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.

 

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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.”

 

Day 61 – Getting my groove back

I left Masterton via the scenic route heading towards the east cape. The books describe this as a practically abandoned country road. Funny that it felt like I was back on the South Island.

I was feeling a lot better on the bike today than I was yesterday. Legs still feel surprisingly sore from walking my bike up/down the Rimutaka but they didn't bother me while pedaling so all was well.

I started feeling a little weird at some point when I realized it had been 8 hours since I had spoken a word to anything other than a sheep. This was a really lonely road I was on. Oh well, I was enjoying the time to think so I kept pushing on towards my goal of a free domain camp at the first town I would see today, a whopping 90km away from camp!

About 6km away from my goal I spot another cyclist, I notice he is rocking rear Arkel panniers as well so we stop to chat about gear. Evan, a Canadian, has got the bigger GT-54's but they are still pretty similar. We had a lot in common on our set ups, as a whole. He was heading to a farm hostel I recently passed so we wound up parting ways.

I get to town and head into the pub. If I'm cooking at camp I at least need to get water so figure I'd get a beer before asking. Wound up getting another monstrous fork-and-knife-sized kiwi burger to go with it. Now that's a good way to keep the good mood rolling.

When I finish I step outside and see Evan. He and two other cyclists took the shuttle in from the hostel. I go back in for another drink with them. Turns out Evan is a web developer as well and the cyclists he was with were actual kiwis, which is still a rare thing for my trip. After our drinks they take the shuttle back to their hostel and I head down the road to pitch my tent for free at the domain.