchurch to Auckland, with an overnight in Wellington, go north, to the Kaitaia, at the entry of Cape Reinga ("If you go to the northern tip, take a bus!" has been the admonition), then down through the Bay of Islands, back to Auckland. From there I had hoped to go to the Coromandel and Rotorua. The Northland was much harder riding than I had expected, and that, along with a few slowdown incidents, resulted in me taking the train from Auckland to Rotorua and back.

1  Christchurch to Wellington, Sat. Aug. 18

The service to Wellington starts at 7:30am sunrise, meets up with the 1:30pm ferry from Picton to Wellington, and arrives in Wellington at about 4:30pm. I lifted my bike, with some help, up the 3 feet into a section of the open observation car for bicycles. The ride was quite pleasant, starting out through the Canterbury plains, beside the snowy Kaikoura Mountains (announced as 9000', not 2800m - New Zealand is totally metric, except for birth announcements), and up the coast to Picton.
I rolled my bike on to the ferry, with two distressed dogs about to be incarcerated for the journey, for a pleasant, but cloudy, and drizzly trip through the Marlborough Sounds.
Wellington was overcast, occasional drizzle, so after a short ride around town, I had steak burger with salad, where the salad was the dressing in the burger. I am staying at the exceptionally convenient Downtown Backpackers just across from the station. There was no dismay here when I wheeled my bike up to my room. I dropped down to the bar for a couple of handles (pints of beer), and now will be able to have a free handle when I come back.

2  Wellington to Auckland, Sun. Aug. 19

Much to my surprise, and delight, it was bright and sunny as I left Wellington. After a couple of tunnels, we were going up the west coast, where, we were assured by the conductor/tour guide, that we could see, under appropriate circumstances, all the way to the Marlborough Sounds on the South Island. The entire trip was through rolling, and almost continually grassy soft hills. The highlight of the trip was Mt. Ruapehu, 2751m (9300'), the North Island's highest mountain. Its summit was playing with the clouds. The conductor was sure that if he had brought his camera, the summit would have reverted to its normal hiding place under the clouds. I had my camera, but he wouldn't stop the train so I could get a decent picture. This was through the window:
For 9 of the 11 hours, I learned about the old railway towns, and an early railway track control protocol failure. The engineer had to pick up a token on the side of the track before he could enter track section and leave it at the other end. Lyn, a bio-statistician who was brought up in Wellington but is currently living in Australia, was on one of these trains when the engineer lost the token on the way to the train. Lyn, and all the other passengers, had to go searching in a field for it so the train could enter the next section. I don't think they found it.
I arrived in Auckland in light drizzle, and decided that I didn't really want to put my tent up in the rain. The big Auckland Central Backpackers did not have any single rooms - a fire in a nearby Backpackers filled them almost to capacity. The Georgia Parkside Backpackers, where I could have put my tent up in the rain, did not answer their doorbell so I went back down the hill, and finally found a single in the Central Backpackers. Supper was a Doner Kebab, the first good one that I have had since Germany.

3  Devonport to Orewa, Mon. Aug. 20

Again I was surprised by sun, but just as I got confident and started out without my Gore-Tex jacket, a passing cloud dumped its load. This on/off behaviour, with the jacket and the rain continued all day.
Against the advice of "Forget it!" for riding out of Auckland, I took the ferry across the harbour to Devonport to ride out of Auckland.
Mount Victoria in Devonport, from which there are magnificent views of Auckland looked like a small fortified gun emplacement. I rode around it, and up the East Coast Road that bypassed the busy SH1. It ran through very tiring, hilly suburbia for about 20km, where it started to run parallel to the new SH1 motorway. The motorway went up the valley and we went up and down the parallel ridges, with a crosswind that was so strong that the ducks could only fly perpendicular to it.
At Silverdale, I had to join the ordinary SH1. I had hoped that the parallel motorway would reduce the traffic to a trickle but no such luck. The hill through Silverdale was too much for my energy depleted body, so I went around on Silverdale's 100m main street. From Hilltop it was mostly downhill until I found a Holiday Park at Orewa.
My tent site is overlooking the ocean, and just as I almost finished putting it up, another shower hit. This time I was rewarded with a complete half-circle rainbow, that I enjoyed looking out my front door.
I shouldn't have be exhausted, but I was. It was only a 35km/790m day but it was more than enough.

4  Orewa to Warkworth, Tues. Aug. 21

Sunrise was a glowing red ball that slowly surfaced. The rest of the day was sunny with the occasional drenching shower from a passing cloud - but I was never certain it was really just passing.
I was told that the North Island was bumpy and indeed it is. The first bump out of Orewa required two rest and water stops - this was even after having a complete? breakfast Orewa. However, there was an overlook.
It may have been bumpy, but it was still farm country. It is early by western standards, still the middle of winter, but it is lambing time in both islands.
This is also cattle country, with some Arum, an endemic wild flower, that is sometimes considered a weed.
The highway goes over and around ridges like these at Waiwera. Fortunately, there are bridges over the water.
Going up one bump, I felt a wobble in the rear wheel and noticed a spoke missing. I stopped at a U-turn in the road to make repairs. As I was trying to remove the screw-on freewheel gears from the rear wheel, a second spoke popped out of the rim, nipple and all. Now it was not fixable! After reducing the warp to make it semi-rideable, I started back up. After 10m, 4 more spokes popped - I was dead in the water.
The Police cruiser was too small to help, but the third passing van, with 4 kids did. I was able to fold my bike sufficiently to stuff it, and all my gear inside, and we went to the Music and Bike Shop in Warkworth, the next town. He only had a steel wheel, with inferior spokes, that would fit my tire. He worked very hard on it, adjusting the brakes, and gears. However, just after I started, I felt the brakes rubbing. Sheepsworld 4km up the hill from Warkworth was my stop for the night. After only 25km and 750m, I am exhausted - will I ever get into shape?

5  Warkworth to Brynderwyn, Wed. Aug. 22

This morning I will work on the brakes and gears. I still have 45km and 800m of bumps - also mentioned in Lonely Planet before I get to the beginning of Lonely Planet's Northland ride.
The day started with a punishing climb to the top of the Dome Valley pass. Then it was down through my first semi-tropical forest.
Logging in New Zealand has become tree farming, with fields clear cut for harvesting, and new fields planted in neat rows of trees. the forest pictures in the journal, have many instances of these fields of trees.
After about 15km, the countryside became more subdued and gentle. Although gentle, the bumps were still noticeable.
This was still agricultural, with deer farming
and a poor lamb that managed to get on the wrong side of the fence.
At about 4:30pm, I arrived in Brynderwyn. Brynderwyn consists of a gas station, cafe, and motel. Lonely Planet does not suggest that there might be someplace down the day-one road to stay so I opted for the motel. Just after I arrived, a passing cloud decided to dump a deluge of rain. I was quite happy I was not in the middle of it. Today: 45km and 800m.

6  Brynderwyn to Dargaville, Thurs. Aug. 23

Today I finally start on Lonely Planet's Northland circuit. The first day is 72km to Dargaville with several 1.5km moderate climbs. My first climb ended at Maungaturoto where I had bacon and eggs, and much to my surprise, no toast with them. Although the day started out cloudy, it brightened up later, but not looking back at Brynderwyn.
The highlight of the day was the Kauri Museum, Matakohe. Kauris were valuable for their strong, flexible, and beautiful wood, and also for their gum, that was used for many things such as varnish or chewing gum. The gum seeped into the ground beneath the roots and spawned a complete industry of gum diggers. The virgin forests were thousands of years old, but dead swamp kauris, trees buried for 50,000 years were also harvested for their wood. The original kauri forests were decimated for their wood, originally used in boat building, by the Maoris and Europeans, then by land clearing for agriculture, and were almost completely gone by about 1930.
It was hilly and green with rounded hills until I reached the dead flat river valley run of about 30km to Dargaville. Here the wind replaced the hills as the challenge. Although the road was flat, it did wind around some hills as it went up by the river.
I arrived in Dargaville just after sunset at about 6:00pm. I had ridden for a total of 7 hours in the saddle, covered 75km and 700m. Lonely Planet rated this at a 3.5 to 5 hour ride.

7  Dargaville to Kaihu, Fri. Aug. 24

It was bright and sunny for a few hours after an early morning downpour. The tent came down, and I was leaving just as the back rack on the bike broke - a moderate inconvenience. Dargaville has two bicycle shops, one as a small part of a sporting goods store and the other as an appendage to a motorcycle store. Fortunately, the second had a heavy duty rear rack - especially ordered for paper carriers.
I went back to the Selwyn Park campground, and as I was assembling, the heavens opened up - so much for a nice day. By the time I had finished, the storm blew out and the sun returned, and I was finally able to leave by about 11:30am.
Today was to be a day of serious hills, including the toughest on the Northland Tour. That hill is a 3km, steep climb, about 30kms from Dargaville. The countryside was hilly and pastoral, with very strong winds (40km+ according to the forecast) and the occasional shower. The striking image of the day was the peaceful coexistence of black and white.
It was very slow going, and I knew I would not be able to tackle the 3km steep hill today. I stopped at Nelsons Kauri Workshop in Kaihu, to see the woodwork and to ask if there was any place to stay in Kaihu. A young English couple, asked if I was the bicyclist they had passed and where I was going. I replied that I was looking for a place to stay. They offered to drive me up the hill to a Holiday Park where they were going to stay. This Holiday Park was, unfortunately, on a side road before the hill. They turned around, and drove me up the hill to the Kaihu Farm Backpackers. It is indeed, as Lonely Planet says, at the top of the hill, but it has an absolutely intimidating road down the cliff to reach it.
However, I am over the hill, and have been assured by Trish, the hostess, of help to get my gear up to the road, in the morning.

8  Kaihu Farm Backpackers to Waipoua Forest, Sat. Aug. 25

It started out bright and sunny, after a pre-dawn thunderstorm, but it was not to last. I had only gone about 5km when a heavy black cloud dumped its insides on me. I scrambled to put on my Gore-Tex jacket, my bike fell over and broke its new kickstand. I got quite soaked. The storm clouds gathered all around.
Between deluges, I managed to get my rain pants on, but that did not prevent my being quite wet.
At about noon, I arrived at the Waipoua Forest Reserve visitor centre. This reserve protects the last remaining native kauri forest in New Zealand. The kauri here was logged during WW2 for ship building timber but was saved in 1952 to become a national park. It is currently illegal to log kauri anywhere in New Zealand. All kauri for woodworking comes from swamp kauri, buried in the swamps for 5000 to 50000 years, but there is fear that resource will also disappear with improved sensing methods.
I was able to get a backpackers cabin and spent the early afternoon bird watching and finally seeing my first live warm-blooded wild land animal - a pair of rabbits. Rabbits became a scourge, so weasels, ferrets, and stoats were introduced to keep them under control. Now all four are quite a nuisance. I have also seen a large number of another nuisance, Australian Bushy Tailed Possums. Possums are as slow of foot here as they are in North America.
Possums are destroying the native forests and in the mind of the Dept. of Conservation, "The only good possum is a dead possum."
I wanted to ride up to see some of the Heritage Kauris, but every time it had been sunny long enough to give me confidence, a rain cloud passed. I finally did leave at about 3:30pm and was about 1/2 way up the 10km hill, when it started to rain again. I continued, but arrived too late at the trail head to the Te Matua Ngahere (The Father of the Forest) and the Four Sisters. The shortest walk was a 20min to the Four Sisters, but that meant that I would probably have to ride back to the campground in the dark. Just as I decided to take my bike down the trail, it started to rain again. I gave up and rode back.
Tomorrow I go back the same way, but will probably stop to see only the 1200/2000 year old Tane Mahuta, the largest kauri in New Zealand, the world, really.

9  Waipoua Forest Reserve to Hokianga Harbour, Sun. Aug. 26

It is and has been raining ... but I don't need to take down the tent. The day starts with a 7.3km gentle climb. Lonely Planet has gentle, moderate, and steep climbs. This gentle climb was about 5%. I can handle it with occasional rest/water/refueling stops. The moderate climb requires frequent stops, and my first steep climb, Pakia Hill, later in the day, reduced me to pushing.
The 350m climb was through deep kauri forests.
Although Waipoua is a forest preserve, some trees are saved,
and some are not.
The God of the Forest, Tane Mahuta is one that was saved. It is 51m high and about 4m in diameter.
The summit, Wairau, was at 387m opening up the a beautiful green Waimamaku Valley on the other side.
As I approached the coast, the heavy cloudy showers were replaced by almost clear skies. Back in the mountains, it was still raining. Over the steep Pakia Hill push, was Hokianga Harbour.
From here it was a pleasant 25km ride, mostly flat, with the wind at my back, to Rawene. There were a couple of moderate climbs, and unfortunately, I went far enough inland to pick up the rain again. After a ferry ride across the harbour, I found the highly recommended Tree House Backpackers.
I arrived to find Pauline, the manager, out feeding her ducks.
She showed me the bus where I would be staying, introduced me to 200 kilo Piglet, who was sharing the same paddock. After the complete tour, I went back to get my bike that I had leaned against the outside of the paddock fence discovered that Piglet was ripping apart my food bag. He had torn open the wheel bag on the back of the bike and was munching on my salami and pasta. The wheel bag's carrying capabilities were now severely compromised - it was quite useless.
Pauline was aghast - That has never happened before! It was especially distressing because Piglet was only a guest, being kept for a friend in Auckland. Pauline replaced my salami, pasta, and tea, which will be sufficient to get me to the next supermarket. I am leaving the wheel bag with her to be repaired or replaced and sent to me in Christchurch. I do have a second bag with me that I brought in case I had to unload my bike to put it on the train. This means that I am not dead in the water.
Today it was 60km and 1050m.

10  Tree House, Hokianga Harbour to Herekino, Mon. Aug. 27

It is sunny, but I don't trust it. Just as I was deciding to trust it, a shower hit. It did clear a bit and I went to say goodbye to Piglet at home.
Pauline's turkeys? and ducks also got a goodbye.
This is orange country and I stopped to pick up a couple of the oranges that had fallen from the trees in the driveway. I put on full rain gear after about 2km. About 3km beyond the ferry dock is the beautifully preserved town of Kohukohu. I don't think Lonely Planet had this preservation in mind.
From Kohukohu, I continued along Hokianga Harbour for a while until turning west towards Broadwood. This was very pleasant, and occasionally surprising hilly countryside.
Just before I arrived, I saw another sign of spring.
One of the parents was quite forward.
It was clear that I would not be able to reach Kaitaia today, and the last place to stay, according to my bicycling guide was Broadwood. The only B&B here said No Vacancy which really meant that they were shut down. With no choice, I continued. It was a pleasantly exhausting ride until I arrived in Herekino at about 5:00pm - it would be dark in less than an hour. At the turn in Herekino, I saw a sign for camping at the Tui Inn. There was a steep climb for about 1km but I made it ... my second steep climb without pushing. As usual in this type of advertising, the distance was understated - it was almost 1.5km. The Tui Inn was a sign with no indication of any life. The Inn is a small house with blankets spread over the front lawn - no sign of any commercial life. It was the right place. I raised a kid on a neighbouring property who indicate that I had indeed come to the right place. It was adequate for tents, but the main house did not have any electricity - the gas did work so I was able to have a hot shower.
I didn't make it to Kaitaia, but it was still 50km and 800m.

11  Herekino to Kaitaia, Tues. Aug. 28

The kid's father came by in the morning as I was leaving, making the comment that I went to bed very early. (Indeed true, I don't have much light with me, and there was no light in the main building. I paid my $6 fee and left for the 25km to Kaitaia. It was a beautiful, misty morning.
The ride to Kaitaia was uneventful, and I was even able to ride up the Herekino Gorge steep climb again without pushing - not all steep climbs are equal.
I arrived Kaitaia just before noon and spent the sunny afternoon drying out my clothes and doing other mundane tasks. It seemed a shame to waste my first completely sunny day doing laundry.
The two days from the Tree House was 78km and 1163m.

12  Kaitaia to Kahoe Farm Hostel, Wed. Aug. 29

Today I got completely soaked - there was a precursor shower while I was discussing my rain gear with Peter, the owner of the Main Street Backpackers where I was staying, followed by a day of cloud, wind, and rain coming down at 45. I arrived at the Kahoe Farm Hostel in the mid afternoon with my Gore-Tex jacket and pants totally drenched, inside and out. The bottom of my Polartec, inside jacket was also sopping. I think the rain might have snuck its way up the sleeves and bottom of my Gore-Tex jacket. It is experiences like this that make me wonder whether I would be any wetter in a non-breathable jacket.
It was a relief to arrive at the Kahoe Farm Backpackers hostel, have a shower, and get dry. Stephano put my clothes through the dryer they had at their house - the smaller hostels have washers but seldom have dryers. Stephano, from the Piedmont, and Lindsay, a 5the generation Kiwi, own the 2000 acre farm which has the hostel. He is famous for his Italian cooking and bread so I had his excellent homemade pasta for dinner. Meals at small hostels are also unusual.
Although there was driving rain for the entire day, it was actually quite pleasant on those few occasions where I was protected from the wind and the rain became a shower. The road ran by the beaches of Doubtless Bay - the prettiest one being the first, Taipa, followed by Cable Bay. The headlands were soft and green, but still a challenge. My accomplishment of the day was riding up the steep climbs without pushing. However, I think Pakia Hill, the site of my first failure was steeper than anything else I have so far seen.
Today was 60km, 779m, and 5.5 hours of actual riding.

13  Kahoe to Paihia, Thurs. Aug. 30

My bedroom was a small, delightful, sun porch, and I was greeted by a bright sunny day - what a delight.
It was indeed still bright and sunny when I left but there were clouds sticking to the tops of the hills behind the toetoe grass (similar to "pampas grass") and cabbage trees that commonly line the roads.
Janet's Texas Diner, about 12km into the day was shut til labour day, here in October, so I had to miss a Texas Breakfast. Today also introduced the hard climb category to go along with the other three, gentle, moderate, and steep that I had also experienced. This hard climb was 6.5km. It had some short, 500m or so steep sections, was continuously up for about 3.5km, had a 1.5km? gradual? down section in the middle and finished with a 1.0km? moderately steep section at the end. It was also during this climb that the rain came back, and lasted, mostly lightly but occasionally heavy, for the rest of the day.
I stopped to talk to a man who was selectively chopping out 2.5m high trees from the road bank. I asked him if they were weeds. Indeed they were, Australian Tobacco Weed, with berries that the seed-spreading birds love. Invasive plants seem to be a problem here. I saw several signs for
I arrived at Paihia at about 5:30pm, in the rain. This will be another backpackers night - the campgrounds are too far away. My first two choices were full, but I did find a single room at the Centabay Lodge. It is on Selwyn St. in the heart of Paihia. One nice thing about backpackers is that the kitchen is a gathering spot. Here the main kitchen also had a small lounge, with a very fragrant fire. Unfortunately, there was a good movie, The Insider, on the television, so there was minimal conversation.
Today was 61km and 834m.

14  Paihia, Fri. Aug. 31

Today is a layover day of exploration. Paihia is the centre of the Bay of Islands, a very important historical and tourist area of New Zealand. Just 2km north is Waitangi where the Maori/British Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Russell, just across the inlet, was the site of the first permanent European settlement. Russell was also the first capital of New Zealand, but it was not this Russell. The capital Russell, which completely burned down, was located about 10km south in Okiato.
I started in Waitangi. Probably the most unusual part of Waitangi is that the land, 546 hectares, was bought, out of personal funds, by Governor General Lord Bledisloe, and given to New Zealand. It is a thoroughly delightful place, with walkways through indigenous New Zealand forest,
and magnificent views of the Paihia/Russell inlet in the Bay of Islands
There are also three war canoes, specially built from huge kauri trees, to mark the centenary of the treaty signing.
The historical centre of the Reserve is the Treaty House and the Whare Runanga and marae, a specially built (1940) Maori Meeting House to mark the centenary of the treaty. This is a Meeting House with No Name because it was to symbolise both the treaty between the all the Maori tribes and the British, and also the implicit treaty between the Maori tribes.
Yesterday there was a conference in Paihia on the treaty. Three of the delegates were visiting the Reserve while I was there. One had just written his PhD thesis, an historical recreation of the context of, and the events during the signing. His contention was that James Busby, a Scot and the British Representative, had transformed his house, into the British Meeting House and Marae to give it the cultural significance necessary to allow the, then warring chiefs, to come together to discuss such momentous events. A second contention, was that the Declaration of Independence by the "Confederated and Independent Chiefs" which is part of the treaty, something totally foreign to British dealings with colonials, was an inspiration of Busby based on the Scottish approach of dealing with England.
I also discussed some of the differences that I had noticed in the Maori and Hawaiian language and culture with some of the Maori guides. Although the Maori tapu was rigid, it did not appear to have the death penalty for as many trivial offences, such as your shadow falling on the ground of an alii (a word unknown in Maori), as the Hawaiian kapu system. There were no Cities of Refuge for the Maori, but rather a cleansing ritual by a tohunga (kahuna - Hawaiian). Tohunga is pronounced more like tohunha.
After Waitangi, I took the ferry over to Russell. Russell is, like most New Zealand towns, wedged between cliffs and forced to climb hills.
I rode up a very steep climb to the Flagstaff National Reserve where you could see right down the Paihia/Russell inlet and out into the Bay of Islands.
It was a delightful sunny day, only marred by an over abundance of black flies or, as they are called here sand flies. The hostel hostess noticed that I had been attacked, and remarked that she had to put on repellent today while walking on the mall.

15  Paihia to Kamo, Sat. Sept. 1

It rained again during the night but was fine, when I left at about 9:30am, being delayed while the dryer did its thing on my wet jackets that hadn't dried in the day of sunshine.
Paihia is built, as usual, between two headlands and the first, almost immediate climb, the Lonely Planet warning for today, was over the southern one. There were, of course, several more.
After, 16km, just outside Kawakawa, the drops marring this fine day became more insistent. I stopped under a tree, and put on my jacket - I will let my pants get wet. A girl, walking on the other side, muttered to her friend "My socks are getting wet!" - mine were wet.
When I got into the centre of town and had parked my bike, it really started. "This is terrible!" was the comment on the street. Kawakawa calls itself the Railway Town, and has the warning Watch for trains! on the dead track that runs through the centre of the main street which is also SH1.
I need to replace my kickstand - a new one that I bought in Dargaville lasted less than a day. I was unsuccessful in Kaitaia and this was my first chance since then. I failed again. I also am trying to repair a second, very different equipment failure. I had to buy a new pair of bicycle shoes in Christchurch, and now my toes become numb after about an hour of continuous riding. I have been experimenting to find a cure but am still not successful. My latest effort was with a new pair of socks that I was able to buy at a small shop, just before all retail business stopped for the Saturday afternoon holiday.
The storm had effectively stopped by the time I left town, and it looked as though it might even clear. However, about an hour after taking off my rain jacket, I wondered whether this would get me.
It did, and stayed around for several more hours. There were very few places to stay before Whangarei, and I contemplated stopping several times. The first was too early and the second was full. I continued and arrived the Kamo Holiday Park, in 10km outside the centre of Whangarei, but inside its city limits sign, just after dark. I was able to get their Backpackers Cabin with 6 beds all to myself.
Today's 65km and 953m, reminded me of riding in Ireland - the green, the mist, and the hills, although here they are more like a continual litany of ridges.
This is the end of the Lonely Planet's Northland Tour. Since I started in Auckland, I have covered 600km and climbed 8300m.

16  Kamo to Auckland, Sun. Sept. 2

It wasn't raining when I arrived last night, but has been continually heavy rain and wind, most of the night - not ideal camping weather.
I started out in the rain - a first since I began this tour. I am not the only one distressed by all this rain.
I stopped in Whangarei to reprovision and started out again, in the rain. As I was going up a hill out of town I thought, "Why am I doing this?". I turned around and went back into town to find the bus station. At 2:15pm I got on the bus, after removing the front wheel of my bike, and started to Auckland. About 50km south of Whangarei the sun started shining and was still shining when I arrived in Auckland. Janna, a 14 year old girl, in the seat in front of me, was returning to school from a weekend at home, and still had her sense of wonder at the beautiful countryside.
This time Georgia Parkside Backpackers was open but, no matter what the books said, did not do tents. They did have a single, rather tiny, that I took.

17  Auckland to Rotorua, Mon. Sep. 3

Again I am staying in Auckland less than a day. Last night I made a reservation on the Geyserland and left for Rotorua at 8:15am, arriving, again a little late, at 12:45pm. Rotorua is, and has been since about 1880, the most important tourist destination in New Zealand. In 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted and destroyed Rotorua's main tourist attraction, a set of terraced, red silica pools. Rotorua redefined itself as a spa and healing destination and continued to be increasing popular. There is no question that tourism is Rotorua's key business. All roads entering town, except Fairy Springs Road, are wall to wall motel. Fairy Springs Road is a commercial strip right out of California.
I am staying here three days and will be camped in the Rotorua Top 10 Holiday Park (formerly Acacia Park). I will have the luxury of touring on an empty bike. Even my empty bike, with its tools and water is considered heavy by some, weighing about 30 kilos.
I visited Whakarewarewa Thermal Village this afternoon. It is a residential tourist village built around steam vents.
When I mentioned to a guide that it reminded me of Beppu, Japan, he said "Funny you should say that. Beppu is Rotorua's sister city.". The centre of thermal activity in the village is the Boiling Lake.
Apparently, the main attraction here, the Pohutu Geyser is draining Boiling Lake, so much so that the Hirere Steam Baths were closed because of a lack of water.

18  Rotorua, Tues., Sept. 4

I left at about 8:15am to ride the 30km south to see the 10:15am performance of the Lady Knox Geyser. She is always on time because soap is used to induce her to blow. It was obvious after 20km that I was not going to make it.
For some stupid reason, I imagined that it would be mostly flat on this volcanic plateau. Although I didn't have any excessive strain getting up the hills with my empty bike, it was slow. Even on the flat, I find the New Zealand gravel/composition roads hard pedaling. These roads are so tough on tires that the tire manufacturers create specially formulated rubber just for New Zealand.
I turned off the busy SH5 to the deserted side road that leads to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This road delightfully wandered, up and down, through New Zealand's farmland of soft green hills. Whenever I pass a herd of cows, they invariably stop eating, and start staring.
Deer are a little more wary. They stare, but gather together, and are poised to retreat.
The Waimangu Volcanic Valley offers an $18(NZ) walking tour and/or a $22(NZ) boat tour of the Lake Rotomahana that was created when Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886. In fact, all volcanic activity in the valley dates from that eruption. This is a walk through new (since the eruption) woods, past hot and cold lakes, down a bubbling hot creek that you can test for its therapeutic properties (about the temperature of a very hot bath), and past newly formed terraces.
Frying Pan Lake is the source of the Hot Water Creek and appears to be the main source of water in the valley, although there are numerous hot springs along the length of the creek.
Just above Frying Pan Lake is Inferno Crater Lake. It periodically overflows, sending almost boiling water down into Hot Water Creek, killing all the green algae in its path.
Bird's Nest Terrace, which is fed by its own hot water spring, is the first of three major terraces in the valley.
The Marble Terraces and Buttresses is the second, and largest ones in the valley. The buttresses made them the most impressive terraces of the trip.
The final terrace was the Warbrick Terrace, an example of a baby that is still growing.
Lake Rotomahana, with Mount Tarawera on the other side, was at the end of the walk.
I walked back up to the visitor centre rather than wait the 1/2 hour for the next shuttle bus.
My next stop was Wai-o-Tapu which bills itself as the New Zealand's most colourful thermal area. It starts out with some small craters,
Its centre piece is the Artists' Palette
The Primrose Terraces are claimed to be the largest in the world. However, without the buttresses, it looks more like a limestone spillway.
Wai-o-Tapu also has its own Bridal Veil Falls
Frying Pan Flat has a few interesting features
At the outlet of Frying Pan Flat is Lake Ngakoro and Falls
The green is characteristic of many of the thermal lakes. I don't know its origin.
It was almost 4:30 when I finished the walks. It was clear that I could not make it back to Rotorua before dark, and possibly before the major storm that was being predicted for the afternoon. My first attempt to get a lift failed because the couple were going to Taupo rather than Rotorua. However, Mark, a landscape contractor turned security specialist, who was installing new locks and security windows at the visitor centre, agreed to drive me back.

19  Rotorua, Wed. Sept. 5

The storm arrived in full fury during the night. My poor tent was buffeted and drenched. There was no leakage in the roof, but the floor, and the lower walls were not up to the task. There are puddles around the walls, but most of the gear is essentially dry. My neighbours, a young couple from Israel, were not so lucky. I met them in the laundry trying to dry out their sleeping bags in the dryer, and then later, in town, buying some dry socks.
The rain diminished to an occasional sprinkle, and the sky actually had patches of sun. I was told that the current forecast called for it to clear by the afternoon, but, given the reliability of New Zealand forecasts, I decided to stick around town. Yesterday's forecast said it would stick around until the end of the weekend. I found some foam at Para Rubber and Pool shop, and made some more insoles for my shoes. The foam seems to be a little too thick so I will go back tomorrow and get some that I think may be a little too thin - but that is experimental science?
The sun did stay out in the afternoon so I went to the The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute - Guardian of the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley, adjacent to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village that I visited on Monday. I really went to see the brown kiwis. There is a male and female in two separate enclosures, and after several minutes, my eyes accommodated and I could actually see them. The male was asleep, but the female came from the back of the enclosure to poke for grubs and worms, and occasionally poked the front window. She was energetic, and even though no more than a metre away, it was difficult to see her face - it was always in motion. The male woke up, spent several minutes preening his feathers, and then went back to sleep. In the wild, the female is so exhausted from laying the eggs, that the male gets to incubate them for about 65 days. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 10 or 15 minutes (several other groups of people came and went while I was there).
The volcanic activity is centered in mud pools, geysers, and fumeroles. The mud pools bubbled and created villages from alien worlds.
Not all pools were muddy. The most interesting pool for me was the Ngararatuatara (Cooking Pool). It may not look the case, but the water is crystal clear - look at the overflow.
The fumeroles created rising plumes in the forest.
From a few places you could see the Thermal Village.
The main feature of the volcanic activity are the geysers. The geyser platform has several geysers, the most famous being the Pohutu.
The geyser platform really is a platform
Not all the geysers are active. The Waikite Geyser has been sleeping since 1963. Apparently it is showing signs of waking up again since the imposition of a restriction of geothermal use within a 3km radius of the reserve.
Turning off the geysers would be an equivalent tourist disaster to the Mount Tarawera eruption.
The main attraction of the The New Zealand Maori Arts & Crafts Institute, may be the volcanic activity, but there is a Maori cultural theme too. Kanga is a recreated, pre-European, Maori village.
The doors to the huts were only about 5' high - current Maoris are usually over 6'. In addition, to the village, there is the Rotowhio Marae, and the Te Aronui-a-Rua, (House of Learning) for concerts and dances.
This is an unfortified Marae. The fortified pa, or town, was on this hill - I wonder what they did for water?

20  Rotorua, Thurs. Sept. 6

The storm has definitely passed. The sun rose, bright, with the creation of joy and delight to myself, and two other groups of campers - the first time I have shared camping on this trip. The girls, from Oakland, Calif., said they were prepared for rain but overjoyed with the sun and improvement of their first couple of days in New Zealand. One slept in a bivouac sack and the other in a one-man tent so I am not sure how prepared they really were for rain at night.
The Geyserland leaves for Auckland at 1:00pm so I was able to leisurely break camp, in the sun. I left at just after 10:00am to get some thinner foam from Para Rubber. The new insoles seem much better but still need a day of riding.
Kuirau Park is a thermally active municipal park. I rode through it on the way to the station.
There are signs all over Danger - Thermally Active. Sometimes there are real surprises.
The Geyserland arrived and left on time, and even arrived on time in Auckland - my first on time arrival. Again, it was a beautiful trip, with some worrisome showers just before arrival in Auckland.
It was nice, just overcast, as I rode the 96m up the hill to the Georgia Parkside Backpackers. I went down the hill for dinner, on a completely empty bike, and stopped at the Kanjima Korean Diner for Korean Beef Barbecue. It was not the grill it yourself variety, but it was quite good. The side dishes were vegetables such as kim chee, marinated beansprouts, and seaweed, and unknown kim chee spiced jelly cubes. I haven't had kim chee for a while and it was a nice change. The beef had been stir-boiled, or possibly stir-fried, and came on an iron hot-plate, with its own broth and vegetables. I was the only haole (pakeha) in the place. A party was in progress in the back room and the entire management and kitchen staff came out and had their dinner with me.
After dinner, I easily rode back up the hill., said hello to the two resident cats,
and discussed the problems of corruption, language, and government, with a visiting Nigerian physiology professor, and a girl from Auckland.

21  Auckland, Fri., Sept. 7

I went down the hill in the early morning sun to catch the Overlander to Wellington. The sun did not last, and the rest of the day was spent in low-lying cloud and occasional rain. I discovered, because I was on the last car, that the Overlander has a small lounge at the end of the train that allows views on both sides and down the track behind the train. It was a largely uneventful ride, with no mountain tops, and often no mountains, and no snow. I did swap travel stories with a girl that had spent the last three years traveling in Europe and South America.
At Wellington, Tranzrail dropped my bike from the baggage car to the platform, on its back wheel, and broke a rear spoke. The broken spoke was evident because the brakes were rubbing as I pushed it across the street to the Downtown Backpackers. In my room, I tried to remove the freewheel - rear sprocket, 6 more spokes broke, and the wheel resembled a pretzel. I push so hard going up hills, that the screw-on freewheel tightens beyond any possibility of gracefully getting it off. It was clear that I was not going to ride any more.

22  Wellington, Sat. Sept. 8

I folded my bike, packed into its body bag, and hauled it across the street to the railway station to catch the free shuttle bus to the ferry. At the InterIslander ferry dock, I tried to get a refund on my bike tickets, but settled for the $20 bike charge instead of a $60 overweight baggage charge.
Today is supposed to be sunny all over the South Island, and it certainly started out that way. The InterIslander is a great way to see that Wellington is hills instead of obtaining firsthand knowledge by riding up them.
The rocks at the harbour entrance have been responsible for sinking many ships, including the Wahine in the 1950s and a year or so ago, the sail boat of friends of a Wellingtonian that was filming them.
After the short crossing of the Cook Strait, the sail is through the Marlborough Sounds. It is considerably prettier in the sun than the overcast drizzle of my first crossing.
Our entertainment for the trip were some red-billed gulls matching our speed until a gust of wind was too much.
Picton was a sunny warm delight, with enough time to have a delicious sandwich, stuffed with an abundant salad and a steak, at Le Cafe. This steak sandwich made the steak burger I had in Wellington appear definitely low class.
The South Island was not completely sunny, but it was, and had been all day in Christchurch, according to Krys, who came to meet me at the station and haul my overweight backpack to my apartment.

23  Random Comments

24  Maps

In addition to the maps below, this is a link to the Google Earth Map of the ride.



File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.64.
On 15 Nov 2006, 07:16.