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New Zealand North Island 2 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

CYCLING IN NEW ZEALAND: PART THREE

IN THE NORTH ISLAND, RIDING NORTH

This is the Third and Final Part of 765 miles (1,224 km) of a 4,641-mile (7,425 km), 5-month complete circuit of both Islands, from Cape Reinga in the North to Stewart Island in the South, starting and finishing in Auckland

September 2000 to February 2001 (New Zealand Summer)

Part Three. Riding 765 miles (1,224 km) North through the North Island of New Zealand

Barry and Margaret Williamson

Here is an NZ2000_(23).jpgedited version of the diary we kept when we cycled round New Zealand in 2000/1. Starting from Auckland, we rode up to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of North Island, then followed the east coast of North Island down to Wellington for the Inter-Islander ferry to Picton at the top of South Island. We followed the west coast route down to Bluff at the southernmost point of the South Island, then took a ferry to Stewart Island, a mile off-shore to the south.

Returning to the mainland, we cycled north up the east coast of NZ2000_(39).jpgSouth Island, making detours to the west coast and back in order to climb all of the road passes in the Southern Alps. After the ferry back to Wellington, we followed the west coast of North Island as far as Auckland, for a flight to Fiji.

After a week's NZ2000_(25).jpgcycling in Fiji we flew on to Los Angeles, to cycle across the States to Key West in Florida: the southernmost point of the Continental USA. All this was part of a one-year round-the-world journey totalling 12,000 miles (19,200 km), which included Singapore, the crossing of Australia (Perth to Brisbane), New Zealand, Fiji and the crossing of the USA.

Tables of distances and times for the ride in New Zealand and for the complete round-the-world bicycle ride are given at the end of this diary.

To read about earlier stages of the journey through New Zealand, click:

Travel Log of the 3,025 km (1,891 mile) Ride South through the North Island of New Zealand

Travel Log of the 3,176 km (1,985 mile) Ride through the South Island of New Zealand

For images of the ride across New Zealand, click: Cycling in New Zealand

For the ride across Australia, click: Australia Coast to Coast

For the ride across the USA, click: USA Coast to Coast

For images of the ride across Australia, click: Cycling across Australia

For images of the ride across the USA, click: Cycling across the USA

Here is a Map of the Route in the North Island of New Zealand

northisland_track_1[1].jpg

 

 

Outward Route is shown in yellow

 

Return Route is shown in blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a Map of the Route in the South Island of New Zealand

southisland_track_1[1].jpg

 

 

 

Outward Route is shown in yellow

 

Return Route is shown in blue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day by Day Diary of the Ride North through North Island

24 January 2001   Wellington     Lower Hutt Holiday Park (TopTen)   27 km

The 10.30 am Interislander ferry 'Aratere' was running late, so we were put on the 11 am Lynx instead – a new twin-hull wave-piercing catamaran. Sitting right at the front in the Lookout Bar, we had a very smooth crossing, taking 2.25 hours rather than 3 on the normal ferry. It could have been much faster without the speed limits in the Sound, which put the rival 'Top Cat' out of business.

By 1.30 pm we were riding the 5 km/3 miles into Wellington, along the waterfront that was busy with boats moored for the Telecom Round the World Yacht Race.

We revalidated our air tickets to Fiji at the Qantas/Air Pacific office (for a fee of NZ$ 20), collected our mail from Manners Street Post Shop, bought a Lonely Planet guide for Fiji and found a wad of free NZ road maps at the AA office. After tea and cakes at the Information Centre, we were ready to ride the so-called cycle route, past the ferry terminal and up the Hutt Valley between the railway and the motorway, ending on the wrong side of the road to cross a bridge into Petone.

A meal at McDonalds, shopping at Pak & Save, then a few more miles to Hutt Park, where we'd reserved a tourist flat for 2 nights. (See: www.huttpark.co.nz)

25 January 2001   At Wellington     Lower Hutt Holiday Park (TopTen)

On a grey wet day, we went through our packet of mail from England, with a heap of letters and Christmas cards from friends in Britain, Greece and France.

After writing replies, including letters to Endsleigh Insurance and our house rental agents, we rang home on a dark stormy night (remember the 12-hour time difference).

26 January 2001   At Wellington    Lower Hutt Holiday Park (TopTen)   7 km

Talked with an amazing French family, camped in a nearby tent. Francoise & Jean-Michel Delmonteil from Bordeaux were cycling for a year on 2 tandems, carrying their 2 young sons. They had ridden in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia, schooling their boys as they went. Quel courage! The family of tiny ducklings last seen on 13 November (2,000 miles ago) are now half-grown and we all fed them. Also did the laundry and prepared letters and packages to send.

Cycled into Petone after lunch, to shop at Pak & Save, do some photocopying and post our mail: letters, postcards and calendars to friends, plus a package home containing such maps and guides for South Island as we want to keep. Enjoyed McDonald's hot chocolate with marshmallows before riding back!

27 January 2001   Waikanae    Kapiti Gateway Motel   65 km

After pancakes and coffee in the Petone McDonald's, we set off along SH2 up the Hutt Valley, from Lower to Upper Hutt. There was a reasonable side wind, light traffic and a cycle lane of sorts. After 25 km/15 miles we stopped to brew up in the park at Brown Owl (Rimutaka/Upper Hutt). We hadn't followed the Hutt River Trail as it was mostly gravel.

Then we headed NW across to Waikanae on the scenic Akatarawa road, which links SH2 with the SH1 from Wellington. Our route crossed the Akatarawa Saddle (440 m or 1,452 ft), rolling past bilberry farms before a steady gradual climb through Staglands Wildlife Reserve, where we stopped to make lunch by a babbling brook, just before the top. The lush damp woods, in every shade of green, were sadly devoid of birds. Setting off again, we were pushed off the road by a hired Maui Motorhome in a hurry – the worst incident so far, with M falling into a hedge.

From the summit there was a wonderful 12 km/8 mile descent to sea level, meeting the suburban bungalow-land of the Kapiti Coast, about 5 km north of Paraparaumu. This is the commuter satellite and beach playground for Wellington, with the 10-km long Kapiti Island (a bird sanctuary) off-shore.

Police were controlling the traffic lights at the junction with highway SH1, with very long queues in each direction, so we stopped at the next suitable motel. After shopping at a nearby Woolworth's and making some phone calls, we watched the 6 pm TV news and learnt the cause of the hold-up, which had lasted for hours, affecting the horse racing at Trentham (between Lower and Upper Hutt) as the horse boxes were delayed.

There had been a horrific accident just to the north of our motel on the main road, with one passenger dead and the rest injured. The coverage showed a lorry and trailer off the road, while the jeep with which it had collided was completely crushed – awful.

28 January 2001   Palmerston North   Palmerston North Holiday Park   88 km

Riding north, the SH1 was busy with cars returning home (it's the last Sunday of the long school holidays) but, thankfully, very few trucks. It was warm with a westerly wind off the sea and no serious hills. First stop at Otaki for coffee and cake in the gardens of a tearooms, watching huge butterflies flitting in the sunshine.

Along the road to Levin there were many fruit and veg stalls and pick-your-own places. At Levin, the centre of the horticultural region, we left SH1, turning NE along SH57 for the final 50 km/31 miles to Palmerston North. This was quieter, though more hilly. We had a picnic in the park by the railway in the tiny village of Shannon, once a flax-mill town, surrounded by swamps of flax.

Palmerston North (pop 72,000), home to NZ's second largest university, is tagged 'Knowledge City'. It's certainly bigger than Palmerston (between Dunedin and Oamaru on South Island)! We rode straight to the Holiday Park, on the edge of the Esplanade Park by the Manawutu River.

After pots of tea in our roomy 'tourist flat', we cycled through the park to the Dairy (convenience store). The Esplanade Park is huge, with a miniature railway, rose gardens, mini-golf, a lido complex: all very pleasant. We're beginning to notice palm trees and other North Island exotic plants again.

29 January 2001   Wanganui   Bignell Street Motel & Caravan Park   85 km

We rode NW over the Mt Stewart Lookout, to meet highway SH1 at Sanson. Over coffee and cakes in a truckers' café there, we talked to a local man of Scottish descent. He told us how pioneers had walked up the beach from Wellington to settle this area and his great-grandfather had worked as a ferryman at one of the many river mouths they had to cross. What spirit they had.

The road was then busier for a time until Bulls, where SH1 turned off and we followed SH3. Bulls was larger than expected, with a McDonalds (resisted, as it was too early for lunch).

We rolled across undulating farming country to Turakina, where we had tea, toasted sandwiches and chips in a café run by the Local Information woman. She proposed an alternative route into Wanganui, on the Heritage Trail (which we didn't take, as it looked longer and hillier). She also warned that the SH3 road bridge over Whanganui River into the town is closed to cyclists and pedestrians, giving us a map of the necessary detour. It seems that a truck knocked 2 young teenaged boys, cycling across the bridge, into the river and killed them. This is the NZ solution – to remove the danger to trucks, rather than the danger to cyclists.

We continued, with 2 more good climbs, into this cycle-unfriendly city. Spotting the Wanganui Cycle Centre shop, we bought more inner tubes but (as usual) found no tyres in our size. Along the river, past the hospital and out to Bignell Street, we came to the rougher end of town, for a small cheap motel room on an urban caravan site. The owner (Peter One), of mixed Danish-Scottish-English descent, was very friendly and lent us 3 books of photos of old Wanganui, showing its heyday as a port.

He told us of local problems with Maori, who had settled along the Whanganui River (spelt with an H) long before the Europeans came up from Wellington in the 1840's. There had been bitter opposition, requiring troops and a stockade, and the area is still a centre for Maori protest. In 1995 the town park was occupied for 4 months and more recently (last week in fact) protestors pelted the restored paddle steamer, which runs tourist trips up the river, with stones!

Peter recommended a day excursion on the mail delivery bus, following the river north into the Whanganui National Park, to the end of the road at Pipiriki: Maori territory where it would not be safe to travel alone. He remembered Maori demanding money when he went camping as a boy with his family round Lake Taupo. Unattracted to Pipiriki, by mail bus, boat or bicycle, we plan to leave tomorrow!

30 January 2001   Patea   Windmill Park Motel   66 km

Cycling NW on road SH3, it was much warmer and less windy. We climbed out of Wanganui, past the gardens and ducks of the Virginia lake Scenic Reserve, then rode up and down all the way to Patea. There were some long steep hills as the road crossed deep river channels – nothing above 200 m/660 ft, but hard work in the heat.

We paused to make coffee at Ototoka Stream, with a picnic table by the roadside, bordered by the tall blue or white onion-like flowers that we saw along many fences and gateways today. The gardens are full of summer flowers, with fuchsia, red hot pokers, dahlias, roses and honeysuckle hedges – lovely.

We had tea and cakes in Waverley (the first tearooms of the day), 10 miles/16 km before Patea. We passed the ruins of the old freezer works (abattoir for export meat) as we entered Patea (once an important port) and, in the town centre, a model of the Aotea Canoe, which brought the ancestors of the local Maori tribe.

Windmill Park is a lovely little motel (just 3 units) shortly past the town. After buying a half-price Xmas Pud and some ice cream at the Dairy, for a late lunch, we talked to Ray, the motel owner. Another interesting man, he had just returned from visiting his daughter in the UK. The weather had been good (in January) and he loved Scotland, the Lakes and Yorkshire. He kindly recharged our mobile phone and let us use the washing machine.

As we gradually cooled down, we debated which was worst for cycling – sun, wind or rain?

31 January 2001   Opunake    Opunake Motel/Backpackers   73 km

Today the enemy is the wind, blowing from the north and growing stronger, from the west, by afternoon - the opposite of the weather forecast. We ride north-west! The SH3 rose and fell, crossing the many river channels that drain this peninsula, such as the Manawapou and Tangahoe (names taken from Nigel Rushton's 'Pedallers Paradise'). This is the Land War territory, the site of battles and Maori Pas (hill-forts).

We stopped after 30 km/19 miles at Hawera, a larger town, for tea and scones. An ancient driver reversed his car into our parked cycles outside the café, thankfully without damage except to his ears. Here the SH3 turned north to Stratford, while we took the quieter 'Surf Highway' SH45 round the coast for New Plymouth, glad to leave the milk tankers behind. This is Big Cow country, with a huge dairy just before Hawera.

Mt Taranaki (aka MtNZ2000_(41).jpg Egmont) had been visible all morning, very clear at first, then gathering a crown of cloud and occasionally disappearing. A near-perfect volcanic cone at 2518 m or 8,310 ft, it rises Fuji-like from the surrounding fertile grain and dairy land, watered by dozens of streams running down its flanks. The last eruption was about 350 years ago.

The next village, Manaia, had no café, just a dairy selling home-made bacon & egg pies, which made a good lunch. It was a depressing place with noisy road works and the shop-keeper warned us not to leave our bikes unattended. From Manaia a road climbs up through the Egmont National park to Dawson Falls at 905 m/2,987 ft but we were not tempted to try it in the strong wind.

We paused again at Oeo to brew up in the shelter of an abandoned farm, proudly bearing the sign 'Rebuilt 1950'. There were glimpses of the sea along our way but all the short access roads to the beach and surf were closed, with Maori warnings to trespassers.

After a long slow day, riding into the wind, we reached the windsurfing centre and former port of Opunake at about 5 pm, luckily before rain set in. Our motel had a good view of Mt Taranaki. We got take-away chicken burgers & chips for supper and had a good stint of diary-writing.

1 February 2001   New Plymouth   New Plymouth Holiday Park (Top Ten)   67 km

At last a back wind helped us over the hills for the 40-mile ride to New Plymouth, arriving in time for lunch. Mt Taranaki/Egmont slowly revealed itself for a good photo.

Too windy for brewing up, we bought coffee and cakes after 36 km/27 miles at Okato. Still following the Surf Highway, the sea was a constant 3 km away down side roads, with occasional views of the Maui Gas rigs. Again there were long roller-coaster hills, crossing the many streams draining off Mt Egmont. The landscape was bumpy from lava flow, providing rich pasture for dairy cattle.

Reaching New Plymouth, the Women's Rest Rooms 'provided for your convenience', and their friendly attendant who gave us a map, were more impressive than the sea-front, stranded behind the railway line! This is NZ's energy centre, with a chemical plant and a gas-fuelled power station.

The Top Ten concrete holiday park lies 4 km/3 miles north of the city centre, near but not on the beach, in Fitzroy. We spent the afternoon planning our onward route and booking accommodation along SH43, the 'Lost World Highway' to Taumarunui.

2 February 2001   At New Plymouth    New Plymouth Holiday Park   8 km

We shopped for food in Fitzroy and left one or two surplus items at the Charity Shop. Riding into the city, we searched for new tyres - no luck, though Barry got a lightweight 'Fairydown' waterproof jacket.NZ2000_(43).jpg

New Plymouth (pop 66,500) is the capital of the Taranaki region, with the mountain making a spectacular backdrop (especially in winter snow), though the industrial installations really blight the seascape.

Back at our base it was still very warm, tempting M to swim in the small pool. Our neighbours, Clem & Edith Saunders from Bucklands Beach, nr Auckland, told us Clem still cycles regularly at age 74.

3 February 2001   Inglewood    Matai Motel   43 km

It was warm with a west wind as we rode north on SH3 for 10 miles/16 km to the small Maori town of Waitara at the estuary of the Waitara River. The Land Wars broke out around Waitara in 1860, between Europeans greedy for fertile land and Maori reluctant to sell it. Guerrilla warfare lasted for 10 years with the rebel Taranaki Chiefs, who had not signed the Treaty of Waitangi and did not recognise Queen Victoria (after all, they'd never seen her!) Many of the early settlers, soldiers and Maori chiefs are buried at NZ's oldest stone church, St Mary's in New Plymouth.

After making coffNZ2000_(42).jpgee by the shore in Waitara, we bought bacon sandwiches, cakes and toffee apples from the 'Rolling Homes' Craft Fair in the park. A friendly local, out walking his dog, told us he'd been a racing cyclist and claimed to have beaten Reg Harris. Now in his 70's, he'd worked as a deer hunter on the west coast of South Island, shooting from a helicopter!

From here we followed the historic 'Waitara Campaign Trail', forming part of the 'Taranaki Heritage Trail'. It was a hilly inland route with signs indicating the sites of Maori Redoubts 1-8, where locally raised and imperial troops fought the natives over land claims. About 5 miles/8 km along the trail, we came to the site of Pukerangiora Pa, hidden in the woods. We walked through, to look down from a high cliff onto the Waitara River looping below. It had been the site of a very bloody battle between Maori tribes, where one group threw themselves over the cliff to avoid being eaten.

Continuing, with a roadside picnic on the way, we dropped into Inglewood, a small town founded in 1876. We settled in at the newer Matai Motel (on Matai Street, the main road), run by a Christian Maori family. We appreciated its free laundry and nearby supermarket.

4 February 2001   Stratford    Top Ten Holiday Park   27 km

Warm again, with a back wind. Before leaving, we looked round the nicely painted buildings in the historic town: the railway station dating from 1876 (sadly, only freight trains now thunder through); the Railway Hotel; MacFarlanes Café (1878); Town Hall (1913); etc. The Italian marble war memorial of 1924 is set against 'the largest Rhododendron bush in the Southern Hemisphere', though it was not in flower.

The SH3 to Stratford climbed very gently, following the railway. We had a brew-up at the roadside near Tariki before arriving at the small quiet town of Stratford, on the River Patea (Christchurch is on the River Avon, though it's named after a Scottish Avon).

We shopped at the New World supermarket (the only shop open – it's Sunday) and collected some good advice and leaflets from the Tourist Info, before settling into a good 'tourist flat' at the Top Ten park on Page Street, at the edge of King Edward Park, for a late lunch. We're at 300 m (990 ft) and still in sight of Mt Taranaki/Egmont.

The campsite proved to be a cyclists' meeting ground. There was a lone Japanese rider, cooking noodles in the communal kitchen, who spoke little English. Christa Scholtz, a young Canadian woman from Alberta, though of German/Austrian parentage, was out with her bike, bus timetable and tent for a break over the long weekend (6 Feb is Waitangi Day, a public holiday). A couple from Rotorua (originally from Brighton, England, though they actually met in Australia) had come on a tandem, to practise in preparation for their own round-the-world cycle tour. And the site owner himself was a racing man, who'd ridden 40 km/25 miles this morning. We chatted with them all, as we cooked a chicken.

Christa joined us later. She is currently completing a PhD in Political Science at Princeton University, USA. Researching the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada, North America, Australia and NZ, she had recently arrived to study in Wellington. (We believe she went on to become Assistant Professor in the Dept of Politics at Princeton.) It was an interesting and challenging evening, rediscovering the art of entertaining and intelligent conversation!

5 February 2001   At Stratford    Top Ten Holiday Park   4 km

Riding through the park into Stratford, we had a useful morning. We bought a Camping Gaz refill and found one Michelin 'World Tour' tyre to fit. M got the broken zip on her cycling trousers replaced by a lovely seamstress, for NZ$ 7. We also posted more guide books home (with some relief) and made phone calls to check on accommodation for the rest of our NZ tour.

Stratford uses its Shakespearean connection (whatever it may be) in the street names: Miranda, Hamlet, Romeo, Juliet, Portia … There is a bust of the Bard by the Tourist Info and, more prominently, a wonderfully naïve Tudor-style clock tower on the main street, bearing a plaque 'The Elizabethan clock tower was built in 1996'! (The Second Elizabeth, that is.) The earlier clock tower was demolished in 1924 because of earthquake risk but the original clock faces and mechanism were used in the new one. This clock tower houses 'the only Glockenspiel in the Southern Hemisphere', playing a 5-minute extract from 'Romeo & Juliet' thrice daily (at 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm). Figures appear through windows and on the balcony, speaking a few lines from the play. We watched all 3 performances: quite charming, apart from the interruption of passing traffic.

It's a very interesting little town. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip did visit, the year after her coronation in 1954, and planted a Kauri tree near the swing bridge, which was erected in 1902 for the Coronation of her great-grandfather, Edward VII. Nearby is a single conifer, grown from a seedling off Lone Pine Ridge in Gallipoli and planted by Anzac veterans of the Great War. A well-known Stratford solicitor and farmer, Lt-Col Malone, lost at Gallipoli in 1915, is honoured. History follows us round the globe.

6 February 2001   Tahora Saddle    Kaieto Cafe   76 km

The first of 2 days following SH43, the famous 'Lost World Highway' Heritage Trail. After an early rain shower it was a fine day with a good back wind from the south-west.

Heading NE, it was splendid back country with isolated farms and no traffic. The parallel railway line (freight only) runs through 26 tunnels, whereas we had to cross the hills. First came the Strathmore Saddle (275 m or 908 ft), rewarded with a brew-up at the top. Coming down we passed Te Wera, a forest camp of cabins originally built for bush-fellers, where we refilled our water bottles. The elevation loss/gain was about 100 m (330 ft) for each saddle.

Next was the Pohokura Saddle (270 m or 891 ft), with a picnic lunch and a good view at the summit. Then the longest climb over Whanga-momona Saddle (225 m or 743 ft), with another brew at the top. Each summit is provided with a picnic table and a Heritage Trail information board – an absolutely splendid route. Dropping into the old village of Whangamomona, we found it had a hotel (where we might have spent the night), a simple campsite and a post office (closed).

It was another NZ2000_(44).jpg12 km/8 miles to the top of our fourth hill, the Tahora Saddle (275 m or 908 ft). Here Elena (from Russia) and Don (a local farmer) run a splendid café, with 2 cabins and space for campervans. We'd booked a cabin, which had a double bed, 2 bunks, a TV and a carpet (of which Elena was very proud). The panoramic views from the helicopter landing pad above the cabin was incredible – just stunning. We had tea and cakes on arrival in the café, with fish & chips later.

Today is Waitangi Day (commemorating the treaty made with Maori chiefs in 1840): a public holiday, with shops closed and no buses running. There had been no 'Breakfast' TV in the morning, though Mike Hosking did a programme this evening about Waitangi – 'Trick or Treaty?'

7 February 2001    Taumarunui    Kelly's Motel    75 km

Elena cooked us a substantial breakfast, while telling a little about life in post-communist Russia. She had left Moscow to marry Don and had initially missed the shops, buses and crowds. Still not quite used to this splendid isolation, they were planning to sell the business and move to Whakatane near his family.

It was a cool fresh downhill start, through the hamlet of Tahora. After 9 km (6 miles) the section of gravel road began, lasting exactly 20 km (12.5 miles) through the empty wild Tangarakau Gorge. Tangarakau means Felled Trees (cut to build canoes) but the mature forest has regenerated. Soon we rode through the short dark 180 m-long Moki Tunnel, built in 1936, and the Moki Forest. We passed a turning for the track to Mt Damper Falls but resisted the detour (16 km ride plus a 20-minute walk).

Morgan's Grave was visible from a bridge over a stream and we paid our respects to Joshua Morgan, buried here in the bush where he did in 1892, aged 35, the leader of a party of surveyors planning the railway route. Sadly, attempts to fetch him help and medicine when he fell ill with peritonitis took too long. His widow was laid beside him some 60 years later.

Continuing through the dense bush of the Gorge, the dirt road was slow going but rideable, with one final saddle to climb. We made coffee at the roadside once the gravel ended, before Tatu. A horse looked on, as it began to rain. The river had carved a course through the sandstone, and ancient peat swamp had formed coal deposits. The abandoned settlements of Tatu and Puketihi were once mining villages.

It was a climb to Nevin's Lookout, with a view across the King Country to the mountains of the Central Plateau. We passed the scant remains of Aorangi Flour Mill, had a picnic lunch in the grass, then more hills and bluffs, with a final climb over Herlihy's Bluff and down into Taumarunui.

This is very much an outback pioneer town, on the Whanganui River. It was the last bastion of Maori resistance, the seat of 3 tribes, closed to Europeans until the 1880's. The railway trunk line (Auckland-Wellington) still runs through, carrying both passengers and freight, though Taumarunui station is now a Tourist Office. In fact our motel room trembled as trains passed behind it.

The day ended with a visit to the nearby New World supermarket, cooking sausage and mash for supper, then a good rest.

8 February 2001    National Park Village    Mountain Heights Lodge   54 km

Setting out in a steady drizzle, we rode through Taumarunui and climbed gradually southwards on SH4. At Piriaka we paused to talk to a lone American cycling the opposite way, who warned us (too late) that there was no food store open in National Park Village!

Our next stop was 21 km/13 miles along at the Owhanga pub, the only chance for a coffee and snack on our route. The landlord advised us to avoid the steep winding climb on the main road at Raurimu by following a dirt track alongside the railway line, which would be longer but easier. He forgot to mention that the railway crosses a stream on a tiny bridge, where we had to unload our panniers and wade across, with water up to our knees, carrying cycles and bags – it took a total of 7 crossings, a great adventure! At one point the trains disappear into a tunnel to perform a spiral. The Raurimu Spiral is a feat of engineering, begun in the 1890's and completed in 1908 to make Auckland to Wellington a through-line.

Eventually we regained the SH4 and rolled into National Park Village, which was very quiet outside the ski season. The store/post office/tearoom was indeed closed but we found steak pies and chips at Eivins Café. It was another 2 km along the highway to Mountain Heights Lodge, up at 820 m or 2,706 ft. It has a superb view of Mt Ruapehu opposite, a far-from-extinct volcano standing at 2797 m or 9,214 ft and still capped in snow. The last 2 minor eruptions were in the 1990's.

Mountain Heights is run by Chris & Wendy Howard, from Whitby in Yorkshire – as was Captain James Cook, about whom Chris had a small library. They have been here for 2 years, building up a once-bankrupt Maori-owned lodge into a business offering motel rooms, B & B, meals, Yorkshire cream teas or camping places in the field. We took a motel room, in which we could make our own supper and breakfast.

We walked round some of the property's 200 acres – fields, native bush, collapsed farm buildings and the mounds of a Maori Pa (hill fort) behind the Lodge, complete with a wild horse. Chris has plans to run Highland Cattle, along with pet sheep and chickens, though his dream is to tour the world by land rover or motorbike.

9 February 2001    Turangi    Riverside Cottages   57 km

We rode back 2 km into National Park Village to get minimal supplies from the petrol station (as advised by Chris), then turned north-east on SH47, along the edge of Tongariro National Park towards Lake Taupo. This region of volcanic peaks and winter skiing in the Central Plateau area was NZ's first designated national park, on land given by Maori chiefs inNZ2000_(45).jpg 1887.

We climbed to 880 m (2,904 ft) at Mangahuia, pausing to photograph Mt Ruapehu beyond. Before the turn-off for Whakapapa ski village (a 6 km side-trip) we met a young woman cycling alone - a Physical Education teacher from Bavaria, heading for Whakapapa. We didn't follow her.

Rolling on, past the Raewaehu Canal and the Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre, we stopped to brew up in the bush. It was a hot day and we had another break for drinks near Lake Rotoaira. Then came a short climb and descent before the Te Ponanga Saddle at 740 m (2,442 ft), with a panoramic viewpoint across to Lake Taupo – quite breathtaking, if we'd had any breath left! Our reward was a 6-km descent, followed by 4 km or so into Turangi, famous for its DoC (Dept of Conservation) trout hatchery and the fishing on the Tongariro River.

The cottage we'd booked is about 1 km from the town centre, near the river: one of a pair next to the house of the owners, Jack & Betty Anderson. It's a perfect place - 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 televisions and a garden with rhubarb and runner beans for the picking!

We dined on fish (from New World supermarket, not the river) and a rhubarb crumble.

10 February 2001   At Turangi    Riverside Cottages   2 km

A sunny rest day. We enjoyed having baths, doing the laundry, walking by the river, reading the weighty NZ Herald paper and buying post cards. Also cleaned the bicycles and mended M's panniers (again – wish we could buy replacements).

11 February 2001   Lake Taupo    All Seasons Holiday Park (Kiwi Group)   51 km

A fine drizzle had turned to steady rain by the time we reached Taupo in the early afternoon. Mist hung over Lake Taupo and the traffic on the narrow twisting SH1 sprayed us with mud. Hard to believe this is the main highway linking Auckland with the capital at Wellington.

We stopped a few miles along at Motuoapa, the only tearooms on the way, for welcome 'bottomless coffee' and cakes. Then it was nearly 40 km (25 miles) to Taupo, with one climb over Hatepe Hill at 510 m (1,683 ft) before descending to 360 m (1,188 ft).

At the well kept campsite 1.5 km from the town centre we took a roomy cabin with all mod cons (see: www.allseasons.nzl.com) and spent the rest of the day drying out and watching TV. The weather is very muggy, with rain from the tropical north continuing to pour all night.

12 February 2001   At Lake Taupo    All Seasons Holiday Park   8 km

Wrote postcards and talked to the neighbours, as it was still raining.

After lunch we cycled into Taupo for the shops, bank and post office. Found a Continental-Top-Touring tyre (the best available), which Barry fitted to M's bike, replacing the 'Michelin World Tour' bought in Stratford. The holiday resort has bungee jumps and plenty of trout fishing, though it didn't look appealing in the continuous grey rain.

Taupo is on a Volcanic Zone line, running from White Island in the Bay of Plenty through Rotorua and Taupo to the Tongariro National Park, where Mt Ruapehu is still active. The lake is a remnant of a massive eruption, probably less than 2,000 years ago. The Wairekei Park and thermal area, with its 'Craters of the Moon', supplies a thermal power station and our campsite, like many of the motels, has a free hot pool. There is even a geo-thermal prawn farm.

13 February 2001    Mangakino    Mangakino Hotel   76 km

Began the day with a 20-km detour up to the Aratiatia Rapids, once a spectacle on the Waikato River until the water was diverted by a dam and powerhouse (though the gates are open 3 times daily for the tourists). Returning on a so-called Cycle Track along the river to Huka Falls, we had glimpses of the Huka Jet Boat plying the same stretch. The track was mostly rideable but sometimes ran steeply up and down, through forest. It was very humid, sticky, sweaty weather with over 90% humidity.

At Huka Falls, busloads of Japanese waved from a platform to the Jet Boat circling in front of them but it was hardly Niagara! The car park kiosk had no coffee so we didn't linger, with over 50 km still to ride to Mangakino.

There were no villages until Whakamaru, only 8 km/5 miles before Mangakino. We stopped at its tearooms, glad of a large pot of tea as we'd only taken short breaks at the roadside and in a bus shelter, pestered by tiny thunderflies in the moist weather.

The 4-star Mangakino Hotel is splendid, run by the son and daughter-in-law of an 89-year-old woman who came out from London 50 years ago – and she still drives her car! We had an en-suite room with TV and a 3-course dinner (at NZ$ 20 each) of salmon pâté, lamb or steak and sticky toffee banana pudding with ice cream and nut liqueur. A real treat.

After a 'Blackadder Millenium Special' on TV we slept very well.

14 February 2001   Cambridge   Cambridge Motor Park (Kiwi Group)   81 km

The hottest day of the year so far made for very sweaty thirsty riding. After a good hotel breakfast we followed the Waikato river for 50 empty miles, up and down all day.

We passed the Maraetai dam and power station, then a huge private forest, on a very quiet road: an excellent alternative route to the SH1. After hydro-lake Waipapa we brewed up by the roadside, then rode through a short monsoon. Very refreshing as we gradually dried out. The hills involved stiff climbs, through Mangawhio Gorge and past the turning for Arapuni, lying 4 km away across the Waikato River.

Lunch was at the roadside again. The countryside isn't empty, with cattle farming and fields of maize and onions, but there is nothing along the verges – no seats, bus stops, churches, shelters – nothing. There are place names (Horahora, Maungatautari, etc) but they are just a farm or a school, with no shops.

Past a turning to Lake Karapiro (another hydro-lake and dam – all remotely controlled by 2 men in Hamilton), we finally came into the suburbs of Leamington and Cambridge, with tidy bungalows and sailing on the river. Before reaching the centre of Cambridge ('Town of Trees') is a campsite set round a large open green with (to quote the brochure) 'a tree park-like environment'. It's on Scott Street, near Shakespeare and Wordsworth Streets, and very peaceful. (see: www.cambridgemotorpark.co.nz)

Celebrated Valentine's Day with a box of Rose's chocolates.

15 February 2001    Waingaro   Hot Springs Motel   74 km

Very hot and humid again as we rode into Cambridge, then along the gently undulating SH1 for 23 km (15 miles) and into Hamilton on its Ring Road. The highway had a good shoulder most of the way, passing fields of horses, crops and rabbits.

Hamilton sprawled long and wide, along both sides of the Waikato river – NZ's largest inland city. Orientation was difficult with conflicting 'Town Centre' signs but we eventually found the traditional main street (Victoria St). After coffee and cakes, Barry navigated our way across the Waikato to follow River Road, out past the Memorial Park and golf club, through the smart suburbs.

After about 18 km (11 miles), we reached the Maori town of Ngaruwahia on the Waikato River. On the way in we passed the impressive Turangawaewae Marae – headquarters of the 4 Waikato tribes and official residence of the Maori Queen. Opulently carved and well secured, the large 'palace' is only open to non-Maori visitors on one day of the year (and this isn't it!) Queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu is the sixth monarch, directly descended from the first King in 1859. Appointed Queen when her father died with no male heirs in 1966, she is head of the Tainui tribal confederation, the largest in Maoridom, which united to form the King Movement.

Sadly, the town itself seemed poor and depressed and we had lunch in a simple Chinese-run bakery, being the only option. Rather than take the busy highway SH1 straight to Auckland (lying110 km/69 miles to the north over the Bombay Hills), we crossed the Waikato and rode westwards, leaving the river behind.

It was a rolling 23-km ride, hot and sticky, through Glen Massey village and on to Waingaro. This rather run-down complex has thermal mineral pools, a hotel, a deer enclosure, an aviary, NZ's longest thermal water-slide (closed), a scruffy campsite and 4 motel rooms across the road. The whole thing is set in beautifully empty hill country. We found it bizarre!

Taking a motel room, we did the laundry and M swam a few lengths of the lovely warm pool. We shared the motel with a great gathering of the flying black beetles seen yesterday evening, known here as crickets, brought out by the warm humid weather. The night sky was wonderful, blazing with stars, far from any light pollution.

16 February 2001    Pukekohe    Blue Gum Lodge Motel   80 km

A fourth consecutive hot humid day of hard riding, consuming plenty of squash made up with 'Raro' orange powder. We cycled due north all the way, with a back wind, wishing it would rain!

Starting from a low 40 m/132 ft at Waingaro Spring, there was some stiff climbing and steep descents as we crossed streams running through cattle country. We paused at Naike picnic place to brew up before another long climb through Glen Murray, up to Pukekawa village at 180 m/594 ft, with views across to the Coromandel. Then a descent to meet and cross the Waikato River, where it turns west to the sea at Port Waikato.

After a welcome picnic lunch by the river, the extreme quietness of our road was at an end. We joined a rush of trucks and cars for the last 10 miles/16 km to Pukekohe, which is getting too close to Auckland. We rode through the town (pop 10,000) to a motel, nicely placed on the main road SH22.

Having fetched our supper from the nearby KFC, we talked at length to the well-travelled motel owners, moving into their kitchen over a pot of tea. Don works at the nearby steelworks – appropriate, since his father was a steel-man who emigrated from Sheffield. Wife Lynette runs the motel, helped by her parents. They both yearned to travel again once their 3 youngsters were grown: Lynette knew Australia, Europe and Israel, while Don had worked on fairground equipment in Britain. They also talked about Maoridom, and the problems of NZ drivers (who can get their licence at age 15, with no training and an easy test).

17 February 2001    Manukau City, Auckland   Manukau Central Holiday Park (Top Ten)   34 km

Though still warm, it was pouring with rain. We were soon soaked by the spray from traffic along the very busy SH22. It was slightly rolling, with a good shoulder for some of the way.

About half way to Manukau, at Drury, our road became the Great South Road, parallel to the SH1 motorway. A fatal truck and car smash had closed the motorway, so traffic was being diverted off at Drury, just north of the pile-up. We took shelter in a bakery for coffee and cakes and 3 sets of motorists (English and American) came in to ask directions. We warned them to drive defensively.

Back in the rain we rode on through the Saturday morning shoppers' traffic in Papakura, Manurewa and Manukau – once separate villages, now all merging into one conglomeration. Reaching the Top Ten campsite, on the Gt South Rd near Rainbow's End (fun fair), it was still pouring with rain. (see: www.manukautop10.co.nz)

We took refuge in the usual 'tourist flat' with TV. A good butcher's and bakery nearby provided the makings for our dinner: pork chops and a chocolate gateau.

18 February 2001    At Manukau City, Auckland    Manukau Central Holiday Park (Top Ten)

Our last rest day in NZ was spent mending (clothes, pannier bags and shoes!), doing the laundry, drying everything out after yesterday's deluge and route-planning for Fiji and the USA. We made up a packet of NZ maps, brochures and guides to post home and generally sorted our stuff. After 5 months, it's hard to believe our time here is almost over.

Phoning Auckland Airport's baggage handling department to double-check the rules for bicycles, Louise assured us that boxes were not needed (but see later!). Also phoned M's Mum and watched TV.

19 February 2001   Mangere, Auckland    Airport Pensione    24 km

We shopped in Manukau City (buying food, sunscreen, insect repellent and US dollars), posted our packet home and had coffee in a KFC.

Then we rode out to Auckland Airport to change our itinerary, making the final flight to London from Miami rather than from New York. We were helped by one of the 'Airport Hospitality Volunteers', the lovely Fred Crosland from Mansfield in Derbyshire, who came out 35 years ago. We were also advised to put the bikes in boxes tomorrow, so we reserved 2 boxes (!) before getting lunch at the airport McDonald's.

Finally, we cycled back to the Airport Pensione, a comfortable hostel we had used on arrival on 13 September last, thus completing another circle. Glenny welcomed us back and we talked to a couple from Los Angeles, who had just finished an 8-week tour with tandem and trailer. We were intrigued by their machine, which folded and packed inside its own trailer for easy transportation (see: www.bikefriday.com). They too are flying tomorrow, with a stopover in the Cook Islands.

20 February 2001    Nadi, Fiji    Raffles Gateway Hotel

Glenny took us in her van to Auckland International Airport, along with a German postgraduate Law student, on his way to study in Dunedin. Arriving by 8.30 am, we collected our boxes, dismantled the bikes to fit inside them (with difficulty), taped, labelled and checked them through for weighing. There was no extra charge (except the price of the boxes).

We had a smooth flight and a good chicken lunch on Air Pacific FJ410, taking 2 hrs 40 mins to reach Nadi (pronounced Nandi), on the largest of Fiji's islands, Viti Levu. Arriving on the humid, hot, tropical, lush green island, we went straight to the FVB (Fiji Visitors' Bureau) at the airport. They booked us into the Raffles, opposite the airport gate and very reasonably priced.

A car was summoned to whisk us across the road, along with our bike boxes and baggage – all very welcoming. 'Bula, bula' as they all say. Everything was carried up to our first floor room (with air-con, kettle and fridge), overlooking a vivid green lawn, tropical gardens and swimming pool. We soon knew why everything was so verdant, when the monsoon shower came at 4 pm, as it did every afternoon. This is the hot rainy season - not that the seasons vary much in the Tropics. It went dark soon after 7 pm (local time, being one hour behind New Zealand).

Taking club sandwiches and chips on the hotel verandah, we were serenaded by 3 Fijians with guitars – ah, the colonial lifestyle! We used the room telephone to arrange accommodation for the next couple of nights, reassembled the bikes and their wheels and repacked, ready for a 5-day cycle tour of the island.

(to be continued)

For the full account of the preceding ride south through the North Island, click: Cycling 3,025 km (1,891 miles) through the North Island

For the full account of the preceding ride round the South Island, click: Cycling 3,176 km (1,985 miles) round the South Island of new Zealand.

Distances and Times of the Cycle Ride North through the North Island

Day

Place

Distance

Local

Daily

Daily

Total

Average

No

(km)

(km)

(km)

(miles)

(km)

(miles)

(km)

(miles)

1

In Auckland

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

45

In Wellington

3025

3025

1891

3025

1891

67

42

92

In Wellington

3176

3176

1985

6201

3876

67

42

93

Waikanae

65

7

72

45

6273

3921

67

42

94

Palmerston N

88

88

55

6361

3976

68

42

95

Wanganui

85

85

53

6446

4029

68

42

96

Patea

66

66

41

6512

4070

68

42

97

Opunake

73

73

46

6585

4116

68

42

98

New Plymouth

67

8

75

47

6660

4163

68

42

99

Inglewood

43

43

27

6703

4189

68

42

100

Stratford

27

4

31

19

6734

4209

67

42

101

Tahora

76

76

48

6810

4256

67

42

102

Taumarunui

75

75

47

6885

4303

68

42

103

National Park

54

54

34

6939

4337

67

42

104

Turangi

57

2

59

37

6998

4374

67

42

105

Lake Taupo

51

8

59

37

7057

4411

67

42

106

Mangakimo

76

76

48

7133

4458

67

42

107

Cambridge

81

81

51

7214

4509

67

42

108

Waingaro

74

74

46

7288

4555

67

42

109

Pukekohe

80

80

50

7368

4605

68

42

110

Manukau

34

34

21

7402

4626

67

42

111

Mangere

24

24

15

7426

4641

67

42

Total Distances for the New Zealand Ride

Day

Place

Distance

Daily

Total

Average

No

(km)

(miles)

(km)

(miles)

(km)

(miles)

45

North Island 1

3025

1891

3025

1891

67

42

47

South Island

3176

1985

6201

3876

68

42

19

North Island 2

1224

765

7425

4641

64

40

111

New Zealand

7425

4641

67

42


Distances and Times of the Round-the-World Journey

Country

Days

Days Cycling

Miles

Average

Singapore

4

2

60

30

Australia

88

65

3440

53

New Zealand

160

111

4641

42

Fiji

7

6

300

50

USA

82

65

3645

56

Totals

341

249

12086

49

Coast to Coast

       

Australia

68

55

3025

55

USA

60

52

3000

58

No time was lost during the whole round-the-worl journey through illness. Xmas and the New Year consumed a 7-day break in New Zealand and stormy weather kept us indoors for 4 days in total. Otherwise, non-cycling days were used for sight-seeing, maintenance, writing, repairs, cleaning, reading, shopping, planning ahead, telephoning, crosswords, listening to the BBC World Service on our short-wave radio, etc.