January 1st-10th, 2002
Happy New Year! I celebrated the new year with a bicycle ride :-), today riding from Wellsford to Auckland.
I slept through the new year. Last night I heard some music down the street, but otherwise quiet. This morning I was up early again and riding out from Wellsford. This was a reverse of my route from December 23rd, so I was anticipating some big hills to Helensville. They turned out easier than I expected. Essentially three huge hills with a smattering of smaller hills. The first hill was to the lookout at 10 km. Just prior to the top were two calves walking along the road. They thought my bike was interesting and starting following me as I very slowly rode up the hill... go home!, stay!... what do you yell to curious calves? Fortunately they eventually paused and didn't follow anymore (though I was now concerned about cars driving down).
Paused at the lookout at 10 km. Some haze but otherwise a nice view (apparently the haze comes from the bush fires in NSW). Headed back downhill and then past the Tauhoa Anglican Church pictured above right. Mostly level for a while and then back over the next large hill just past the Glorit community building. More sheep in pastures than I remembered from the past ride. The last hill had another scenic overlook and then came down to Kaukapakapa at 46 km. Stopped at the gas station and then through rolling terrain back to Helensville at 59 km. Yeah! The hilly bits were done.
I paused at Helensville and sat outside Woolworth eating some lunch items and reading the newspaper. Nice peaceful morning, though it was getting a bit warm. After an hour break, back on the bike and about 10 km of flat before some more rolling hills and into Kumea at 80 km. Just past here I met another touring cyclist riding New Zealand for several months.
I was back at the roundabout at 89 km. Now onto my detailed maps and try to find my way into Auckland. The Motorway started here, but bicycles are not allowed on the motorway. I rode via Triangle road and came to the next freeway exit... nope, didn't see my expected "cyclepath along the motorway"... so back through surface streets. At 96 km, I came back to the motorway and found a small sidewalk. Lots of glass, a bit narrow and occasional untrimmed trees... however, it was direct and followed #16 into Auckland. After crossing the bay at 104 km, I was on surface streets and rode into middle of the city. It was urban, but only somewhat busy on a holiday.
First hotel I came to was Kiwi International Hotel. They wouldn't allow me to bring my bicycle to my room, so went down the street to Park Tower Hotel instead. The elevator was too small to fit my bike without taking off panniers, but I got my bike to the room. Hooray!
I hadn't really figured out the Auckland sights, so did a quick walk around
and then up to the prominent Sky Tower. The Sky Tower is 320m and is
tallest tower in the southern hemisphere. There is a viewing platform at
220m with nice sights over the city and surrounding area. It was
impressive to see container ships in the harbor, the harbor bridge and many tall
buildings. Auckland had posters up for the Volvo Ocean Race (expected to
arrive in next few days) and for the Women's Tennis Tournament (featuring Anna
Kournakova). Otherwise big and cosmopolitan city.
Today is a public holiday in New Zealand. Many shops were still closed and some holiday makers were on their way back home.
I decided to make a very leisurely ride with general goals of getting out of urban Auckland and getting close enough to ride to Hamilton tomorrow. Overall a bit flatter today, except for the very end near Bombay and Pukekohe. Stayed for continental breakfast at the Plaza Hotel and then cycled through a quiet Auckland. At 2km, my first stop at an internet cafe where I tried to send a further update. Many of these internet cafes appear in Asian areas and this one was owned by Japanese.
From here I found my way to "Great South Road", my primary route for the day. This paralleled the Motorway #1 until they join near Bombay. It was urban riding and then past suburb towns with an occasional town center. At 19 km, I passed Papatoetoe motel and made a second stop here for an early lunch. From here, more little town centers: Manukau, Papakura and Drury. At this point, the urban area ended and went through some more fields.
riding to Ramarama and then slowly climbing some hills up to Bombay at 47
km. Here was a busy motorway interchange. I stopped here and asked
at information center about nearby motels. Was directed to Pukekohe at
"bottom of the hill". It was also pretty warm by now, with tar
sticking to my bike tires. My rear gears appear to wobble slightly as I
pedal around...hmmm. Rode downhill and found nice place in Pukekohe.
Walked around town, but most everything was closed for the holidays.
Riding from the hills and back to the plains again. At one point I was surprised to find myself coasting on flats at 23 km... this is New Zealand?! Nice riding, though busy for much of the route.
The ride started with 6 km of mostly climbing uphill back to highway #1. From here north, it is "motorway" on which bicycles are not allowed. From here south for a few km, it is "expressway" which allows bicycles and seems to have many bike signs. As I went down the hill, a road split for the Coromandel Peninsula and then an "expressway ends" sign. It was still just as busy, the road looked the same... only the bike signs disappeared. It was very foggy, so I put on my blinker lights.
Around 20 km, I came past the cars parked above right. The front orange van has a portable welder, which was being used on the middle trailer. Behind all the cars, a set of folks with sleeping bags like they'd been there for a while. Also in this area were signs protesting a prison to be sited in the area. It was busy traffic riding past Mercier and Te Kauwhata. Here I stopped and pumped up both tires as they seemed low.
At 37 km I went crossed the Waikato river on a one lane bridge past Rangirri. For the next 17 km, there was a second quiet road through agricultural areas on other side of the river. I saw corn and other crops. Also here was a large Huntly Power Station. My front tire had been slowly leaking and at 50 km, I stopped with it quite flat. These tires have their own stories... so I replaced the original front tire (original with the bike and also ridden from Port Augusta onwards) with another (bought in Alice Springs, put on the back near Torquay, rubbing and taken off in Tasmania).
stopped briefly at McDonalds in Huntly at 54 km and was back on the main
road. From here the road went through a narrow range of hills but was
surprisingly flat. Whoosh... nice to be zooming along and didn't take long
before I came into Hamilton. Hamilton is fifth largest town in New Zealand
and has a sizeable motel district and nice downtown with shops. I found a
motel across from Pins Cycles and brought my bike to have the drive train
inspected. The cassette had been loose. The mechanic also took apart
the hub and cleaned everything out... looks like a bunch of wear, so hopefully
will still work okay for a while.
A ride over the hills to the thermal area of Rotarua. Weather forecast called for rain with a front moving through. It was still dry when I left and rode through Hamilton. Highway #1 was moderately busy, but had ok shoulders. At 10 km had some drops of rain, but overall very little out of the storm today. My bike was riding more smoothly after hub overhaul yesterday.
At 23 km was town of Cambridge with three blocks of downtown shops. I had breakfast at the early bird cafe, stopped at the "SuperLoo" (20 cents) and then went to post office to mail off disks and maps. Coming from town was slight downhill and it had a few rolling hills after that as the road wound along the hills.
At 56 km was Tirau. Several large structures including those above right. Also here was an overabundance of cute souvenir shops and other tourists walking through town. Several nice cafes and an inviting looking motel. I walked through town and stopped in the visitor information center. It was still early so, rode further.
Around 60 km, the road split and became quieter. Just a little further was a sign "Honey Store and NZ Museum". Seemed inviting, so rode up the hill and stopped in. There were different types of honey dependent on different clover and other plants. The museum looked like someone had been collecting signs, bottles, bullets, stamps, honey jars and other old stuff. Interesting description of an earthquake in the area.
From here the road continued slightly downhill to 65 km before starting a long slow uphill climb for 20 km. Unlike the Northlands, this was mostly one longer slow hill. However, seemed easier since the grade was never very steep, so just put in low gear and climb. Had one brief stop at Fitzgerald Glade Cafe at 70 km. At 80 km, some more rolling hills and by 85 km I was at the top. By now the skies had cleared and there was a strong westerly tailwind to blow me along. Zoom! Started heading downhill and was blown along.
At 98 km came to Lake Rotarua and then followed the road southwards to
Rotarua, population 68,000. This area looked very touristy. I came
past another "Zorb" with large rolling hamster balls with people
inside. At Rotarua I could smell sulphur from thermal pools in the
area. Decided to stay here for two nights.
A nice day to look around the Rotarua area. In the morning I walked around some of town before taking a three stop tour package: Rotarua museum, the buried village and Whakarewarewa Thermal village. It was a fun to look around in this tourist area.
The first inhabitants of the area were Maori whose ancestors migrated to Aotearoa (New Zealand) around 1300-1400s. Early Maori lived in the area during winters and migrated elsewhere in the summer. The Maori didn't have a written language, but instead captured aspects of these ancestors in their carvings. I listened to an interesting concert at Whakarewarewa followed by a tour of the thermal areas. Nice to see some of the dances including war dances designed to intimidate the enemies.
Around 1843, missionaries named Spencer came and established a village named Te Wairoa close to Lake Tarawera. This gradually became a staging post for early tourists going to the nearby Pink and White Terraces. These terraces were layered pools of silica and sulpher close to Lake Tarawera. In addition to being billed as "eighth wonder of the world", people also came for health reasons. During night of June 10th, 1886 this all changed when Mount Tarawera erupted. It was a massive eruption that killed over 150 and also buried Te Wairoa and two other villages. I had an interesting walk through the village, only some of which has been excavated. I also looked at displays of the village disaster at the Rotarua museum.
The museum had displays of the 28th Maori battalion and service in WW2, displays of the old baths and more about the Mount Tarawera eruption. This eruption completely buried the Pink and White terraces before also flooding them. It also completely changed the landscape.
The thermal baths were no longer in the old museum building. However right next door is "Polynesian Spa", supposedly a large set of pools. Throughout Rotarua I could smell sulpher smells. I also walked through a nearby park and saw bubbling pools, misty waters and some mud pits. More of these thermal areas were also on display at Whakarewarewa. Here was a geyser that had been continuously erupting for 200 days. Also interesting here was seeing how villagers used the springs to roast chickens, boil vegetables, run baths and many other daily tasks.
Overall this has been a touristy area for over 100 years dating back to the
Pink and White terraces. Today it has a good mix of adventure tourism
(e.g. bungy jumps, mountain biking, "Zorb",...), Maori culture and
also the thermal zones to explore. As an aside, Cannondale stock has made
a sudden jump these past few days...wonder why...though still not what I paid
A nice ride through touristy thermal areas. I started on quiet roads leaving Rotarua. About half the motels had "No Vacancy" signs. A very gentle climb as the road headed away from the lake, with forests along the way. The top was past 20 km and from this point it started a gentle downhill.
At 28 km was turnoff to Waiotapu thermal reserve. My first stop was the mud pools along the loop road. Sputter, pop, pop, sputter, bubble,... lots of gas bubbling up amongst the brown mud. To think this stuff gets sold at Waka thermal reserve! A few km further I came to the main visitor station, parked my bike and paid entrance fees. I had just enough time to do the longer walk through the park. Saw several collapsed craters, nice terraces, beautiful pools and large amounts of steam. Was beautiful to walk through the park.
At 10:15 am was the scheduled big event: eruption of Lady Knox Geyser. Got on my bike and rode back a few km to see the show. There was a large amphitheater here and people were starting to gather. Around 10:12 am, a ranger stepped out and explained that he was dumping 1.5 kg of soap into the geyser to break surface tension and start things. A few minutes later some suds started to bubble up and not much later a large water spout came up to about 10m high. While the eruption would last up to an hour, most of us left after about 10-15 minutes of watching the flow. Apparently the original discovery of soap as an agent for the geyser happened accidentally when washing clothes. Imagine the surprise!
Came back via the visitor center and started back down highway #5. The road was considerably busier. For many people, today is last day of a two week holiday break. However at 37 km was a turnoff to Settlers Road and the back way to Taupo.
At 43 km was Reporoa with a small store and chance for some lunch. This area was mostly flat and went along fields with cattle and sheep. Nice quiet riding, with occasional cars zooming past. Still a few forests as well. At 74 km the road went uphill for several km. Saw a glider port with a glider flying above. Came past a race track and then was already closer to Taupo. Just prior to center of town, I stopped briefly to watch bungy jumpers plunge from a platform over a gorge below. Zow!
Taupo was busy for a Sunday afternoon. Many stores open and people
walking about. This was along shores of Lake Taupo with jet boats,
parasailing and an interesting "hole in one" golf
challenge. Walked through town and find good place to stay.
A ride along the historic Taupo to Napier road. Taupo visitor information center had a booklet describing sights along this route. The "trail" was originally started hundred of years ago as a Mauri path. In 1874, a coach service began with hotels at Rangitaiki, Tarawera and Te Pohue. However the road was treacherous with steep grades and many river crossings. Since then major improvements and realignments have made it a much improved route. I saw enough truck traffic to think this is one of the major routes in New Zealand.
It was cool and clear when I left Taupo. For 2 km I rode along Lake Taupo before starting inland and a gradual climb for the next 20 km. I passed a large hotel, DeBretts, that was a thermal spa. From here I could see volcano cones with snow on summit in the distance. Here were green fields and sheep and cattle as well as several forests I passed through.
At 35 km was Rangitaiki Lodge and stop for breakfast. This rustic lodge had large deer heads on the wall and a recent issue of "pig hunter" on the table. A good breakfast though and I was on the road again. From here it was flatter before coming into the Waipunga Valley. At 53 km was an overlook to Waipunga Falls shown above left.
valley was generally downhill, but also had several short steep uphill
stretches. My chain slipped a little on these uphills when I got into a
low gear. So I walked over the last little hill at 63 km and came down to
Tarawera Tea Rooms. Tarawera was a beautiful spot with small campground
here. After lunch decided this would be a nice place to stay.
Pitched my tent in the campground and walked down to nearby mineral pools.
Also looked at the pig and dog in the area. In the evening, the tea rooms
were closed, but I ordered a dinner and had a good fish dinner. There was
considerable truck traffic coming all evening. I'd hear them and also feel
the vibrations even though I was 30m from the road.
Mechanical troubles today. When I stopped yesterday, I thought my chain slipping was only the steepest hills and sharp gears. To my dismay, I found that the chain would slip even on the level. The problem appeared to be with the hub. The hub normally has a set of teeth that allow it to spin freely one direction and rotate under force the other. Unfortunately it spun free both ways.
Not much more to do but start walking down the road. I walked on the flat and uphills. For one or two slight downhills, I hopped on the bike and coasted. It was 80 km to Napier, but fortunately I was starting at 420m, so more downhill than uphill. There were two summits at 14km and 29 km. Along the way, I also looked backwards at traffic to see if I might get a ride.
After an hour and 9 km, a small truck pulled up and stopped. In it were two New Zealanders from Tonga who were driving from Auckland to Hastings to get fruit, so the back was empty. The made this run once a week for a small business in Auckland. I was grateful for the ride as I zoomed over the hills and down to Napier. This would have taken a while to walk/coast those 71 km. I thanked them and got off in Napier.
Found a bike shop, explained the situation and then left for the morning while they did an assessment. There are no spare parts for my hub (Phil Woods) or other spare 48-spoke hubs. Best they can do is build up a strong 36-spoke wheel. Hub and wheel have to be sent overnight and so probably two day layover. I do have a duplicate wheel in the US, but the mail/courier services aren't quick enough or reliable enough to get it here before I leave Wellington. So, a stopover here in Napier while things are fixed up.
Napier and Hastings are two large towns in the Hawkes Bay region. The region has much of New Zealand's fruit crops and also grapes for wineries. The town was devastated by a large earthquake in 1931 and then rebuilt, much in an Art Deco Style. I found an internet cafe and then walked along the shops.
Also here was MarineWorld. I went and saw the afternoon dolphin and sea
lion show. They have penguins, gannets, seals, sea lions and dolphins on
display here. Otherwise a quiet relaxed town. Hopefully will get
things fixed and be rolling again soon.
A quiet day in Napier. A new hub came this morning and was sent to Hastings to be built up. Hopefully all will be ready tomorrow. In meantime, I walked around Napier taking in an Art Deco tour and also seeing the museum.
At 10:47 am on February 3rd, 1931 a magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated Napier. In the downtown area most of the brick buildings were knocked down. Most of the remaining buildings were damaged by fires that broke out soon after. An inner harbor was drained when land rose over 2 meters.
In two years after the earthquake the entire downtown area was rebuilt, much of it in a style known as "Art Deco". Art Deco is a decorative style starting in early 1900s and coming very visible at the 1925 Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris. It includes geometric angular patterns, sunbursts, speed lines and other adornments. Napier has some of the worlds best collections of these buildings all together. Each February there is an Art Deco Weekend with a motif of late 1920's. The Art Deco walk went past the downtown buildings and was fun to have some explained.
I also visited the small museum in Napier. Exhibits included ones about
Art Deco, the earthquake, Maori artifacts and style through the 1900s.
Overall it was well put together. In afternoon it rained for a while but
then cleared up.
Nice to be on the road and rolling again! The bike shop opened at 8 am, but my bike wasn't ready yet. I walked around Napier downtown and came back mid-morning to pick up the bike. A new shiny 36-spoke back wheel had been placed on rear wheel. Hopefully this will last for rest of the trip. I rode back to the motel and packed my gear and departed just after 11 am. Nice to be rolling again!
Cycling with new hub was nice and smooth. I had mailed away my tent and sleeping bag as well as the old (broken) wheel. The weight savings of 5 kg, the flat terrain and new wheel made everything seem very smooth as I rode out of town and past fruit trees. There was light traffic, but reasonable shoulders.
followed signs to Hastings just 20 km down the road. This is the other big
town in Hawkes Bay and is more of the agricultural center. Hastings was
also destroyed by earthquake of 1931. As a result, many of the buildings
are also in Spanish Mission or Art Deco styles. Downtown the store fronts
have hanging baskets with pink flowers. There is also a nice clock tower
downtown. I decided to make a very short day and stopped here.
Otherwise walked around Hastings and visited the exhibition center to see a
photograph display of New Zealand photos.
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