Friday, 31 December 2010

Napier-Nelson-New Years Eve 2010, 13th-31st December

Napier turned out to be a really good experience for us. We stayed with a British couple who have moved to the city recently. Ruth is a dentist and her husband Rowan is still looking for that perfect job. They are renting a colonial style town house near the centre of the self named ‘Art-Deco’ capital of the world. Indeed, theirs is one of only a few houses to survive the great earthquake which struck the city back in the 1930’s. Ruth and Rowan made us feel very welcome and gave us lots of tips about where to go while we were in town. We ate some lovely food while at their place, a BBQ on the first night was followed up with one of our home cooked chillis and Ruth cooked a special secret recipe chocolate pudding on our last night there. It was good to hang around with some Brits for a few nights. A good chance to discuss the differences between life over here and life at home.

We decided to check out some of the cycle paths which connect the city to the surrounding countryside, winding their way through vineyards and orchards, they are a pleasure to ride through. One of the paths leads to an even more impressive location – that of a boutique ice-cream parlour called Rush Munros in Hastings. Naturally we gorged ourselves on 2 massive Sundaes with lots of different toppings, a delicious reward for all the cycling.

For the first time in 14 years I was able to meet Aunty Margaret (a relative of my sister-in-law), the last time we two met was at my brother’s wedding. We had been in contact via email and it was such a pleasure to visit her at her house. Ivan, her husband, showed us round his very impressive garden and we even got to sample his fresh strawberries and drink tea with lots of cakes and cookies. The strangest experience occurred while we were at Margaret and Ivan’s house; they have framed photos of my brother and his wife on their wedding day. It felt really odd seeing those on the wall and being so far away on the other side of the world. Ivan drove the three of us up to a nearby lookout and gave us a tour of their neighbouring townships before we parted and moved on to a Christmas celebration which was taking place in a local park.

‘Christmas In The Park’ is an annual event in the city of Napier. It is a free event with bands and carols and the compulsory visit of Santa who arrived in true traditional style – on the back of a fire engine. Young children and teenage girls were in hot pursuit of the vehicle, though I suspect for different reasons! It is a massive event with over 25,000 people. We sang carols with our ‘couchsurf’ hosts and our 'WWOOFing' friends from Germany. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t put on any buses to get people into town after the event. We ended up giving our German friends a lift into town on the back of our bikes the end of the evening. It was quite a long way and I was only able to carry Manuel a short distance due to the fact that he is 6”2” and nearly broke the bike we were on! But Mel managed to get Anette home safely, Manuel ended up jogging the 6 km back to the city. If you are reading this Manuel – sorry about that mate!!

We packed a lot into the few days in Napier and we were full of smiles as we pushed off towards our next destination; a small collection of houses, high up in the hills on Salisbury Road, 12 km off SH 12. We were staying at a ‘couchsurf’ hosts place, Daniel, Emily and their son, Ralph. Unfortunately we were unable to meet Daniel face to face, but we were hosted by the lovely Emily and the equally lovely 20 month old Ralph. During our stay with them in their perfectly proportioned little home and their unequalled view we were treated to a once in our lifetime experience; the chance to visit working bee hives and to learn a little about the craft of breeding queens. I am of course sworn to secrecy over the ways in which this noble and ancient art has developed, but Emily’s family allowed Mel and myself the opportunity to get all dressed up in the bee keepers vale and jump suit and watch them at work sorting our their dozen or so hives.

We even got to taste honey straight from a hive which was almost too scrumptious to describe. I took a rather long video of them at work. I was surprised at how chilled out both Mel and I were surrounded by all those bees, we didn’t get stung and we must have been right in the hub of many thousands of them. Apparently they are only cranky in the autumn when the pollen dries up and they get low on supplies. We enjoyed lunch with Emily’s family at her dad’s new eco built property. It is a massive place with sandy yellow bricks made from a saw dust base. It is super insulated and can keep a steady room temperature even when it is freezing outside.

Emily cooked us a lovely dinner on our first evening there and even cooked a delicious chocolate cake for desert. Naturally we returned the favour, minus the desert on the second evening. Mel and I got to learn a little bit more about how to make a few different veggie delights including almond milk and lentil brownies. We were both feeling very inspired by our trip up Salisbury Road.

Next stop on the Charles and Melanie Hindley New Zealand cycle tour was the town of Danniverke. We had cycled another 90 odd kms before finally arriving at the campsite in the early part of the evening. We were able to pitch our tent anywhere as the place was deserted apart from 2 other tents, one of which contained a newly wed couple from Cornwall, here on a 3 week honeymoon with a hired motorbike. The other tent contained a couple of mature women with a very large inflatable mattress. So large was it in fact that they had to bring it to the kitchen to plug in an extremely loud machine in order to deflate it the day they left! As it turned out on our second night there, we were the only people on the campsite until it was almost dark. It was a really strange few hours by ourselves; it was as if we were the owners of a massive plot of land, the size of a cricket pitch, and with all these facilities to play with. We sat and drank tea in the little kitchen, looking out onto the mown grass and getting more and more wound up by a very vocal magpie. It was clearly really cheesed off that it’s mum and dad were no longer prepared to feed it and was chasing them around the entire site endlessly belly aching.

From Danniverke we cycled to Palmerston North, the last proper bit of cycling we would do on the North Island. We went in a roundabout way so that we could visit the Tui Brewery. It was a good place to stop, eat our lunch and grab a tasty pint, before heading on to a far busier campsite in the large township of Palmerston North. We got quite soaked on that journey and were grateful that there was a break in the rain when we arrived to set up the tent that evening. The rain turned out to be quite heavy on and off for the right through to Christmas Day. We didn’t get up to much in Palmerston North; it was a dormitory town for us really as we were to catch the bus to Wellington from there, which we did at around 1pm the following day.

We arrived in Wellington which was our final destination before catching the ferry across to Picton. We stayed with another Warm Showers host there, another generous soul by the name of Garry. He lives in a nice little terrace house with a great view over his area (Hataitai) of the city. It would have been a brilliant place to relax were it not for the horrendous rain and terrible wind we experienced during our stay. We still managed to pay a visit to Parliament and visit some of the local shops and café’s. We found a brilliant Malaysian café called Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian Café; she cooks great Laksa and serves brilliant coffee. It was so good in fact that it kept me up for almost an entire night! We went to see ‘The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest’ at one of the cinemas in town. It was nice to see the final part of the trilogy, even if we missed the second movie.

On our final night at Garry’s we were joined by a really nice and interesting couple who now live in Toronto and are cycle touring round NZ together, more or less following the same route as ourselves. Anna and her husband are from Russia and the U.S.A respectively and together with them and Gary we put the world to rights that evening over a mix up meal of pizza and chilli noodles with cabin bread and cheese. It was a really nice evening. We cycled to catch our ferry in the pouring rain the next morning and saw nothing of what we had been told is a beautiful sail into the harbour at Picton through the saturated windows on the restaurant on board. So rainy was it that when we left the ship we couldn’t see the road we were cycling on and Mel fell off her bike when her wheels caught on an unseen train track which was leading towards the town from the port. Luckily there were no broken bones and fortunately for us both we were very close to a BBH Hostel who had a double room available for us which we snapped up keenly before retreating from the torrent and into hibernation for the remainder of that day.

It took us 2 days to cycle to Nelson, via Queen Charlotte Drive - it’s about 120 km overall, but we chose to spend one night on a nice D.O.C. campsite at a place called Pelorus Bridge. It was the first day for a while that turned out nice and sunny. The campsite was really nice, only a handful of people there, lots of lovely trees and the sound of crickets in the trees as we went to sleep. Mel and I watched a movie in our tent, courtesy of Rowan, our ‘couchsurf’ host who helped us to upload some to our hard drive. All legal and above board you understand. Mel cooked some Dutch pancakes for our onward journey the next day and we had them cold, by a river, somewhere between Pelorus and Nelson.

We arrived in Nelson in the late afternoon and checked into our BBH Hostel; Honeysuckle Lodge. It is run by Joe and Lynn, along with their really hairy moggy, Poppy. We had booked a double room for Christmas and it turned out to be excellent. We had just a day and a half before the big day and we were keen to find out if the other guests were up for a joint Christmas dinner. It all turned out really well. We ended up having dinner with Wouter, Jenny, Aniza, and Zara, from Holland, Canada, Taiwan and England respectively. We all contributed something to the meal and it turned out to be a really nice concoction and entirely vegetarian – for the first time in my life. Mel and I cooked veggie toad-in-the-hole with roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy. Wouter and Jenny made roast veggies and a lovely dark and white chocolate cake with berries in. Zara provided Mulled Wine and boiled veggies. Aniza cooked a Chinese soup and a red bean dessert. We ate and drank lots and were even treated to some mince pies by the owners of the hostel.

We had to check out on Boxing Day and head over to the Tahuna Beach Campsite. It made a huge difference to the price for a night’s accommodation. It was also a real culture shock. People in New Zealand like to go camping at for New Years, and it seems that 5,000 of them had descended onto the largest campsite in the southern hemisphere (that’s official by the way). They had enormous tents, drunken behaviours and loud children. The campsite has varying standards of facilities, some kitchens have a TV and an area to sit in, ours didn’t even have cold water, just boiling, and an area inside to sit in, forget it, just 2 tables outside, covered in bird poo. On our first night there we were kept up by our near neighbours who were playing music and being drunk together. On our second night we were hammered by rain and wind all night. Some people lost their tents! Last night was much better though, just a few people playing cricket and having a good time – probably celebrating England destroying the Ausies in the Ashes at the MCG in Melbourne. (Just as an aside here, could I just say: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Australia lost, England won, how does it feel Australia??)

We actually spent most of Boxing Day with Wouter and Jenny, they drove us up to Nelson Lake where we were able to enjoy a fantastic hike up to the top of a mountain where we indulged in the leftovers from Christmas Dinner and took some photos of the brilliant views.

The four of us went to a Thai restaurant for dinner that evening and shared a bottle of wine and a cold beer. They are such a fantastic couple, Mel and I both really hope that we can meet each other again someday when they have set up their lives in Canada together. Thanks for the great memories you two!!

So that brings us right up to speed. There are a couple of bits that I may have missed, including some really important ones, so I better retrospectively go through those now… We have decided to ditch the trailer; it has managed 2,200 km and is now very tired indeed. So we have spoken to Bruce at Adventure Cycles and he has sent some rear cycle panniers through to me for the onward journey. Oh yeah, and we have cycled more than 2,200 km now, which is so impressive to us. Pro cyclers might be laughing right now, but we are seriously chuffed with ourselves and I hope that we can clock up another 2,000 before completing the South Island. Yesterday we took a short trip into Nelson and hiked up to the geographical centre of NZ. I somehow managed to replace all sorts of parts on both our bikes yesterday and today. Norwich City, the greatest team in history in my opinion keep the home fires burning, maintaining their great form in the seasons championship with wins at Coventry City, 2-1 and at home to Sheffield United 4-2! Next up, it’s the league leaders at home, QPR, can they keep it going??

I’m currently sitting in the ‘Guest Lounge’, here at Tahuna Beach. Mel is out in the sunshine somewhere near the tent. I really needed to catch up with this blog and I’m pleased I did. Tomorrow is New Years Eve and we reckon that we are going into town to hopefully enjoy sunny weather and a few drinks. Here’s to all of you amazing people who have read the blog up to now, I am really flattered to have actual followers out there, thanks for your support – Happy New Year for 2011!!!!!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Tolaga Bay to Wairoa (4th - 9th December)

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We travelled from Tolaga Bay to Gisborne on a nice, sunny day and were joined once again by Viola. The trip took us through an area which is renowned for being a no go area due to the gangs there. I managed to get a puncture right outside the town and frantically tried to call Mel back to help me out, but she was out of ear shot and I was alone, by the side of the road, just outside the no-go town of north land. Seconds later, a massive Maori guy in a 4WD pulls up, his mate in there with him and 2 pig dogs barking in the back. I was waiting for the AK 47 to be pulled out. He leant out of the window and said “You ok bro? Do you need somewhere to sleep tonight? That building there behind you is our family Marae (Maori meeting house). You can stay there tonight for free, there’s showers in there and beds, whatever you need!” He then went to fetch Mel and let her know where I was. During the time it took me to repair the puncture Viola turned up and we were asked if we needed help by another Maori guy. So, our experience of the gang land no-go zone was extremely positive, and although we didn’t take up the offer, we wouldn’t tell anyone never to go there. My advice is to go and see things for yourself. We have travelled to other so-called no-go zones in other parts of the world, places in Cambodia, Laos and Burma, but once again we found they were full of good people who ok, you wouldn’t ask to look after your wallet, but you don’t need to run for the hills from either.

In Gisborne we met yet more cyclists, including James, a 30 year old guy from Portsmouth at the campsite there, he has done some impressive stretches on his bike. He has even clocked 165 kms in one day, lunatic! Whilst in Gisborne we saw a huge Christmas parade passing through the town with all sorts of different floats with Santas, kids, BMX bikes and all sorts other stuff passing through the streets. It was Sinterklaas (Dutch Christmas) during our stay there. Mel, myself and Viola celebrated this event with traditional filled biscuits, baked in Holland and bought from a supermarket in town, chocolate, and other nice food and a bottle of wine.

I was also able to sip a few cold beers and watch England demolish the Aussies in the second test of the Ashes tour in Adelaide. Kevin Peterson top scoring with 228! It was a nice novelty to be able to watch an entire days play without having to spend all night awake, as I would have to do if we had been at home.

In recent times we have had to spend quite a bit of time and a little money on bike repairs. I have had to replace the tires on my trailer 3 times now, each time it has cost me $15 per tire. I have also had a puncture in the rear tire of my bike which has cost us the price of an inner tube for that as well. I have managed to repair the puncture itself on the inner tube of one of my trailer wheels recently though and this saves us a few bucks.

After a day enjoying Dutch treats and fine cricket, we cycled on to the small village of Morere which is famous because it is home to some hot springs. We camped in the village next to a river. The campground was brilliant; once again Mel, Viola and I had the entire place to ourselves, so we enjoyed private showers, toilets and a nice stream to swim in when we arrived. We were really hot and tired having had one of the biggest climbs yet to get over on the 55-60km cycle from Gisborne – a 488 metre high ascent which was seriously tough going after about the first 350 metres. Mel and I dropped our stuff on the ground and sat in the cool water of the stream as soon as we arrived, although Mel was a bit concerned that she was going to be eaten by an eel which took quite an interest in her feet. Needless to say; I was on hand to be a hero should I have been required. That evening the 3 of us sat and enjoyed feasting on all sorts of goodies on the wooden table outside the camp kitchen, talking about the people and the places we had enjoyed the most on our travels over the globe. Then, later, when the mozzies were about, we went inside and sort the comfort of the sofa where I played on my laptop for a bit, Mel did some knitting and Viola showed us some of the photo’s she had taken on her journey and we swapped a few shots from our trip to the lighthouse and from Dutch Christmas. It was a real pleasure.

Despite a little bit of rain the next morning, Mel and I set off in high spirits for a couple of reasons. We knew that the journey that day was only just over 40 km – which is pretty easy to us these days – and we were also really looking forward to staying at our latest coach surfer hosts in Wairoa because they live on a Red Deer farm. We didn’t make it too far before I got that puncture on my rear tire which I mentioned before. It didn’t take that long to change it, but during that time a nice guy from the DOC offered to give us a lift to the next village which he said wasn’t too far from where we were. Sure enough, once the tire was fixed we found the village not too far from the scene of the puncture and we rewarded all our hard efforts with some nice Fish & Chips which, incidentally came with free, fresh fruit from the owner’s back yard. The rest of the cycle into Wairoa was much flatter than the trip up to Morere, just one little hill between us and the town. We spent the afternoon in the town, I got another of the aforementioned punctures, we enjoyed some nice cake and hot chocolate at a café and we visited the local library to make use of their free internet. I was able to watch the highlights form the 4-1 win against Ipswich. Sensational!

We cycled up to Paul and Josie’s place in the rain at around 5:30pm. As we travelled down their street, we spotted a really nice house up on a hill which had a rather steep, unsealed track leading up to it – this turned out to be their place. Once we had fought our way up to the house we were greeted by a stunning view over the town, river and Hawkes Bay which leads onto the Pacific Ocean. We were also greeted by Milo and Spit, the family dogs, a donkey, horse, some cows, deer, 3 chooks, as well as AJ and Mucky, the 2 cats. We were shown to a lovely room with a nice double bed and our own bathroom. We made sure we showed our appreciation by cooking dinner over the next couple of nights. As you might expect we were joined by Viola on the second night of our stay at Paul and Josie’s and we cooked up some fantastic pasta with home-baked garlic bread and some salad. Viola brought a nice cheese cake which we enjoyed with some Hokey Pokey icecream.

On the evening Viola joined us, we all sat round the table and went through the photo’s and blog-book that Josie and Paul had put together from their trip through South America in 2007. The went all over the place and enjoyed some superb adventures together, not bad at all for a couple who have already brought up their 3 kids and created a successful Deer farm here on 120 acres land. They would have been forgiven for just enjoying their existence here, having worked so hard to get to this position, but swapped the comfort zone of daily lives in order to challenge themselves in some of the most inhospitable areas of Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Chile, Equador, Brazil and Uruguay. Hats off to them and all who don’t “sit at home and wait to die’’, as Paul says. Their stories are brilliant and you can google them if you are interested in reading some.

That brings us up to today and we were fortunate enough to be shown round the Deer farm here. Paul drove us round and we met the stags, more than 120 of them, farmed for their antlers, rather than their meat, which is nice. He explained that the velvet on their antlers can be very profitable with prices up to $100 per kilo, which is good when you consider that you can harvest 4 or 5 kilo’s from one stag, every 50 or so days during the season.

After our trip round the farm, Paul gave Mel, Viola and myself a lift into the centre of the town to catch our bus to Napier. We have been advised by many people that this stretch of road is not a good place for a pair of cyclists as it is far too narrow and everyone dies or something. However; when we arrived at the i-site the staff there informed us that we wouldn’t be guaranteed a place on the bus as it had been switched due to a breakdown and was now the size of a postage stamp, rather than an Intercity bus. After a great deal of thought, we decided to stay an extra night here and enjoy some more excellent hospitality on the farm. And here I am, sitting on Paul and Josie’s sofa, watching the light in the evening sky gently fade into Hawkes Bay. Fantastic! All being well, we should be going to Napier tomorrow.

Rotorua - Tolaga Bay, 27th November - 4th December

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This latest section of our travel has seen us travel through the wildest and least inhabited area of the North island of New Zealand. An area famous for fishing, early missionary settlements, high levels of Maori in the population and high levels of dope growing. Our own experience of the region proved that this is indeed true. On one occasion we were chatting to one of the campsite cleaners in Te Kaha who was explaining that marijuana is the currency in her town and that she has grown and smoked it since she was 12 years old and she is now 45! We met some more cyclists on this leg of the journey too and stayed with 2 more couchsurfing families. Kyril and Gaylene in the town of Whakatane and Josie and Paul in a town named Wairoa. In between Rotarua and here we have clocked up 500 km in just a week of cycling, and despite a couple of punctures; the cycling has been really good – we feel fitter and stronger, clocking up 94 km in one day between Rotorua and Whakatane!

The first day back on the bikes after our rest in the thermally active area of Rotorua was great, it was good to be back on the bikes and on the road again. Despite being overtaken by a Dutch cyclist on one of the first hills out of the town, we found the going good and relatively flat, in fact we overtook that same cyclist again a few kms later while she was taking a break. As it turned out it was not to be the only time we came into contact with her. We had packed a really nice lunch which we enjoyed in the sun by the road side somewhere around half way between the two towns. When we arrived in Whakatane in amazing time, we rewarded ourselves with some nice chips from a Chinese takeaway before searching for Kyril and Gaylene’s house where we expected to stay 2 nights. Kyril and Gaylene are a lovely couple, they are heavily involved in the community and have been missionaries for the 7 day Adventist church both in Whakatane and in other parts of the world. They were extremely generous and friendly, we spent a lovely couple of days at their place.

Kyril is an excellent gardener, indeed, so competent a gardener that he has made their half an acre plot feed them for most of the year with fresh fruit and vegetables. He has even created his own strain of runner beans which are chunky black beans – we must contact him when we are settled again so that we can borrow a few as seeds because they taste delicious. He had built some brilliant fruit cages around his strawberry patch, using old tv aerial poles connected together with electrician’s corner joins. He has some clever snail traps, set into the earth with the entrance to the trap facing east, the reason for this he says is that this protects the snails from the prevailing winds and they are more likely to go in there to protect themselves from the weather, there they find a couple of snail pellets and of course they never wake up. He also advises that you plant your roses on a north-south line, maximising the warmth of the sun during the winter months enabling the plant to put on a good show of flowers in the summer.

Both Kyril and Gaylene are full of knowledge about their local area and are keen to show people around and share their house with them. During our second day in Whakatane we went for a 12 km walk up through the hills around Whakatane and the neighbouring area, tramping up and down the hills in the sunshine, stopping to have some sandwiches on the stunning beach and enjoying another massive icecream together in the early afternoon. We discovered a new flavour of icecream on this occasion – ‘Goldrush’ a combination of vanilla, honeycomb and chocolate bits – seriously moreish, yet, guilt-free for us cyclists as we need so much more food to keep our energy up. Honest!! It was so nice just to walk together through the native bushland, through the tree-ferns, palms and the Pohutakawa trees which are now starting to some into flower. They are the New Zealand Christmas tree, covered with stunning red flowers nestled on silver and green foliage.

The walk took us around 4 hours and we didn’t quite make it all the way round the full 18 km or so, giving up and ringing Kyril who had kindly offered to pick us up if we wanted him to. On the way back through the main shopping area we overtook that same Dutch cyclist that we had seen the day before. After stopping at Pak and Save to pick up some provisions, we drove home to see her again. Viola, the Dutch cyclist has become a good friend to Mel and I and we have spent lots of time together since Whakatane as our journeys seem to have coincided regularly.

We left Whakatane the following morning and followed the coast road to Opotiki and then on to Tirohangi Motor Camp. The weather was not pleasant and for the next few days it was both cold and wet.
The Pathway to Sunrise - near Opotiki

We were both cheered by the news that the weather back home in the UK was hugely cold and that there has been more snow than there has ever been in all history (At least that is what the news would have us believe). I think we can cope with a little bit of rain and wind; being soaked through is never as bad as trying to cycle through 4 feet of snow on the roads of Britain.

The day we left I received a text from my brother Eugene who has been keeping in touch with all thing Norwich City FC related and it was the best txt from home that I have ever received regarding the ‘pride of Anglia’ – It read Norwich 4 Ipswich 1 – the best result we have ever had against the old enemy and the result takes us up to 5th in the championship table. Since then we have also beaten Derby 2-1 and we are sitting in 4th place in the table. This kind of news coming though has been really inspiring to me. Norwich City are a club on the up, full of players who will run and run all day and never give up. When I need a little extra motivation in order to make it up a massive mountain on the bike, I think of all the hard work that Paul Lambert, the management team, the players and supporters are putting into the football back home and it gives me strength! Portsmouth next – come on boys!!

On our trip round the East Cape we also met 7 other cyclists, one other English guy named James, a Kiwi pair, a scientist from Portsmouth and 2 Swiss couples, one of whom were travelling with a 1 year old boy who was travelling in a trolley like our own. Brave people to bring a child all the way over here. They make a mockery of all those parents who say that they would love to do something like this, but just couldn’t with the kids – we have all met the type haven’t we? The little baby is loving the trip, spending lots of quality time with his mum and dad and looking up at all the interesting people and places along the way. Viola and Mel seem to think that it is a bit dangerous to be carting a child around on New Zealand’s roads and they might have something there I suppose.

Lots of the towns on the East Cape are almost deserted, commercial buildings and old homesteads are empty and falling down. It seems to me that the people used to live and work here, but have since left in search of a better life. In some areas there are brick built chimney stacks standing alone in empty paddocks, reminders of the families and wider communities which used to live there, but who are now long since gone.

We bumped into Viola again at a rather disgusting campsite on the beach at Te Araroa. She had hooked up with a fire fighter from Gisborne named Garry. He is a keen fisherman, cyclist, Kayaker and all round nice guy who took the time to give us all a lift to the East Cape Lighthouse which marks the most Easterly point of the North island. It was such a great thing to be able to do. We didn’t anticipate being able to visit the lighthouse as it is at the end of a long unsealed road. We were really pleased to go there though, as it gave us the chance to see another major landmark on our travels, take some pictures and to talk fishing, something which I haven’t had much of a chance to do since we arrived in the country 3 months ago.

I was able to do a spot of fishing on the wharf next to a campsite in Tolaga Bay a few days after our visit to the lighthouse, having been re-enthused by Garry. I was offered the chance to take a Crayfish pot onto the wharf and try my luck with that as well. Mel came with me and read her magazines, wrote her diary and soaked up the sun while I tried in vain to catch something for dinner.

The wharf juts out into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by sandstone cliffs, full of caves and cathedral coloured rocky outcrops which were being slammed by the waves, each time a wave hit the back of a cave the water would collide with the rock and a sound like thunder would reverberate across the surface of the water. Luckily for me, Mel had a back up plan, should I not catch a fish and she cooked up the nicest chilli and rice, this followed an incredible rich, vegetable soup which she had prepared for lunch earlier in the day. I am such a spoiled husband!

The Swiss couples and Viola were also staying on the same site as us again. We were all able to enjoy the facilities on the campsite in relative peace and quiet. This has been a trend of the East Cape, empty campsites, varying in cleanliness and quality, but nice to spend time in because of they are so empty, bar us cyclists anyway.

Friday, 26 November 2010

16 - 23rd November, Taupo - Taupo

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With so much of the North Island still left to visit, we made the decision to hire a car in Rotorua, just for one week, so that we could travel over to the west coast and see Mount Taranaki and the New Plymouth coastline. It was a decision we were pleased we made, due to the vast distances we needed to cover and the ever shortening time frame that we have placed upon ourselves, so that we might be able to reach South island by Christmas. We were able to get a car for $249 for the week, that’s £125, it was a Nissan 4WD thing and it did the job well. A couple of days ago we drove from Rotorua to Taupo to Couch Surf with a really nice guy called Terence. He comes from an enormous family, hundreds of cousins, aunts, uncles and children. He has had such an interesting life, spending 10 years of it working on the oil rigs in the north sea which gave us both something to talk about, given my recent background, working with Juice DBT up in Aberdeen, helping to encourage better communication between the rig workers. During his time it was very much ‘every man for himself’, people didn’t really take the time to talk over the job in hand, or the jobs of other rig workers. My role within Juice was to help highlight the different attitudes and behaviours that abound on oil rigs and help the rig workers to identify some useful tips to enable them to continue to communicate the right way while out at sea. I learnt a great deal about the life of the oil rig workers during that period. Terence lives by himself in the town of Taupo, within spitting distance of Lake Taupo and he welcomes all travellers to his place, from all over the world. He is one of the most accommodating, generous and selfless men I have ever met. The evening we arrived there he insisted on cooking dinner for Mel and I and three others, 2 German girls and a girl from Singapore. He said to us that we should help ourselves to anything in the kitchen, if we could find it, we could have it, if we couldn’t find it, then he didn’t have it. That way, he said, we wouldn’t have to keep asking questions. We were truly humbled by the man’s generosity and the next morning when we left, we made a pact that we should return some day.

It was an early start, the morning we left Terence’s place - it was our intension to drive to a campsite known as the base camp for a hike which has been referred to as the best in the world; the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We were hoping for a good nights rest before joining the many other travellers who had the same plan. That didn’t come to pass though, as our tent continues to make sleeping rather difficult. I woke up at 4am, soaked in condensation. We had chosen not to open the fly screen that night because of the biting insects and that, coupled with the altitude, meant that the inside of our very expensive, but third rate tent became unbearably wet. The tent is called ‘Vango Spirit 300+’ and it cost us a lot of money (over £300). We haven’t been satisfied with it from the off, it is constantly getting wet inside; we even had to re-waterproof the outside after it started to leak in Brisbane. We contacted Vango in Scotland and they basically told us to stop bothering them, so they could go and hide their heads in the sand a bit longer and maybe count their money for a while. My advice – don’t buy their products!

Not to be deterred, we made our way by mini bus to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, a little bit groggy, but ever keen to see what all the fuss was about. The hike began in the early half-light of a fresh morning. We could see some small patches of snow on the higher ground as we began our walk. There was a lot of heather on the lower hills and some really pretty daisy-like flowers contrasting the rusty colours of the plants around them and the rock beneath. As we moved onto higher ground, the plant life began to lessen and different volcanic rock formations with streams fed by springs took over. Some of the rocks were very similar to those we encountered on Rangitoto Island; large rivers of porous, rough and jagged stones, massive rocks which must have been lava bombs, were all around us on the ascent. We were hiking up the western side of the volcano and from there we could see Mount Taranaki, all the more impressive when you consider that Taranaki is on the other side of the island, hundreds of kms away. In the crater of the first volcano and making our way towards a higher summit it felt like another world, so many different rocks and sand lying, lake-like all around us. In the next crater, there was a collection of emerald lakes, heated by the volcano and fed by springs and snow. The pathway took a turn for the worse at this point though and I fell over a couple of times. I wasn’t the only one falling over. As most of the hikers were slowly, gingerly slipping and sliding perilously close to oblivion; enter an American couple who were arrogantly running down the slope, such a shame that he fell over and cut his leg to ribbons just near one of those lakes!

Mel and I found a quiet spot to eat our packed lunch, looking out over a lake, enjoying boiled egg sandwiches, breakfast bars and bananas, then we made our way down towards the car park on the northern side of the volcano formations. Some of the signs on the pathway warn you about the possibility of an eruption and what to do in that event – effectively run, as fast as you can! Once at a lower altitude; the pathway began to take us through a really thick area of native bush, Manuka, Tree Ferns, Mosses, Palms and lovely bird life. We were stuck behind a group of German hikers for a while and Mel was translating what they were saying to each other. Apparently they were discussing ‘Tim-Tams’, an Australasian chocolate biscuit bar which is famous for the ‘Tim-Tam Slam’. They were drooling over how amazing it is to bite off the opposing corners of them and then suck tea or milk through the biscuit before slamming the rest in your mouth. The feeling was mutual. We spent the rest of the 6 hour hike dreaming of chocolate and drinking in the surroundings.

Our next port of call after doing the Tongariro Crossing was to drive to New Plymouth via the very scenic ‘Forgotten World Highway’. To be perfectly honest, there are very few highways in the UK that I would consider scenic – too many cars, filth everywhere on the sides of the roads, expensive petrol stations with nothing but processed food and disgusting toilets for respite – we all know what to expect. However, much to my surprise, the ‘Forgotten World Highway’ proved to be the best drive I have ever made in my life. In well over 3 hours, we saw maybe 10 cars and a couple of motorbikes, a good start. The landscape we drove through was very much like driving through little pieces of heaven. Picture rolling green hills, lambs, cows, horses and picturesque farmsteads, trees of every size and colour, thick rainforest vegetation, filled with beautiful bird song, wild mountain goats, sunshine in a cloudless sky. We drove through an amazing deep gorge where we looked up at vast, sheer cliffs which sprouted tree-ferns and lush green plants. Towards the end of it all; we saw Mount Taranaki, looming large on the horizon, appearing to be hovering above the low lying cloud, the snow covered volcanic summit rising majestically up into the deep, blue sky as the sun began to lower, changing the colours and textures of everything around. We were, once again, blown away by an awesome sight.

In New Plymouth we were hosted by another couch surfing couple called Barbara and Craig. They generously let us sleep in one of their spare bedrooms, make use of the facilities in their beautifully finished house and they were extremely nice people into the bargain. We really enjoyed our time in New Plymouth. It is a contemporary city with Art Galleries, Theatres, shops and a volcanic, black beach with brilliant surfing, not to mention piles and piles of brilliant driftwood. If we owned a car with a trailer I would have collected lots for ornamental purposes. Towering over the entire region is Mount Taranaki. You really should take a look at our photos (when we eventually have good enough internet to upload them!) to get some idea of scale of Taranaki.

Because of the mineral rich soils in the region, gardeners and public gardens in particular thrive. We visited two gardens; ‘Tupare Gardens’ and the ‘Hollard Gardens’. The high acid levels of the soil make for great growing conditions for Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Hydrangeas and there are great collections all over the city. In the first of the public gardens we visited, there are some trees which have grown unnaturally quickly over the years, including a copper beech and a Tulip tree, both of which grew to more then 50 feet tall in just 12 years. You don’t have to be an expert to see the attraction of landscaping in this environment. We love gardens, after all, we were married in the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, and they are always a refuge and a contrast to everything else around them. Having the time to enjoy them without anybody else around allowed us to fully appreciate them. Fragrant roses, song thrushes in full voice, pristine lawns, Victorian style glass houses and blue sky’s. A real treat.

The following day we left New Plymouth and made our way up and back across the country towards Taupo again. It was raining a lot so it was a good day to be in a car, rather than on a bike. Terrance offered to put us up for another night and we took him up on that and we were really pleased that we did because there was a real eclectic bunch of travellers to share conversation with over dinner. Just before we arrived at Terrance’s I had a bit of an accident at a petrol station, spilling fuel all over my trainers and shorts. Somewhat frustrating as it meant that I had to spend the first hour of my evening hand washing them in an effort to get the smell out. Not to worry though, when I eventually emerged from the laundry room I was treated to a lovely Thai curry and coconut pudding coupled with great conversation. French, Estonian, Scottish, English, Maori and Finnish nationals were represented, and between us we really did put the world to rights.

The following day we had to make our way back to Rotorua in order to pick up our bikes and to return the car. That is where we are today. I am currently sitting in the games room of the ‘Cosy Cottage’ campsite. The news is on at the moment. It is coming live from Greymouth on the south island. 29 coal miners have been trapped after an explosion 6 days ago and the C.E.O of the company is giving a press conference, updating the media on their progress in trying to rescue the men. It doesn’t look good for those poor men; if ever we needed a bit of perspective in the world then this is it.

Our next destination is the east cape, we have couple of couch surfing places lined up, including the opportunity to learn about bee keeping from a lovely couple who have offered us a bed for a couple of days, and we will also be meting up with Auntie Margret, a relative of ours in Napier City. We have booked our ferry from Wellington to Picton which departs on the 21st of December and it is our intention to be in Nelson for Christmas. From there we intend to get some fruit picking work which will take us into the New Year.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Tania's to Taupo 31st October to 16 November 2010

I’ve sat down to write blogs in all sorts of different places – hotels in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, Qantas flights at 48,000 feet, Motels, B & B’s, WWOOFing homes – the list goes on. Today, I am sitting at a wooden table in a public rest area next to Lake Taupo, shading from the glorious mid spring sunshine. The air here is fresh and clear, like the sky and the water. Taupo is the largest fresh water lake in New Zealand, formed by a long extinct volcano and now home to many thousands of trout, as well as thrill seekers from across the globe, all desperate to throw themselves out of plane or Bungy jump off a cliff. I can hear the sounds of familiar spring bird songs of the thrush, blackbird, starling and sparrow interspaced with the tui, black swan, duck, goose and moorhen which glide in and around Acacia Bay as the water gently laps onto the dark volcanic sands of the beach away to my left. Mel is sitting in the full sun, knitting an attractive hat for the distant cold months that we are told will eventually return after the much anticipated long, hot summer we hope to experience over the coming months. The signs are good; there have been many days of sunshine recently.

There is a great deal that I would like to bring you up to date about including; our second visit to Tania and Peggy’s place, our new friends made during our stay there and the subsequent cycle trip around the Coromandel Peninsula which has taken our distance on the bikes well over the 1,000 km mark and brought us here, to one of the great wonders of this brilliant country. But we must begin with a brief visit to our second coming at Tania’s place.

As we arrived it was clear that there was much activity on the home front; buoyed by her first experience of taking on WWOOFers (namely us), Tania had taken on a small clutch of German travellers by the names of Manuel, Anette and Susie. They had spent most of their days weeding, cleaning and helping Tania and Peggy to prepare for spring in both the house and garden. Mel and I could see the difference between the veggie patch before and after we had returned and we were extremely pleased to see the progress of the chooks in their mansion. Peggy and Tania are getting 6 eggs everyday, like clockwork. During our stay we enjoyed great hospitality again and even had the chance to enjoy a proper Northland style party to celebrate Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ night in one big celebration.

The Lean-to we had built the foundations for during our first visit was completed by Mel and Tania whilst I attacked one of the many flower beds which needed attention having been engulfed with weeds; ‘Wandering Jew’ and an African Grass, both of which have roots which can grow many feet long. It was both back breaking work and slow in terms of progress, such are the challenges of growing organically.

Susie, Anette and Manuel proved very willing workers and between the 6 of us we were able to fully stock Tania’s wood shed with Black Wood, Ti tree, Gum and other logs, all of which will of course provide her with the free fuel she needs to heat her water and cook her food. Peggy hosted us for a roast dinner one evening; this included a lovely cut of beef and a brilliant trifle. The party was also a really good night. Laksar, an alternative guy from Arizona brought over his drums and his son, 14 year old Tom. He also had a WWOOFer staying with him named Cecile, from Paris. Another guest, a sheep shearer called Hamish completed the clutch of guests. We had a BBQ, supped wine and beer and generally did what people do at parties! We also had some Chinese lanterns and fireworks which we set off in the perfect night sky, a reminder of our wedding reception in Norfolk where we were able to do the same thing.

Eventually our time at Tania’s came to an end and we went back to Auckland to get our bikes serviced by Bruce at Adventure Cycles, but not before a visit to the Kauri Museum, a must see for all travellers to Northland. It is an extensive look at all the history of the logging and gum digging industry in the area.

We spent a few nights in Auckland, got the bikes sorted, eventually, and bought our tickets to travel by ferry to the Coromandel Peninsula. You’ll remember my mentioning Phillip, the guy cycling across the country from Germany? Well, he was waiting to get onto the same ferry as us at the dock in Auckland and we enjoyed passing the time on our 2 hour journey across the harbour. The three of us cycled into Coromandel together, a short 12 km trip which was spoiled by the poor work carried out on my brakes by one of Bruce’s staff at Adventure cycles. It appears that they think that tightening brakes is achieved by welding them to the rim of the wheel and that fixing a quick release wheel back on is completed without tightening the screws – great to have to deal with in the fading light!
Charlie and Phillip om the boat to Coromandel

Leaving Auckland

The Coromandel Peninsula is very beautiful. The beaches are as good as any in the world. You can find quiet spots to have lunch by the water, as we found out on our first day there, munching on kiwi fruit and sweet corn whilst sitting astride a rock pool in the sun on an otherwise empty beach, watching hermit crabs scurry out to grab the skin of the fruit for a quick snack, before darting back to shelter under pebbles to wait for the next high tide. There are many coves and islands within sight almost all the way round the coast there and we often pulled over to scrape our jaws off the road and pinch ourselves to check that we were not dreaming. As the photographs will show – it’s all real.

View from the top of Coromandel hill

Coromandel has some killer hills to climb on the bikes. We endured seriously steep roads on our first day in particular and we had to put up with the sarcastic tooting of car horns as we sweated and huffed our way up to the summit of some of those climbs. You can always tell the difference between a supportive toot and a sarcastic toot by the facial expression of the driver. Mel and I were both guilty of cursing on more than one occasion at the latter type, as we all would I assume?

Having made it across the steepest of hills we arrived into a small, seaside township of Hahei. We stocked up on a few much needed groceries, a couple of beers, and headed for the campsite. As it turned out; the campsite was to be the venue for a mini festival that night, with famous Kiwi comics and musicians performing. Around 300 or so had gathered for the event. The entire campsite was full of hired campervans, there must have been 50 different 4-birth vans there, an RV enthusiasts dream. We sat and had some dinner before having a walk down on the beautiful sand of the beach there. As we wandered back to our tent we snuck through the performance field and spotted a stand-up comic on stage, recognisable from the Kiwi version of ‘Mock the Week’ – ‘7 Days’. I have no idea what the guys name is mind you. We slept well that night, despite the music, I love festivals anyway. The next morning we popped down onto the beach and shot another video, so you can see how nice the beach is by looking through the Flickr album as usual.
Charlie on Hahei beach

Mel at Hahei

All those hills and toots proved to be worth the hassle though; as we eventually made it to one of nature’s true phenomena, known as ‘Hot Water Beach’. There is a section of sand on the beach, approximately 25 metres in width and it spews boiling water from thermally heated springs out onto the sand as the tide lowers. This has drawn the attention of all passing tourists, keen to experience their very own hot, salt-water spa bath which they can dig themselves. You have to dig your spa in the right place though as the water varies from place to place. Sometimes it is far too hot, and sometimes not quite hot enough. The café next to the beach make a killing by hiring out spades for $5 a pop and given how many tourists go there everyday, they must be making a killing! Well worth the visit though and not something that you can do anywhere else in the world.

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Passing through Coromandel to our current location of Taupo has allowed to sample our first ever ‘Warm Showers’ and ‘Couch Surfing’ hosts in New Zealand. Both these organisations have been set up in order to allow honest, decent travellers a free accommodation. ‘’ is specifically for cyclists, so that they can finish their day with a nice warm shower and a roof over their heads for a night or so. ‘’ is the same sort of deal, but you don’t have to be a crazy cyclist in order to do it. So far we have been hosted by Phillip and Helen, along with their three lovely children in Tauranga through the ‘warmshowers’ deal. They were very generous folk, they cooked dinner for us and let us stay for a couple of days so that we could sample the delights of their town, including thermally heated salt water swimming pools – think of the best bath you ever had – and Mount Maunganui, another extinct volcano which you can climb and get extensive vies of the area. Then, through the ‘couchsurfing’ website we found Dave and another host family; the Taylors, both of whom are based in the Rotorua and Taupo areas. Dave’s place is a characterful ‘Batch’ just off a main road near Rotorua and we were able to crash there for a night on the 14th of November. He is a seriously chilled out guy with an impressive travelling CV. We didn’t get that much time to chat to him, this was due to the fact that we had booked to go and experience a ‘traditional Maori evening called Te Po. It was an expensive affair, over $100 each, but it included dinner, with some seriously good food, the chance to learn the Haka, a comical and humbling affair and also the chance to watch one of the great freaks of nature, a geyser in full flow. The chance to see the boiling hot plumes of water blowing up out of the earth in the late evening sunset was one of the true highlights of our trip so far. The ticket we purchased for the Maori evening also included entry to ‘Hells Gate’ a thermal park – I urge you to check it out online and watch our videos from there, because it is literally like walking on the surface of another planet, with sulphur pools and mud volcano’s and of course an all pervasive eggy smell all around us! George Bernard Shaw named one of the pools at the geo-thermal hotspot ‘Hells Gate’ as he believed that this must be the place that atheists such as him would end up after they died. The earth is a myriad of different colours and shapes all over the area; greens, yellows, greys, orange. There are black bubbling pools of water and mineral rich mud everywhere augmented with eruptions of gases pulsing through the earths in released into the atmosphere. What a spectacle it is!

On our journey to stay at the Taylors house last evening we stopped at a thermally heated stream so that Mel could go for a quick dip and that again was a bizarre and wholly unusual experience. I mean imagine being able to go into a stream in the middle of nowhere which is hotter than your average bath!

We arrived at the Taylors stunning hilltop home in the early evening, stopping once more to take in the immense power of Huka Falls (again, see the photo’s). We were greeted by the lovely Ollie, possibly the worst guard dog in history, all she wanted to do was to cuddle and lick us to death. We were made to feel extremely welcome by Raewyn and Kevin. We enjoyed great food, great conversation and one of the best night’s sleep we have enjoyed for some time!

Tonight we will be staying with Terence, another ‘couchsurfing’ host. We have had a pretty chilled day in Taupo. We did a spot of Christmas shopping, went for a swim in the lake and generally made sure that we got our strength up for the big one – a massive 18.5 km hike over some of the nearby mountains tomorrow. This will involve us getting up at the crack of dawn and driving to a campsite first thing. There we can leave our stuff and get a lift to the drop-off point for the hike. So, that’s us up to date I reckon. I’m looking forward to the next instalment already.

Charlie swimming in Lake Taupo

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Road back to Tania’s 24th-27th October

Having surfed the sand dunes by the 90 mile beach and made some much needed running repairs to the bike trailer, Mel and I set off from the backpackers in Kaitaia and headed south down the west coast of New Zealand. Our objective was to make our way through the Waipoua Forest and to visit the national icon that is ‘Tane Mahuta’, the world’s largest, living Kauri Tree. We stopped at a couple of places along the way.

We chose to stop at a homestay which was in a small, forgotten village called Broadwood. I say forgotten village because it has about as much life in it as a suburb of Chernobyl. However, it was exactly half way between Kaitaia and Rawene on the Hokiana harbour and therefore a perfect stopping point for weary muscles. We chose to spend the night at a homestay and found the entire experience somewhat contrasting. The house itself was at the top of an incredibly steep climb and is owned by a nice enough couple. The common room is nice, they have a pool table, DVD’s and a great selection of 1960s and 70’s music on vinyl, but the room we slept in left a lot to be desired. For a start; the ceiling was sloping and left basically no head room for the guest. The floor was also sloping in a dangerous way, away from the centre of the building. The bed was the most uncomfortable we have slept on in New Zealand and the walls, floor and ceiling were not complete, in that they have electrical wires protruding from them. Mel was particularly uncomfortable and did not sleep a wink all night. It has to be said though that we were pleased to get away from there the next day and on to our next destination which turned out to be much more savory.

Rawene is a lovely seaside town with good fish & chips and superb sunsets. We stayed at a campsite which boasts its own swimming pool. As the sun beat down on us whilst we rode in on our bikes, we were really looking forward to a dip in the pool. Alas, this was not to be as somebody had decided to pour beer into the water and it was currently closed. Mel and I went into the town to get those fish & chips before sitting and reading in the late afternoon sun on a bench by our tent. As we idled away the hours; we noticed another cyclist making there way onto the tent site. His name is Phillip, a German guy, 29 and super fit, having already cycled round the USA before finding his way over to New Zealand. He is a great bloke and he comes from the Westphalia region of Germany, where they make VW campervans! As it turned out, we were about to see a lot of Phillip. He has travelled many of the same routes as ourselves. We have bumped into him several times since we met that evening, including in Waipoua Forest, Dargaville and even on the ferry from Auckland to Coromandel – but that’s for another blog entry.

We saw some amazing scenery on the West coast - here are a couple of snaps...

Those who know me will understand how important trees are to me, having been a hugger of trees for many years. The Department of Conservation has protected all the remaining Kauri trees in New Zealand from the huge logging firms who used to cut them down for the money! Tane Mahuta is by no means the largest ever Kauri tree, just the largest left standing. Judging by the 7km uphill climb we had to do on the bikes just to get to it, one is left assuming that the only reason it is still standing is due to it’s distance above sea level. This would have made it quite difficult to get to for the early logging teams back in the day.
Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. It is thought this tree was discovered and identified in the 1920’s when contracted surveyors surveyed the present State Highway 12 through the forest. In 1928 Nicholas Yakas and other Bushmen, which were building the road, also identified the big tree Tane Mahuta.
According to Maori mythology Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tane was the child that tore his parent’s parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today. All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tane’s children.
Trunk Girth 13.77 m
Trunk Height 17.68 m
Total Height 51.2 m
Trunk Volume 244.5 m3
When I was a younger man, my friends and used to have parties in the forests around Norfolk. They were enormous events; people set up marquees, bespoke sound systems and you could get everything you needed to get through several days of living amongst the trees. Travelers would bring their trucks and sell drinks, food and other provisions and generators would provide power to keep the music going 24 hours a day. The only respite you could get from the music was to go and string up a hammock or sleep in a car some distance away from the massive speakers in the amongst the pine trees. We used to have these parties in the forest because we were always surrounded by trees and wildlife and it felt special. Walking through the Kauri Forest of Waipoua felt as exiting as all those trips into rural Norfolk.

Feeling revitalized by our trip up to see Tane Mahuta; Mel and I decided to camp at the Waipoua campgrounds which are well situated in a valley surrounded by all the sounds and smells of the native forest. We pitched our tent under a Norfolk Island pine tree and after a little supper, settled in to read by torchlight in our tent. Just before going to sleep I decided that I would pay one last visit to the bathroom. This turned out to be a massive error as the moment I open the tent inner to leave I was literally covered in mozzies – hundreds of them. I spent the next 20 seconds dancing more frantically than Michael Flatley after a few too may beers, slapping at my face and hands before sprinting to the men’s room and checking behind me to see whether the swam of mozzies had followed me there. Fortunately they hadn’t. Once back inside our tent, I had to spend the next few minutes killing the dozen or so blood-suckers that had followed me into bed. For the rest of the night we could hear many hundreds of mozzies just waiting to attack us should we decide to make our way back out into the darkness! When we came to pack the tent away in the morning, they remained on the attack and I’m ashamed to admit that Mel had to rescue me at one point, helping me to take out the inner tent as I had been rendered incapable with fear!
That day we made our way to Dargaville where we spent the night in a caravan which we rented for $30. It was not such a nice night’s sleep as the entire van shook with every passing vehicle. Mel cooked pancakes for supper before bed though, which more than made up for the discomfort of the sleeping arrangements. We were also reassured by the knowledge that the next night we would be back at Tania’s!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Back in Auckland on the 2nd of November 2010

We’re really starting to enjoy this now, we have clocked up 730 kms on our bicycles and the core fitness is now there, ready and waiting to help us through the next section of our trip – the Coromandel Peninsula. On our trip so far we have achieved so much it has taken us both by surprise and perhaps we are now really beginning to feel addicted to New Zealand, its people and the places we have seen. Some of the highlights so far include:
  • Completing our first day of cycling more than 70kms
  • Visiting the oldest colonial building in the entire country; The wooden Kemp House and The Stone House at Keriker,
  • Visiting Tane Mahuta; the oldest living Kauri tree in the country
  • Night kayaking through the phosphorescence
  • Getting up close to the dolphins while on ‘The Rock’ boat
  • Meeting so many great people from all over the world
  • Watching the blog hits top 1,000
  • Sledging down a sand-dune
  • Watching two oceans collide at Cape Reinga
  • Seeing a real life Kiwi bird
  • Building a chook mansion
  • Eating all the amazing New Zealand food
  • Eating picnic lunches in some amazing places while out cycling
  • Playing in an international 5 a-side match and finishing on the winning team
  • Running in the 9 km fun run and Mel finishing second in the women’s section

But I haven’t forgotten about home and while we’ve been away I have been kept informed of the goings on both as far as the family go and special praise must go to:
  • Elliott Hindley – my nephew who is currently appearing at the Theatre Royal in Norwich in the Nut Cracker and has cemented his place in the Wymondham football team as a goal-keeper
  • Ellamae Hindley, my niece who recently performed at St Andrews Hall in Norwich to much acclaim.
  • My Mum – for mastering Skype
  • The rest of my family and friends for staying in touch with me so well

The blog has received more then 1,250 hits to date. So to everyone at home – I have not forgotten you and it is clear that you have not forgotten me – keep the spirit alive, I know that you will!!!