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Published: November 5th 2009
Pies but No CoffeeOne more cup of coffee for the road
Well before arriving in the Bay of Islands, the signs are up to capture the tourist dollar.
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go
To the valley below
It was a perfect morning and I was in the perfect mood to enjoy it. The sun was shining but the day was still cool, and with no overnight dew my tent was dry when I packed it up. I was fed and watered and the road lay before me - full of promise.
What more could a person want? Coffee! Even before I'd reached the 100 kph sign on the outskirts of Russell the thought had flashed through my mind. What could make a perfect day more perfect? A big steaming latte, frothy on the top with one of those tubes of white sugar (or better still brown) poured onto it and stirred in, a surreptitious lick of the spoon and when it was finished, a finger used to scoop up the last of the froth. Bliss!
The Old Russell Road
As the first few kilometres ticked by I grew increasingly concerned. Would I find a place that sold coffee?I was on the Old Russell Road - the name had a
No problem getting coffee in the historic little town, but I didn't feel like it until I was on the way out.
romantic ring to it and I could imagine colonial settlers battling their way to reach the new colony's capital through clay and mud. No coffee for them, but nowawadays the road is sealed, and I knew it passed through a number of attractive, little bays. My intelligence from other cyclists warned me there were many short, sharp ascents and descents. But I was prepared, and a cup of coffee would help me on my way.
Examining the Odds
At the first excuse of a hill I pulled over and consulted my map. The settlements looked small and didn't immediately conjure up pleasant little cafes and foaming lattes. I resumed and counted the vehicles. They were probably averaging one every ten minutes - that meant not a lot of people and not much demand for coffee shops.
Still, my spirits wouldn't be dampened, and when I saw two women sitting on the verandah of a house next to a neat marae I pulled over. After exchanging greetings I asked,"I don't suppose there's anywhere on this road where I can buy a latte, a coffee?" Then, worried the women might offer to make me a cup of instant
17 Kilometres to Go
I try not to look at the odometer, but on this occasion a sign told me the distance to my coffee stop.
I added,"I really feel like a latte, in a big bowl, with lots of froth on top and brown sugar, and maybe even a slab of carrotcake."
One of the women laughed and then paused to consider my question. "You might try Oakura," she said. "There's a shop there but I don't know if it's open. And you have to turn down a side road to get to it."
Maybe If I Will It to Happen
I'd hoped for better news, but thanked them and went on my way. Maybe if I willed it, it would happen. There were several road signs which were promising, with symbols for food and drink and they helped keep my hopes up.
At the turnoff to Oakura was a store. The shy young woman behind the counter kept a hand over her mouth as she ate an apple and said,"no, no coffee here but the shop at Oakura might be open."
Promise at Last
It was a swift ride downhill and suddenly, there before me lay a shop, the Oakura Bay Store. It was open. My spirits soared but I showed restraint, parking the bike carefully
Modern Sculpture on the Road to Oakura
This work is entitled, "Car v Small Motorbike".
before going inside. There was no-one about until a woman emerged from the back. At the same time, I caught sight of a coffee machine - not one of those great big, shiny machines that looks like a modern version of a jukebox - but a horrible, squitty machine of the type that demands coins be inserted. I was stunned and I'm sure my dismay was reflected on my face.
I tried to explain to the woman as pleasantly as I could that I'd been looking forward to a cup of real coffee, that I was cycling and it would have rounded off a perfect morning. But she was clearly in no mood to enter into banter with the customers and I realised I was wasting my time and as it turned out, hers. She took $3.50 from me, rattled around at the machine and pointed,"just press the button for whatever you want."
She disappeared out the back again, and I did as I was told and pressed latte. I searched for a spoon or a wooden stick to stir it with, and settled for a plastic straw I found behind the counter. The woman was on a
Open 7 Days!
Petrol and alcohol, what a mix! And food supplies - this must mean coffee.
computer and suddenly the air was filled with the sound of the theme from some old tv show - a tune I recogised but couldn't place.
The coffee was even worse than I feared. Bitter, almost acidic, small, with no froth to speak of and served in a plastic or paper cup. As for cheesecake, forget it.
Sorry, Closed for Summer
Afterwards, I decided to take a look at the beach. It was deserted. The campground said,"No Vacancy" but there was no-one about and I took the sign to really mean,"Closed for Winter". There was a fish and chip shop which advertised coffee as well. It too was closed.
The beach was pleasant enough. Older baches were strung along the water's edge, newer ones in the streets behind and a couple of trophy homes up in the hills. It was a kiwi beach the way they used to be - before the developers arrived. Probably a really nice place for a holiday in summer. Just don't come for the coffee.
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