Sandy spit to Maraetai 

Day six

Warkworth to the CBD is a nasty ride. It’s a slog of up down tight roads and fast moving traffic I haven’t experienced since riding back in DF, but to be honest I expected that.

One particularly memorable climb narrows to a point where there is no margin for the rider and no margin for error. You have to play roulette, judge a gap, then go as hard as you can for 150m on maybe a 15 degree incline before the next  wave of traffic arrives. I did it… just.

In that wind, the downs were as hard as the ups. The crawl up from the tunnels, Owera to Eastern Bays in a nasty sou’ wester,  through diesel infused traffic. I was pleased when I saw the Devonport terminal.

I got the first ferry at two, met Nina for a catch up and then another to Pine Haven at five. Free camped above Omana beach, I was asleep by 8:30.

img_0475So how bad?

I’ve spent a chunk of my day to day riding experience in city traffic, Commuting London and Mexico City. In those times I’ve had a lot of close calls: riding fast to escape merging buses, being under another, being in the wrong suburb at the wrong time, being a target for aggression and targeting my aggression, and one time looking down the wrong end of a few hand guns in La Condesa (Mexico City) when one particular situation got out of control (my fault).

For the record Warkworth wasn’t scarier, it wasn’t even closer, it was just a lot faster.


Now I’m through Auckland and I’ve left Northland, bring on the lowlands and a wind at my heal.

Whangarei to Wellsford and beyond 

Day five

I had a warning about the road ahead. ‘The pass of Brynderwyn’.

Like some mythical place full of nasty things with warty bits and bad breath determined to stop a humble pilgrim on a bicycle. After the day before I was feeling a tad anxious, and wasn’t sure if I should trade my porridge for a few cloves of garlic to ward of the evilness awaiting me in the distance.
After many hugs and well wishes from whanau I made my way out the gate, up the drive then turned left to face the south.

I didn’t get far before pulling up for coffee at a small cafe in full festive celebration and dressed in appropriate regalia to entertain the patrons. On receiving my order and a side of opinion on beast Brynderwyn, I knew my day could only get better. I’d just been warned of the road ahead by a serious middle aged bearded man dressed as a Christmas pixie.

The first few hours were a relatively flat ride, but my right shoulder was being incessantly clipped by a nasty sou’ wester. It was the foul breath of the beasts of the Brynderwyn.

I stopped when I knew I was close. I could see a long formidable range of hills stretching left and right. I was already tired from the day before and that sou’ wester. So I slurped long and hard on my (whey powder, with MSM and powdered green and red stuff) sucky bottle and after another liberal coating of all my bits with the chafing cream my bottom was ready and so was I.

As I reached the foot of the pass I could see the road snaking, like a river flowing uphill and then I had a massive dose of luck. It was a ‘stop go lady’. The crew were resealing most of the three lane incline and rather than letting me play dodgems with the traffic cones she gave me a whole (closed) lane to myself.

So I got into a slow crawl, using the tar truck, gravel crew and Wilkie talkie man to set the pace. It was an constant 3.5km climb, but after yesterday it seemed relatively easy. I reached the summit. I had beaten the Brynderwyn, warts and all.

I whipped down the backside of the beast and pulled in at the first pie-stop for a top up, then onward to Wellsford. I made it by early afternoon.

Wellsford, Warkworth and beyond. 

Wellsford was my target for the day, I’d didn’t want to overpromise myself with astounding feats of Dutch courage, but with 80 odd kilometres behind me I knew I could push for more. So after another liberal coating my bottom and I were ready and we decided to push on to Warkworth, eventually arriving about 4 pm to stock up and then onward for camp at Sandy Spit.

I’d ridden 116km in total, all of it in gnarly traffic, over rough ground into a sapping sou wester. Dinner tonight was going to be special and I was famished. It consisted of a few warm rolls, fresh ripe tomatoes, an avocado, a fine cheese and a big can of Watties anytime breakfast (beans, potatoes, bacon and sausage).

Ok I’m not proud, I’m hungry.

Orongo Bay to Whangarei via the Rawhiti coastal road

Day four

Tonight I’m staying with whanau in Whangarei for the night. So instead of taking the direct route South, I’ve chosen instead to take the coastal road and see the sights. It will put another 10 km on the day, no big deal.

It’s such a perfect day…

I got up at 6:00, the sky calm with a paperthin whitewash of colour. “Right, breakfast!” Coffee and a double ration of porridge awaited, so I went for water. Now where is my coffee… come on where is it? I’d only been away a minute, but it’s vanished. I’m not happy, nothing comes between me and a Jed’s extra strong bean bag to get my plumbing working before hitting the road. “It’s been nicked” I said aloud. That’s when I heard the rustle.

It was coming from somewhere in the manuka reveg’. With few choices and less time I immediately dove in and nabbed what was now a very empty supply of Jed’s extra strong bean bags.

Oh and I know who took them, there is only one. I heard him all last night, stomping through the reveg’, boom, boom, boom, so close I could almost smell his grubby breath. Oh yes I know who it was… IT WAS WEKA!

He’d stolen my Jed’s extra strong bean bags within seconds of me going for water. Leaving me with only the double ration of porridge and an empty mug to start my day. I wasn’t happy, continued to pack, got on the beastie and headed for the gate.

I couldn’t help drawing a little smile though.

If Weka gets into that coffee he’s going to have a different outlook in the next few days… so rather than sensing the natural delights of a night camping in the reveg’, perhaps the next visitors will sense something very amiss. A weka chilling out to a brew of Jed’s extra strong, with perhaps even a whiff of a gauloise and the low distant sound of a recently rereleased Lou Reed album. It’s such a perfect day.

On the road

So instead of turning right for the Opua ferry, I turned left for Rawhiti and crawled up the hill. I had this feeling at the top that should I go down the other side there would be no turning back. The wheels involuntarily inched forward with a little help from Sir Issac Newton as I slowly built up speed to the bottom. I was off, and maybe, just maybe I might regret it.

The place is pretty. Lovely little bays and beaches with pohutakawa dripping down to meet the sea, gorgeous wooded valleys strewn with white wild flower meadows, backed by steep inaccessible ridges.

Yes, ridges and valleys, ridges and valleys, ridges and valleys… one after the bloody other. If you want to see it.. awesome, do it, you won’t be disappointed, just take a car!

This little side road ditty ended up being an epic mission to rejoin the main highway back south to Whangarei. One very memorable (etched in my sit bones until the end of my days memorable) was the climb out from Helena Bay. Biggest climb I’ve done since Ajusco back in the big city. Needless to say I made it, next time I won’t put Sir Issac Newton in a position where he makes the decisions!

Ritu, the stop go lady

Oh the back roads and all those wonderful signs of bygone eras, all gone, including the store I needed to refill my reserves! I was pieless, completely pieless I was surviving on peanut butter sandwiches and half a salami. Worse still I was nearly out of water.

Turning a corner there in front of me was a road construction party and the stop go lady. So I stopped, waiting for the lick of a new layer of tar. I’ve never really appreciated the importance of the stop go ladies until I met Ritu. My parched voice politely enquired if she knew the whereabouts of a store where I could purchase a refreshment. “Nah!” “But you can fill up at the six pack.” The six pack was a double cab truck that carried the driver, two stop go ladies and the guy that leans on another truck with a radio and a shovel. The six pack was way off in the distance and between me and it was the steamy tar truck… waiting, waiting, waiting, then Ritu gave a shout… “go”. In a wake of sticky gravel I was off to top up my bottles for the ride ahead to the main road.

I will forever to this day be every grateful to the stop go ladies, I promise my maker to always wave and smile. I hope I get to see Ritu again.

I made the main road at 3:00pm, only 25km to Whangarei and there shining like a beacon to the faithful, calling in the worshippers from far and wide, it stood there, upright and proud. It was the BP 2go sign. I was there to repent, I was there to renourish my being and I was truly rewarded.

I was pieless no more!

Hihi to Orongo Bay

Day three

img_0470-1It blew from the west all night long, roaring through the trees above my tiny tent. Me plus everything else I’m carrying stuffed into this tiny chamber and I had beans for dinner. Now I know what your thinking, but no… it’s all about diet.

So the average bloke needs about 2,500 calories per day to fuel himself without further expansion of the waistline. If I add that to what I’m burning on the bike per day (or about 3,000 calories) then I guess I’m pretty much doubling my intake.

Oh but it’s not just a case of me now eating two steak and cheese pies when I used to have just one! The diet and wellness politburo won’t let me get away with it quite that easily comrades. There are proteins, carb’s, minerals, electrolytes and other pesky things I as yet have no idea about. So where does that leave me… confused.

As a result I have put together a very simple rule for the road: ‘eat heaps, but carry a small load’. As a result I have a lot of dried, powdered and completely indescribable and unimaginable things stored away, like ‘porridge’.

Yip, porridge, and whey powder, green powdered stuff, red powdered stuff, MSM, effervescent thingies to balance my electrolytes, plus freeze dried whatsits where the packaging looks more appetizing than the meal.

So as I churn through this goodness and positively enjoy the benefits and energy it provides me (which I really do), I must also confess to still stopping for the odd pie. Like I did today at Kaio. Yip the Kaio steak and cheese Pieo. It was delicious.

So back to the beginning of my day… 

The early ride consisted of climbing, climbing and then a testosterone fueled fully laden downhill to Whangaroa harbour. Clocking 61.35km/h with an accompanying ‘yipee’ put me in good spirits for the short dash to Kaio.

The shopkeeper selling the Kaio pieo quipped as he fumbled for the change; ‘fueling up are ya?’ I smiled’ said yes and squawfed down my purchase, not really appreciating what he was getting at. Five minutes later I was hauling my butt up a very nasty incline. I definitely needed that little pastry cased battery for the road ahead.
Maybe the earlier idea of doubling my pie intake was right all along.

A few hours later I’m at Pahia and on the ferry to Russell. Not far to camp now. It’s feeling more like summer again.

Wet wet wet

Day two

Up and out the door by 7:30 for the ride south from Henderson Bay to Mangonui. Started off well, no rain and good conditions, making the turn off to state highway 10 by 10am. Just in time for a coffee, then I saw him…

Meeting the Dutch spy

Two days ago when I arrived in Kaitaia there was another cyclist onboard. I did my best not to engage, but within seconds of unpacking little beastie he was onto me. He was fizzing with excitement and telling me his grand plans and something about “za stealth camper”.

I quickly imagined he is on some secret mission for the Netherlands secret service (hence the bicycle) and perhaps I should call the authorities, but soon realized he probably meant free camping.

Then came that question, “vat is you average”. Now you could interpret that little gem in a lot of manly ways, but I immediately assumed he meant daily distance for the trip, so I boldly replied (although thinking far less ambitiously) “100 kilometers more or less”. There was a pause… a long pause until he finally responded with a “hmmmmm… ok I vill take it. For me it is vun hundred and tventy kilometres por day.”

Oh god, I haven’t even started yet and I’m already in some kind of alpha male pissing competition with a Dutch spy. So I hurriedly packed my kit, said my goodbyes, then scurried off to my motel to hide.

So today when I got to the Awanui turnoff for highway 10, I saw him. Clad in a orange, white and blue Licra onesee and carrying (yes all true) a huge Dutch flag flapping out the back of his bike. If he is indeed on a secret mission he sure didn’t read the manual on trying to be inconspicuous. He greeted me with a loud “vel ello, ello”. I smiled, waved and immediately ducked into a cafe for a coffee. As I ordered I could see him rolling on into the distance, flag whipping at the stern. I don’t think that will be the last I see or the Dutch spy.


So what about today?

Wet and I mean wet wet. After about 60 km, it started to pour a warmish, tedious kind of rain. So it was on with the wet weather gear and back to humping hills, wet on the outside and a small sauna on the inside.

I got to Mangonui and decided I had a need for a feed. I pulling into the supposedly famous chippy by the bay, unpeeled the raincoat and tucked into some shark and tatties.

after an hour I needed a campground and choose Hihi. On I went into worsening weather for another 40 minutes. I’ve spend the last few hours drying everything out and saying a prayer to the sun god for a dryer day tomorrow. What will she deliver?