Thursday, 16 June 2016

Tour Aotearoa Days 4-6

Day 4
Kaipara to Miranda: 157km

After a restless night, due to the number of people sharing the facilities, some of whom were departing at indecent hours of the morning. The night before I had put out a distress call on facebook to find out who stocked batteries for my nightlight, Edd had kindly offered to ring around on my behalf. Apparently Planet cycles on Dominion Rd had what I needed, Edd offered to meet me when I got to Auckland. I left around 8:00am after saying farewell the those I had ridden with over the past day and a half, Sam, Dave, Jess and John, I did expect them to catch me later in the day though.

I enjoyed the ride through Helensville and then Riverhead, to the outskirts of Auckland city, the terrain was undulating and the temperatures not too hot, I passed Neil on the way, repairing a puncture. I met Edd on the Northwest Cycle Route, he gave me a banana. We rode into town and detoured up Dominion Rd to Planet Cycles, Kevin and John (the distinguished gentlemen of the tour dressed up in their tux's) were already there. I purchased my replacement battery and we went and got some lunch.


After lunch Edd had to go to work, I carried on to Mt Eden for some panoramic views of the city, where Neil caught me up.

Land of Orcs
I joined Neil for the ride South out of the city, this was probably the trickiest navigate of the tour. Neil is a dedicated Fru Ju man, but he sets a limit of no more than 1 per hour, Fru Ju's at this point were not unwelcome as again temperatures were above comfort levels. Somewhere along the way we decided that we would take the coastal route to Miranda, my reasoning was that we weren't doing much coast riding on the tour, conveniently forgetting 90 mile beach not so long ago, and that the route wasn't as hilly, wrong. the going was OK until we got to Kawakawa Bay then the going went up, with three pinches between Kawakawa Bay and Miranda. At this point Neil dissappered into the distance and I left my sunglasses on a seat 3/4 of the way up the first climb out of Kawakawa Bay, not being mission critical I left the glasses to fend for themselves. Once back on the coast the going was pleasant again as temperatures had dropped and there was very little wind, but it was getting dark. I got to the Miranda camping ground after everything had shut, pitched my tent and then wondered about what I was going to do for dinner as my food supplies were running low. Luckily the free food box in the kitchen was well stocked, so I managed to scrounge a tin of tuna and some rice seasoned with Worcestershire  sauce, I spread the banana Edd had given me on some cruskits for desert. This was my first 150km plus day of the tour, but the riding was relatively flat and all on sealed roads. 

Day 5 
Miranda Camp Ground to Matamata: 141km

I was among the last of the tour riders to leave the camping ground the next morning, the first target was Thames about 30km away. I bypassed Thames and rode on to the Hauraki Rail Trail  until I got to the Matatoki Cheese Barn Cafe, where I had one of the most enjoyable meals of the tour, a ploughmans lunch, simple but delicious. 

The Hauraki rail trail carries on to Paeroa, but on the way passes through Hikutaia, it was at this point that I had my first and only puncture of the tour. Conveniently, Hikutaia is the home of the Convenient Cow Cafe, I purchased a real fruit raspberry ice cream and fixed my puncture. Today being Saturday the rail trail was well patronised with cyclists enjoying the day.

Paeroa was the scene of my worst navigational blunder, I took the wrong turn after crossing the bridge and headed  left 15km towards Waihi, stupid really, because I knew the way to Te Aroha. Ironically I found the leg of the Hauraki rail Trail that heads towards Wiahi the most interesting section of the trail, it includes a 1km long rail tunnel, the site of the  old Victoria Battery and some beautiful scenery. Most of this section had poor cell coverage and it wasn't until I had nearly reached Waihi that my cellphone started beeping at me, I steadfastly ignored it for a couple of km and then checked it to discover all sorts of people messaging me telling me I was lost. I turned around more than a little peeved at myself, performing my good deed of the day and turning back another rider who had made the same mistake.

The Old Victoria battery
On to Te Aroha, which brought back memories of 10 years ago when I had done a couple of nights work in the area. Leaving Te Aroha there was a favourable wind, cloud was also building and the air was beginning to feel like rain. I got to Matamata at about 7pm, the town was busy as there had been races that day, so all accommodation was booked out. I was sitting at the Subway devouring half a footlong and pondering my next move as rain was starting to fall, one option was to head on to the camping ground at Little Waipa Reserve about 30km away. While i was thinking on this a couple who lived just out of town offered me a bed for the night, this was actually the second offer of this nature I had received. I spent the night at Henry and Robin's place, in luxury as this was the first night I had spent in a bed since leaving Cape Reinga, Henry and Robin are keen cyclists and were very interested in the TA, having noticed cyclists riding past their place for the past 5 days. This was one of the highlights of the tour for me and I am extremely grateful for the hospitality of these two strangers.

Day 5 
Matamata to Mangakino 90km

After a good night's sleep and breakfast it was time to hit the road again, this was to be one of the shortest, distance wise,  yet one of the hardest days of the tour. It started off OK with a pleasant enough ride to Arapuni and lunch at the Rhubarb cafe. There were about half a dozen other tour riders at the cafe including Erik who was having a catch up with his family, Erik would have to be the most unlucky rider I encountered on the TA, more about that later. The Cafe was the last food stop until Mangakino, I did have the other half of my 12 inch in my bag for later though. Once away from the cafe we were onto the Waikato river trail proper, I found the Waikato River Trail quite challenging, this may have been for a few reasons, whether it was gradient changes, the changing trail surface or just tiredness.

The Waikato River
I used my first aid kit for the only time when I came across a couple who were walking the trail, one of them had slipped and turned an ankle, I gave them a crepe bandage and carried on as they were confident of walking back to their car. Water became an issue with the only supply being the Waikato river, which I thought a dodgy proposition, forgetting that I had water purification tablets.

I encountered Kevin heading back towards Waipapa, he had lost his Garmin GPS unit, I told him that I hadn't seen it and he asked me to tell John to go onto Mangakino with out him. I met John a short time later and relayed the message, but he refused to go on without Kevin so he too headed back. I finally got to Mangakino after having to lift the bike through  far too many stiles.

Stile Style
The Bus Stop Cafe was still open at about 7:30pm when I arrived, the owners were following the blue dots and waiting for the stragglers. I was shattered and spent quite some time staring at the menu unable to make a decision, this was apparently quite the problem with TA riders when presented with a menu with more than 1 item. Erik and Greg arrived during this time, Erik had had an unplanned dismount  and had landed in a wasps nest and had a number of stings, I had avoided the nest, as I had been warned about it by a walker, I gave Erik some of my voltaren. Another rider had a spill at the bottom of a series of downhill switchbacks, all agreed that it had been tough day. Time for a dip in the lake to clean up and another night in the tent

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