A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

100 km cycle

Whangamata to Tauranga

sunny 20 °C

After spending the last few nights in beautiful beachside campsites, Whangamata motorcamps was a bit more of a run down trailer park... no matter as all we needed was a restful night in advance of our first big cycle of the trip. But at first glance this seemed unlikely. Rob and I felt very old as we politely asked to be housed in a 'quiet area'. Despite the owner's vehement's protestations that her insalubrious establishment was a 'family campsite' our neighbours were keen to prove her wrong... Four families descended next to our tent in their caravans for a bank holiday booze up - with early tell tales signs like glow in the dark headbands, stacked up crates of beer and a lot of cheesy 90s music cranked up out of their suped up cars suggesting they would be putting up a fight against the 10.30 "quiet time" curfew.... Sleep was in short supply that night.

Bleary-eyed at about 7 in the morning as the sun turned our napkin-sized tent into a sauna we scuttled about getting ready for the cycling leg down to Tauranga. In the short time that we have been going on this trip packing up our panniers has already turned from routine into a ritual. With six panniers and a handlebar bag between us trying to remember where we packed everything important when we need it (like our raincoats when the heavens have opened) turns into a frantic search eventually finding the choice item in the 6th pannier. So now everything has it's 'place' (raincoats on top) so packing is now a meticulous exercise. A few campers were out and about while we were going through this ritual of squeezing our belongings into our panniers keen to find out what we were up to. All the Kiwis we have met so far have been incredibly friendly and hospitable - from bringing us chairs to sit on in the campsite when we are hunched over our trangia stove - to pulling over and offering to pop the bikes in their cars to give us a lift over the punishing hills (they always seem bemused when we politely decline!) Our noisy neighbours asked where we were heading as we pushed our bikes past their caravans to the campsite exit. When we told them they gleefully described how long and hard the hills were out of Whangamata. "good luck" they said, "you'll need it!"

With these encouraging words ringing in our ears we set off on the road. The weather over the last couple of days has been brilliant and we started our long days cycle with a winding incline towards Waihi with clear blue skies and sunshine. Most of the hills we have come up against have been long but not too steep and so we have just whacked the bikes into our lowest gears and plodded up. The first 30 kms to Waihi (an old goldmining town) passed very quickly and we were feeling quite confident that we would get to Tauranga by lunch. By 1.30pm we were still 20 km away and fading fast. The traffic on the road had become quite congested on the approach into the city and the hills had gone from long and sloping into short sharp yoyoing inclines and descents. We took pause at a petrol station where we were reliably informed that if we took the next turn off we would get to a beachside restaurant. Music to our ears - but how far? 'no more than 400 metres'... Hmmm. 5 kms later we were still cycling and mentally cursing at every turn when the restaurant was not round the next bend. When we finallly made it to the beach (Omokoroa) it was spectacular and well worth the cycle. We splashed out on lunch in the restaurant in the boathouse - reciting to each other every couple of mouthfuls how much we deserved it - before the final push into Tauranga having broken the 100km mark for the first time on the trip.

Posted by mrs lewis 18:06 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Coromandel's beautiful and unique beaches

sunny 20 °C

We decided to take it easy and do short cycle over to hehei where we heard there were beautiful beaches to be sat on. On the way we came across a stunningly located vineyard and decided to drop in for a spot of plonk - very quaffable.

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We arrived at Hehei campsite and after bagging a prime spot overlooking the beach we decided to spend a couple of days exploring the area.

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First stop was Hot Water Beach where at low tide you can dig yourself a hot tub - hot water springs rise up from underground and emerge through the sand. As the sea is pretty chilly at this time of year this enables you to take a quick dip before warming up again.

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We cycled back to the campsite in extremely gusty conditions, so strong that at one point i turned around to see Mariana had been blown into a ditch - luckily she only had a couple of scratches and narrowly avoided a wet boggy area by a few inches. When we arrived back at our campsite, our tent had nearly been blown away by the strong winds and several tent pegs were nowhere to be seen. We decided to relocate to a more sheltered area (so much for the prime spot!)

The following day we went to Cathedral Cove. Only accessible by foot, this stunning beach has a number of fascinating rock features, as well as white sand and clear blue sea.

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I also did a spot of snorkelling and saw a lovely array of fish.

We set off early the next morning for Whangamata - a place which turned out to be the NZ equivalent of Hicksville, and our campsite was right in the thick of it. NZ is certainly a place of extremes and some campsites are nicer than others.

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Posted by roblewis 14:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (3)

one pedal in front of the other

semi-overcast 16 °C

After a couple of days in Auckland fighting off punishing jetlag punctuated by a few exploratory trips round the city we assembled the bikes and bit the bullet for the first leg of the cycle. It felt good to get on the road quite quickly as we had both been feeling a bit anxious and nervous about how we are going to fare... So we decide to take it gently for the first couple of days - with our trusty bible 'New Zealand by bike' printed in the 80s as our guide. We set off to beautiful coramandel from Auckland on the ferry to tootle round the penninsula to have a very short day to get warmed up before the 'proper hills'.... or so we thought.

Clearly Bruce Ringer (author of New Zealand by bike) is made of sterner stuff than me as a couple of miles from we were stuggling up an eyewateringly steep road which wound its way uphill (mountain?). Every hairpin turn was faced with a bubble of hope that it would be the last one before the descent followed by crushing despair and increasing knackeredness (is that a word?) as the road stretched endlessly upward ahead. After about an hour I was staving off despair that I wasn't going to be able to make it and that I had been beaten on the first attempt - accentuated by the fact that Rob seemed to be finding it much easier than me! But fuelled by lucozade we plodded on and made it to the top about half an hour later. I can't remember the last time I felt so alive (and relieved!). We were on top of the world surrounded by bays, beaches and harbours to the east and west.

Mariana admiring the view

Mariana admiring the view

In afternoon we soared through dairy farms and pine plantations and saw less than 10 cars on the road for the two hours. Completely exhausted but exhilarated we stopped at Kuaoutunu by a beautiful beach for our first night in the tent to recharge our batteries before heading to Cook beach tomorrow.

beach in Kuaotunu

beach in Kuaotunu

Posted by roblewis 16:37 Archived in New Zealand Tagged cycling Comments (6)

A journey to the other side

sunny 30 °C

The big day of departure was finally upon us and we left for Heathrow after several days of frantically trying to to prepare ourselves for our big trip. After a 17 hour plane journey we landed in Brunei for a 12 hour stop over. We headed out into the 30 degree heat of the city and spent several hours wandering around, bleary eyed after not having slept properly. Bandar Seri Begawan (the capital of Brunei) is a place unlike any other place I have been; incredible wealth with gold roofs on many of the mosques and government buildings but juxtaposed with real poverty as well, and all surrounded by dense rainforest. The most interesting part of the day was a trip to the water village where thousands of homes are built on stilts in a lake, several hundred metres off the mainland. We took a water taxi over and spent a couple of hours wandering along the narrow paths and bridges which run through the village, and chatting to some of the locals who all seemed very friendly.

Water village

Water village

giving in to jetlag

giving in to jetlag

In the afternoon we headed back to the airport where i came across the culinary highlight of the trip so far; a tuna sandwich on multi coloured dayglo bread. Genius.

radioactive sandwich

radioactive sandwich

Posted by roblewis 19:36 Archived in Brunei Tagged water village cuisine jetlag journey plane_trip stop_over Comments (1)

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