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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Northland
January 7th 2006
Published: January 22nd 2006
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Public toilets Northland stylePublic toilets Northland stylePublic toilets Northland style

The interior of Hundertwasser's toilets in Kawakawa.

Hot springs and hills 4-5/12/05


We rode away from the hostel and headed for the ferry back to the mainland, the hills didn't seem as bad on the way back and the mile downhill to the port was great. We rolled the bikes onto the ferry, expecting the same comedy routine (carrying them fully laden down four steps and over two door sills) as we'd had on the way to Waiheke. Amazingly we were loaded straight onto the back of the boat and only had our fellow passengers to negotiate.
The ride out of Auckland took ages, the place goes on for miles and miles, but eventually we left the buildings behind and pedalled out into the countryside. Just after Point Chevalier we met a guy pushing a 36" unicycle down a steep slope, he was nearing the end of a 100km ride - 100km on a unicycle????? The man's insane!!!
We were riding on State Highway 16, which runs up the west side of the Northland, avoiding the extremely busy SH1 which is the direct route to the Bay of Islands. SH16 is a quieter route, but it is very up and down and we used the excuse of buying food for dinner to get a breather in at least three farm shops.
After about 60km we reached Parakai which is a small town with hot springs situated at the southern end of Kaipara Harbour, and found a campsite with pools attached so we went for a soak. There were two pools, one warm and one hot, the hot pool was listed as a "rest and relaxation pool" but I found my pulse rocketed to 108 as my body desperately tried to dump heat and I felt strangely anxious.

We decided to stay another day in Parakai and walked 5km to Helensville to have a look around the town and do some interwebby stuff in the library. On the way we saw what looked like half a Kona racing bike leaning on a sign; thinking we might score a rather nice bit of kit we wandered over to check it out only to find it's owner sheltering from the drizzle behind the sign. He'd had a blow out and was waiting for his wife to collect him, why he wasn't carrying a spare tube and pump is beyond me, if I was his wife I'd be tempted to let
Quick Gromitt, stop the car!Quick Gromitt, stop the car!Quick Gromitt, stop the car!

Well you can't say you weren't warned
him walk home.

SH1 - AAARRRGGGHHH 6-9/12/05


We headed for Wellsford, into a headwind and up and down more hills. We rode through a couple of sets of roadworks on the way. Each one of them was at the bottom of a hill, so we lost all momentum as we had to stop at the stop/go sign and, because the entire road was being re-surfaced, we had to set off up the unmade road when we were given the all clear by the man with the sign. We were rather fazed to see two road rollers heading towards us on the carriageway. However, they chickened out before we did and allowed us to pass safely. We got to a motel in Wellsford and discovered that the man in the next room was working at one of the road works. He told us that the stop/go man informs all the workers (on his walkie-talkie) when vunerable road users are passing through, so they know to avoid them. We spent a rest day in Wellsford, just mooching around town and watching the Discovery Channel on the TV, the TV had a lot more to it than the town.

When we set off again, it was our first experience of cycling on SH1 and the traffic was pretty horrible. Whilst we were cycling up a particularly long hill with a passing lane, a lorry drove up behind me and sounded his horn before pulling into the passing lane and overtaking. This nearly caused me to fall off. He then pulled back in and repeated this trick behind Vernon, who nearly jumped out of his skin. We stopped at Base Nature for a coffee and a calm down. We stayed for longer than expected and so had lunch before setting off towards Brynderwyn. On the way we passed a sign informing us of our last chance to buy cheese for miles. We declined this opportunity. We turned off SH1 at Brynderwyn onto SH12, where the traffic levels dropped massively and we were given a lot more room by overtaking vehicles. We stopped at a motorcycle shop in Maungaturoto where a very nice man patched up my front rack, which has been a bit wonky since Washington (DC that is). The road was gently rolling all the way to Matakohe, were we stopped and pitched camp. We finished the last of our food
Waipoua ForestWaipoua ForestWaipoua Forest

The trunk on the left belongs to a young kauri tree.
(a cup of soup, brie sandwiches, half a tomato and a nectarine each) before going to bed.
The next day, we wandered around the Kauri museum for a few hours before buying lunch. We then cycled back to Paparoa to pick up supplies for the evening meal. On the way back to the campsite we met a couple of cyclists doing our route in reverse and chatted for a while. They told us that they had ridden to Cape Reinga and that it was a horrible route because of all the tour buses and unmade roads. In return, we warned them about riding SH1, however they were wise to this and had already booked seats on a bus from Brynderwyn to Auckland.


Trees, fahsands of 'em 10-12/12/05


We headed off to Dargaville, the road quickly levelled out as we rode towards the Wairoa River and stayed that way for the whole journey - great, except we also rode into a strong headwind all day, preventing us from going above 10mph.
As we were having an extended recovery stop at Tokatoka look-out a car pulled up and two women got out, one of them posed in a crouched down
Tane MahutaTane MahutaTane Mahuta

The Lord of the Forest. This is the biggest kauri in New Zealand and is probably about 1500 years old.
looking pensively towards the river style while her travelling partner took a photo of her - weird. A little while later a Maui (camper van) stopped and the driver got out, she stood between us and the view (which was quite an achievement given the complete lack of anybody else at the site) and did a kind of yogic "salute the sun" for about 5 minutes whilst holding her hair out of her eyes. She then climbed back into her van, opened all the doors, put on some loud piano music and reappeared with a camcorder. It was around this time that we decided it might be catching, so we left; I do hope that all the naughty words about the stones in the lay-by didn't screw up the nice lady's video - hah!
Dargaville is a bit of an odd place, it exists to serve the local (farming) community and as such there isn't much for the tourist to do, but for us it was a suitable place to stop before the climb up into Waipoua Forest. We stopped at the backpackers' hostel which is in the old junior school and has a footie mad Jack Russell in residence;
The HokiangaThe HokiangaThe Hokianga

The clouds are a sign of things to come!
no matter how much you try you will not get the ball off him once he's got it.
We spent an extra day in Dargaville sorting out internet stuff and making sure we had supplies for our trip into the forest. In the evening we decided to go for a beer, the first place we tried was closing in half a hour (it was 8pm) and we were the only people there, the second place was shut for good and up for sale. Finally we tried the tavern next to the motor home park, they were open.

In the morning we set off towards Waipoua Forest (and yes, it is pronounced why-poo-a), for once there was no head wind and we made good progress as far as Kaihu, unfortunately just after the village the road headed for the hills and we demonstrated why pushbikes are so called. We stopped for lunch in Aranga school car park then there was more up and down as far as Kaitu where we started to descend into the forest and rolled all the way to the gravel road which led to the DOC campsite. The 1km to the site was horrible, our tyres are not designed for riding on gravel and I felt the bike skittering about all the time, it was quite a wrestling match with 50lbs of luggage! We made it without incident and booked two single cabins for the night (they don't do doubles), a quick bit of rearrangement meant we had one cabin and the bikes had the other.
We wandered down to the river where a section has been deepened to allow swimming and performed the comedy double act synchronised getting into cold water routine. Because the water is brown we couldn't see how blue our skin was, but after 15 mins it was still very cold and we got out again.

Water, water everywhere 13-16/12/05


The next day we headed towards the Hokianga, the first 7km were uphill, but the gradient was very slight and we cycled it all with a few breather stops on the way. There is a place in Waipoua Forest where the road narrows to one lane because of two kauri trees (called Darby and Joan) which flank the road. We cycled through this, the guy behind us in a Maui stopped his van in between the two trees, then got out
Bike racks Bay of Islands styleBike racks Bay of Islands styleBike racks Bay of Islands style

The world's most expensive bike rack!
of the driver's seat and walked round to the passenger side, he opened the door and rootled around a bit, then went to the back of the van and rootled around a bit more, he reappeared with his camera, took a picture of his van blocking the main west coast road, sorry I mean took a picture of his van between the trees, put his camera back in the van, got into the driver's seat and drove off. We pulled off the road and watched as the van and ten cars drove past us before the five cars waiting to go the other way could move; but, hey great shot for the album.
We stopped at Tane Mahute (the biggest kauri tree) to get a piccy for you all to be amazed by, to be fair it is a very impressive sight, then continued towards Omapere. Once we were out of the forest the road was fairly flat for a long way as we passed through farm land, just as we started to go up again there was a vicious headwind which stopped us dead, we were getting near to the Tasman Sea! We pushed most of that hill, then had to pedal down the other side because of the wind, we then started up an even steeper hill which got steeper as we went up it. See the silly cyclists pushing their bikes and still having to stop for a breather even few yards. As we reached the top and look down towards our destination the rain started, so we took some scenic shots of Omapere and the Hokianga before rolling down the hill to the Globetrekkers backpacker hostel. In fact we got the same room that we stayed in nine years ago!
In the morning we were awoken by rain on the roof so decided we were in no hurry and that we could happily spend another day here. We walked to the information centre to check our e-mails, before starting I asked if they had EFTPOS (a card payment thingy, which I thought meant I could use my credit card) and yes they did, so we used up 5 dollars worth of time, then tried to pay. It was around this point that we discovered that EFTPOS doesn't refer to the machine which reads your card, rather it is a method by which you can make payments with your New Zealand bank card and they don't neccessarily take credit cards - Oooops! We had the grand total of 65 cents in cash and the nearest ATM was 60km away, so the cashier had to accept card payment.
Later in the day the rain stopped for a while, so we cycled to Opononi to get some supplies (paid with c.c.), as we got back on the bikes the rain started again, with feeling. We got drenched on the 5km ride back to the hostel. I am sure that, as we went past the information centre, I saw the cashier doing a rain dance and laughing!

The following morning we awoke to grey skies but no rain, so we got kitted up and set off (into a headwind, naturally) towards the Bay of Islands. Sue (who runs Globetrekkers) told us that rain was forecast all day, but we had to move on as we had no cash.
The route took us through rolling farmland, and we drafted each other for energy saving as the wind did it's best to wear us down. About an hour into the ride the rain started again and we were quickly drenched, this wasn't too bad as it was a warm day and the rain was refreshing, but after a while we decided to shelter under a tree. We chose one at the bottom of a driveway and it was carefully selected for it's ability to gather all the water up before depositing it down our backs in a gentle but persistent stream. The house looked empty so we nipped up the driveway and stood under a large conifer while the rain continued to pour down. After a few minutes the owner appeared with her Jack Russell, who was very wriggly and interested in our sandwiches (the dog, not the woman). She was totally unfazed about us trespassing and even said "You should have stood in the garage". We chatted for a while and she told us to stay as long as we needed and we completely failed to get her name, so thank you whoever you were.
My gears have been playing up for a long time I've had no first or second gear, suddenly the derralieur started skipping about on the top three gears, Vern rode behind for a while and noticed that it was trying to change to a lower gear, suggesting that the cable was too tight. We stopped to brew up tea on the porch of a disused shop at Taheke and had a look at the cable. There was a kink in it, which would explain the odd gear change problems.
We rode on to Kaikohe and found an ATM just as the heavens opened again, we got a coffee and decided to call it a day while we still hadn't dissolved, the cafe owner arranged a motel room for us and we finally got dry.

The next day the sun rose and we decided to get somewhere nearer to our destination before the weather controllers noticed the two idiots on bikes again and sent more rain. So we frequented our friendly cafe for breakfast, then Vern changed my gear cable while I did some blog stuff and finally we set off.
For once the wind gods were also asleep and it was still and very hot, we had to stop so I could change my black top for a lighter coloured one, then we made good time all the way to Kawakawa, which is famous for its toilets. I kid you not, they were designed by Hundertwasser and are probably the most impressive public toilets I have ever seen; there were people taking photos of them and people videoing them - it's quite off putting for anybody wanting to use them for their intended purpose!
Over lunch and a coffee we decided to head towards Opua, where we could either get on the ferry and go to Martin and Julie's place or we could carry on to Paihia for the night depending on how we felt. This decision put us onto the main road to the Bay of Islands and the traffic increased accordingly. We hit a couple of evil hills and more road works, but the best by far was the woman in her Audi who shot past me just as I was stopping to allow traffic to clear a single lane bridge. She was so desperate to be past us before the bridge that she ended up blocking the exit for all the traffic on it, if she'd stopped behind us we'd have waved her through anyway.
We got to Opua just as somebody in Jack's Bay turned on the "Cup of tea and a comfy bed" magnet, so we rolled down to the ferry and headed for Christmas with the relatives.

And relax (ha, ha) 17/12/05 - 07/01/06


We spent Christmas and the new year just lazing around, swimming in the sea, sailing and some (not much) cycling.
Mostly we got to play with two 2 year olds which was good fun, but exhausting.

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