Day 72 – This is why I tour

I woke up feeling the weight of this week in my legs. I've had a handful of days recently with 1km ascent and I haven't felt like my legs were in any way fresh since somewhere on the South Island. But on I ride because I can still turn the pedals, because I still have things to see and I'm running out of time and what else am I going to do?

It really does not help that I woke up and am immediately faced with a 240m climb in about 2.5km. I knew it was there so I stretched and spun lightly around the camp ground hoping to be a little ready. I gritted my teeth and watched my Garmin say 10% grade for oh too long. Leaving camp starts to take me inland so the view from my climb (picture below is about half way up) is the last of the sea I will see for a bit.

After this I drop down to Hick's Bay and the hills are no longer as tall but still just as steep. A head wind picks up somewhere around here and I'm finding I can't get my bike up 14% grades while fighting a wind so I am glad I can walk in these shoes. After fighting wind and steep hills through inland farm country for 50km I'm feeling a little down on my luck.

But finally, I make it back to the coast. I stop to catch my breath and stare at the sea and run into another cyclist going the opposite direction. Good to see I'm not the only one out suffering on these hills. There are far fewer touring cyclists here than on the South Island so sometimes I wonder. From here, the road hugs the coast for the next 200km and the views are fantastic. I am completely blown away by how phenomenal this area is. No traffic, absolutely beautiful weather and constant view of the sea. It may even be worth the week of hills.

The wind has died down and I'm pretty pumped about the scenery so I find some sort of second wind and keep pedaling. I make it to Whanarua Bay and that energy is gone, so I pull in to the cheap beach camp to set up here. I find a quiet corner, reasonably shielded from wind and the morning sun next to two older couples encampment and pitch tent. I'm famished at this point so before I even put things in my tent I walk to a cleared patch of grass to fire up my gas stove and make dinner.

One of the ladies, Sue, saw me and asked if I wanted to join them for dinner. I was kinda caught off guard, I figured they meant bring my food and eat with them but I hadn't even started. She asked what I was eating, beans, rice and Moroccan tomatoes I said, then she offered lamb roast instead.

I join her and her husband Richard as well as their friends Teresa and Doogle for a delicious top notch camp dinner of roast lamb, assorted veggies, wine and beer. There was even blueberry pie for desert. I share stories of my travels and we talk until its completely dark out. As I mentioned before I haven't unpacked anything but my tent so when we split for bed I had to try to set up by my flashlight until the batteries died. Perhaps I should have bought spares when the warning started, oops.

So the day started off with me suffering and being tired and ended in a beautiful coastal ride topped with a fantastic dinner with new friends from the other side of the world. So that's why I tour. Some days I suffer a little and some days maybe I suffer a lot but I'm out here traveling by the power of my legs, seeing new and beautiful places and meeting interesting people from around the world.

 

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Day 70 – Tires are important

Decided I would get an early start this morning so I woke up at 6:30 and started packing my stuff. I wanted to beat the heat today. Well, when I was putting my rear panniers on I noticed my tire looked a little destroyed.

This is the original rear tire (a Continental Comfort Contact) and has lasted me probably close to 2500 miles with time on rough pavement and gravel roads. Most importantly it did all of this carrying heavy weight and not once had a flat. So all things considered I was pretty happy with the tire.

I wandered over and asked Rob what I might do about getting myself to Gisborne, since there was no bike shop in my direction for 300km or more. He told me to head to town and see if I could get one brought on the courier. I ride the 4km to town, tire still holding up, and ask at the dairy (the only thing open) about how to arrange a courier. They let me use their phone and help me call a pile of bike shops looking for someone who is willing to deal with me needing to pay by credit card over the phone. Nobody can do that, though, but Freddy from Bikeys bike shop was really helpful and wound up agreeing to send the tire on the courier cash on delivery. I had nagged him with several calls as I figured things out and they weren't even supposed to be open yet! Really appreciate him and the nice lady at the dairy for helping me get back on the road.

I upgraded the rear tire to a Continental Touring Plus, since it was that or a cheap tire. Unfortunately it was more than I wanted to spend but stuff like that isn't as cheap here as it would be back home. Cost me $10nzd as well to get the courier to bring the tire and return the cash, but it came by 11:30am and sure beat hitchhiking to Gisborne and back.

Well I didn't beat the heat so when I finally got on the road it was up around 90 degrees and the tar on the road was melting. At some points it caused trucks to tear the road up and send stones flying but for the most part it just meant the road occasionally felt like glue. I made my couple climbs and wasn't feeling it. Between the heat and the steep hills I was exhausted by the time I made it to Tokomaru Bay. I stopped to eat a snack on the beach and ran into a German guy, Faulkner, who was sitting next to a Surly LHT.

We talked for a while and he told me about the backpackers he was staying at (Brian's Place), said they had tent sites so I went up to check it out. From the hostel itself I had to climb stairs cut into the dirt up a hill to this single tent site area with the most spectacular view.

So after seeing the spot I decided I would end my day here happily.

 

Day 69 – Hills and beaches

It's definitely summer here now and the more north I go, the warmer it gets. This morning I was woken by a gap in the trees letting enough light hit my tent above my head to turn it into a stifling hot room. As soon as I unzipped the rainfly door the cold air rushed in and I was wide awake. I went into my hosts kitchen to make some coffee (I can't wait to not be drinking freeze dried coffee every morning) and some toast.

From there I started heading up highway 35 into the cape. Beautiful beaches and bays kept appearing whenever the road turned back out towards the coast. Yesterday's marvelous tailwind had left me and now I was fighting a big of head/cross winds coming from over the sea. Not entirely unpleasant, given the cool air kept the sweltering heat of the day and sun a bit more manageable.

Outside of the winds it was a day of constant small but steep hills. I decided to it quits about 55km in when I had made it to Tolaga bay. The east cape is full of “freedom camp” sites, including one here, but they have a strange definition of this as you must pay some money for a permit and follow the list of rules. The only rule that really didn't work for me was that you must carry a chemical toilet. I chose to ignore this rule and pitched tent by the beach near a public toilet.

Some of the camp sites there were semipermanent structures that families have been using for years. Next to me was a Maori family with a giant festival tent type thing and inside they had everything, including the kitchen sink. Spent a while talking to Rob, who now lives in Thailand. It's interesting to hear the opinion people abroad have of the states.

No shower here but splashing around in the sea made me smell a little better. I love this place!

 

Day 68 – Gunning for Gisborne

I left Wairoa heading to Gisborne, a 99km ride. Gisborne is a decent sized town and the start of the east cape area. It was a hot, tiring and beautiful day.

The hilly nature of the past few days didn't stop today (nor will it any time soon). Though today most of the time spent suffering was on one big climb in the middle that turned into some weird stair-step like climb until I was left with a stunning view before the descent.

Outside of the hard 25km in the middle, the rest was mostly flat and with a reasonable sized tail wind so I cranked an average speed of 19kmh, including the time spent eating lunch, snacks and occasionally resting my wimpy legs. That's ignoring the effect the hills in the middle had, though.

I was set on Gisborne today as I was staying with another warmshowers host, Eric and Laura. A bed may not have been waiting but a quiet and cozy spot for my tent in their back yard was great.

I got my hot shower and discovered Eric and Laura went to University of Dayton and had moved here from Kentucky. Even more Americans who gave into the temptation to stay after visiting! Had a good time talking to them about their move and life in New Zealand. Eric even shared some tasty home brew cider.

 

Day 68 – Gunning for Gisborne

I left Wairoa heading to Gisborne, a 99km ride. Gisborne is a decent sized town and the start of the east cape area. It was a hot, tiring and beautiful day.

The hilly nature of the past few days didn't stop today (nor will it any time soon). Though today most of the time spent suffering was on one big climb in the middle that turned into some weird stair-step like climb until I was left with a stunning view before the descent.

Outside of the hard 25km in the middle, the rest was mostly flat and with a reasonable sized tail wind so I cranked an average speed of 19kmh, including the time spent eating lunch, snacks and occasionally resting my wimpy legs. That's ignoring the effect the hills in the middle had, though.

I was set on Gisborne today as I was staying with another warmshowers host, Eric and Laura. A bed may not have been waiting but a quiet and cozy spot for my tent in their back yard was great.

I got my hot shower and discovered Eric and Laura went to University of Dayton and had moved here from Kentucky. Even more Americans who gave into the temptation to stay after visiting! Had a good time talking to them about their move and life in New Zealand. Eric even shared some tasty home brew cider.

 

Days 66 & 67 – I like lakes (leaving Hastings)

On Sunday I reluctantly gave up my comfy bed, cozy hostel and new friends to hit the road again. Wasn't really sure where I was heading other than in the general direction of Gisborne and the east cape.

About 20km out of town I noticed a bunch of cyclists riding a bit off the road on a bike path. When I found an entrance I asked someone I saw on the trail about where it goes but unfortunately I had missed the only part that ran in the direction I was going. The good part was the guy I stopped to ask is a local who has been planning his own tour over a lot of the ground I'm covering. He, like several others, discouraged me from freedom camping over the east cape (apparently it's a bit less safe than the rest of the country). So the only camp site between Hastings and Wairoa (the next city I'll come to, 138km from Hastings) is at Lake Tutira. A free DoC camp on a beautiful lake is my only option, I'm okay with that!

After this I got to start the rather tiring climb up to Glenview followed by a terrifying descent on a busy highway down through Devil's Elbow. I made it to the lake in time to eat dinner and pitch my tent before the rain started to come down. I spent the better part of the remaining evening hiding in my tent and enjoying the sound of rain.

The next morning the world was soaked so apparently the rain had only recently let up. I packed up my wet tent and hit the road. 75km to Wairoa and the elevation map showed heaps of hills. Turned out to be a total of 1km climbing for the day! Between that and the extreme heat (my Garmin was saying up to 38 degrees Celsius) I was ready for a shower when I made it to town so I forked over for a motorcamp.

Motorcamps are less reliable than hostels but some times yield great company. At worst I get a shower and a real stove to cook my rice and beans. This night I met a guy from South Africa, Adam, who moved here after meeting a kiwi while traveling. Loved hearing his stories of his adventures over the year, the coolest being a two year trip around Africa by jeep and tent.

I wasn't really prepared for two days with no grocery stores, again. I'm really lousy at planning my food here. I guess I typically don't worry about it because I expect to be able to find something every day. By breakfast on the second day I was out of food that didn't require cooking so I found a store along the way to get a meat pie and some fries. When I made it to Wairoa I made the mistake of going to the supermarket hungry and bought more than I want to carry. I'm going to have to be more diligent for this when I tour anywhere less filled with pubs and dairies.

 

Days 64 & 65 – Hastings and the hostel

I set out on the 4th to make it to Hastings. I had only about 40km and it was primarily downhill. The only downside was it was on the very busy highway 2. Despite the heavy traffic, drivers are very cautious and give plenty of space. The only exception to this tends to be, unfortunately, logging and cattle truck drivers, the most terrifying vehicles on the road to pass close at high speeds. I try to take some comfort in the fact that these guys drive enough that surely they won't wind up hitting me but it doesn't help much.

It was a beautiful ride but due to the traffic and excitement of reaching Hastings to have a bed and a day off meant I really didn't take photos. Actually, I rarely took my camera with me while in Hastings so this two day period is pretty much a blank of pictures. There were some moments I really wanted to snap one and this was one of the times I've most strongly missed having a smartphone.

Hastings is a small town that tourists seem to only pass through. Because of this, I was maybe the only one not working staying at the hostel (Rotten Apple Backpackers). I spent a good chunk of my time at the hostel sitting on the back porch chatting there. It's still surprising to me how popular it seems to be for people to come here on working holiday visas and pick fruit. Everyone I met was picking something, though the most common job of those I met was apple thinning, which sounds brutal. Climb a later, pop off a share of the growing apples and put them in the basket you're holding.

I also met up with Rachel, a friend of an old coworker, who's one of those here to pick fruit. Was fun to meet someone from back home all the way out here.

On my day off I mostly hung out at the hostel, actually. Spent a while talking with Travis and others. Travis is one of the few Americans I've met here, though I'm not sure he counts given the fact the apparently disliked Texas so much he got permanent residency here and is staying for good.

Travis pulled me into a new cultural experience, too. I went to play cricket with the people in my bunk and some others. This of course meant someone had to explain the rules of cricket to me. I of course got made fun of for bowling like a pitcher and hitting like a batter in baseball but I got a little used to the proper way and had a good time.

Sometimes it's fun to see the level of disbelief backpackers have with the fact that I'm cycling between places. It's also interesting how the difference in form of travel impact what we find interesting. When someone asked what they should see on the South Island, I mostly highlighted the roads that I cycled through. Noting things like the road down the west coast, from Westport to Wanaka, or the road through Tekapo and the other lakes. In contrast, others all highlighted the cities and good hiking towns.

I finally had to have a mechanic touch my bike. A gust of wind knocked it over when I left it leaning against a stair railing a couple days ago and it landed on the drive train side, which left it shifting a little funny. I couldn't get it back into perfect condition myself (though it was fine to ride for the 100k to a bike shop in Hastings). The mechanic touched it for about 30 seconds and sent me on my way, shifting as good as ever.

 

Day 63 – Back to civilization

Today's goal was to get back to civilization, or at least a town with a grocery store and maybe some Internet. That meant Waipukurau which was actually only about 55km away. My short term goal has been to land in Hastings, where I'll take a day off and meet a friend of a friend. I didn't have the 105km for the full trip in my legs so I'm doing it in two shortish days.

I took an even more deserted road to get back to SH52 from which I could see the sea off in the distance. Not too much to write about for this ride though, it was empty, windy and a little hilly but nothing crazy.

When I made it to Waipukurau, I hung out in the library to catch up on the Internet that I've been without for 3 days and then restocked on groceries. I had to set out of town to find somewhere to camp and wound up riding another 7km before pitching the tent. Found good shelter from the wind and just as I was crawling in my bag to go to sleep it started raining. I love the sound of rain on my tent at night, it's like falling asleep during rain at home but a million times better.

 

Day 63 – Back to civilization

Today's goal was to get back to civilization, or at least a town with a grocery store and maybe some Internet. That meant Waipukurau which was actually only about 55km away. My short term goal has been to land in Hastings, where I'll take a day off and meet a friend of a friend. I didn't have the 105km for the full trip in my legs so I'm doing it in two shortish days.

I took an even more deserted road to get back to SH52 from which I could see the sea off in the distance. Not too much to write about for this ride though, it was empty, windy and a little hilly but nothing crazy.

When I made it to Waipukurau, I hung out in the library to catch up on the Internet that I've been without for 3 days and then restocked on groceries. I had to set out of town to find somewhere to camp and wound up riding another 7km before pitching the tent. Found good shelter from the wind and just as I was crawling in my bag to go to sleep it started raining. I love the sound of rain on my tent at night, it's like falling asleep during rain at home but a million times better.

 

Day 62 – Continuing the lonely road

I was running short on food for breakfast/lunch so I left camp before eating hoping to pick up a loaf of bread at the dairy in the tiny town I camped at. Turns out their closed for the holiday still. I was warned of this but apparently didn't pay enough attention, many NZ businesses take the 2nd off as well as the 1st, so I had an unusually small breakfast and a can of chicken for my snack. The next town, Wimbledon (46km away, no tennis) away at least had a pub so I could get something good for lunch.

I talked to the bar tender for a bit before eating and they offered to let me put my tent on their paddock, but it was only noon and I didn't want to go without breakfast tomorrow so I figured I'd push on. After Wimbledon I passed the place with the longest name in the world. I'm too lazy to type it, see picture.

From there I landed at Porangahau beach to set up my tent, sadly there was no camp spots allowed (or stealth spots that I could find) that had a beach view. If you're following closely that means I went from Pongaroa to Porangahau today. I've been here two months and still can't handle the names. I get them mixed up a lot and often completely blank when asked where I came from. “That place that starts with a 'P' south of here.”