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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 cafĂ© 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.

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