wind, hills and magpies
28.10.2010 - 31.10.2010 15 °C
One of the few things that was certain at the start of this trip was that we would be cycling round the east cape. Every time we mentioned this to anyone we could find to bore about our cycling plans it was unequivocally met with cries of how spectacular everything beyond Opotiki is - and how perfect it is for cyclists: rugged and wild with hidden rocky coves and plunge pools, white sandy beaches that go on for kilometres in areas completely unpopulated by people. We were chomping at the bit to leave Whakatane after our day off the bikes and head into the Maori heartland.
Our first couple of days certainly didn't disappoint. The weather was perfect as we picked our way through settlements that were fewer and further between with scenery that was unspeakably beautiful. As the villages were quite spaced out - many without shops, cafes or any other sources of food we had to ration the number of times we could stop to admire the view to make sure it didn't get to lunchtime with 30km to the next place selling a snickers bar (Rob's new favourite... he has become a sugar junkie, eating the equivalent of about 6 full meals a day and is still losing weight!)
On our third day in the east cape we felt the full wrath of New Zealand's greatest weapon against the unprepared cyclist: the Southerly. Cold and gusting at between 30-50km per hour straight at us it was absolutely punishing and unrelenting. We woke up in Te Aroroa to lashing rain and we ummed and ahhed for a couple of hours before finally setting off on the road. Both wind and rain were unrelenting so sadly unable to report much on the beauty of the coastline between Te Aroroa and Ruatoria and all energy was expended trying to avoid being blown off the bikes grimacing through the rain. One of the highlights of the east cape cycling was inadvertently becoming part of a cycling touring posse. We met a lovely Canadian couple - Fred and Sarah - doing a similar cycling route to us and a French couple - Tomas and Aurelie - who put our cycling feats in the shade: they are travelling with their 1 1/2 year old daughter who is being pulled in a buggy behind the bike. All their additional paraphenalia adds a cool 50 kgs to the weight that they have to carry up hills. As there were so few campsites to stay at throughout the east cape we invariably ended up together and did quite a lot of the trip in convoy. We must have been quite a sight with our neon raincoats flapping in the wind with faces like pinched lemons facing the elements!
To add insult to (almost) injury Rob experienced first hand what we thought to be a cyclist myth - the dive-bombing magpie. We had heard from another english cyclist that magpies have a bit of an axe to grind with cyclists as they are very territorial and particularly when they are nesting they will go for the back of cyclists' helmets (they always attack from behind and from a great height). Luckily the wind was howling and whistling so loudly he didn't see or hear it going for him - or hear me screaming in panic- as he was hurtling downhill. Luckily Rob's speedy cycling more or less eluded the magpie and we have been told that the solution to cyclist-preying magpies is to paint eyes on the back of our helmets.
By the time we got to Ruatoria we were battleweary and beaten by the weather. We had planned to try and get to Tokomaru - another 40km down the coast (over a big hill). We had only cycled about 50 km but we were absolutely exhausted - not helped by having to pedal hard to get down the hills in the wind as well as up them. We were standing forlornly in the rain with Fred and Sarah when a Maori lady ran over to us to ask if we knew where Tomas and Aurelie were as they had arranged to stay with their family through a friend of a friend. Seeing us all looking like drowned rats she extended the invite unleashing a cyclist invasion in her house and exposing us to the most amazing hospitality in this small Maori community.