Te Araroa Holiday Park - Tokomaru Bay
Sadly it is not the indulgent chip and dip pre-dinner snack you’re thinking of, but the condition of the roads today.
We started out early as planned, leaving the campsite at 7.30am and happy it was a cooler, cloudier morning as after the first 6kms of flat we knew we had three biggish hills of 115m, 205m and 220m to climb and we were fully loaded with fresh supplies and plenty of water.
The first hill went well and Dave was full steam ahead. Getting stronger with every day in the saddle, he now leads on the hills so he doesn’t have to slow down to my pace. Although I’m still going at a snails pace I’m huffing and puffing a lot less than the first week and I can keep the wheels turning.
It was by 9am on the second hill that the roadworks started. The last thing you want to see when you have good momentum on an uphill climb is loose gravel, and especially thick, chunky gravel. The second last thing you want to see is the same chunky gravel when you’re travelling 50kms an hour on a downhill. We must’ve had at least a dozen or more of these gravel interludes to contend with today and it took every ounce of balance and strength to stay in the saddle, and at times with the passing traffic it was safer to get off and push.
But the gravel won in the end and it really did stop us in our tracks - this is where the dip comes in. I was the first to come a cropper when I met a fully loaded logging truck (we are now on the logging route between Hicks Bay and Gisborne) on an uphill gravel section, and when a rock hit my front wheel spokes I lost control, and fell over with one foot still clipped in. Luckily there was no traffic behind me and Dave heard my screams from the top of the hill and ran to get me unclipped and off the road quickly. Just a few scrapes and bruises, and note to self – don’t clip in on gravel roads. My cleat had been sticking all morning so we got the tool bag out and put a new one on.
It was much later in the day with only about 20kms to go when I rounded a downhill corner only to see a blue pannier in the middle of the road. Thankfully Dave was upright, and despite managing to slow down, his bike had skidded from under him as he hit yet another section of this annoying gravel. Once again we were lucky there was no following or oncoming traffic at that moment, and again just gravel burn.
Today was hard work, not only because of the gravel, but the hills were big, the wind was gusty and the distance was our longest day yet. Saying that we had a couple of nice stops, one at Tikitiki with its Maori church and wonderful carvings, and lunch at the Kai Kart in Ruatoria, as well as a much needed drink stop at Te Puia Springs and to clean the gravel and grit out of our legs, and all the while we met interesting local Maori folk, many of whom stopped with us on the gravel roads offering sympathy, help and lifts!
By the time we rode into Tokomaru Bay at 5pm we’d ridden just short of 90kms. We pitched the tent in record breaking time before the thunder and lightning and rain really set in, and with no kitchen facilities at this campsite we opted for dinner at the local pub, driven there by the campsite owner, and home again by the chef!
We think we’ll move on tomorrow; as nice as the campsite owners are, the facilities are poor and I really need a hot shower! Anaura Bay is only 28kms away and our next port of call.
This 9-week trip to NZ is not all about biking. We start by dropping the bikes in Auckland, flying to Queenstown to spend a couple of weeks and to run the marathon. Fly back to AKL and ride south to Nelson via Eastland & Hawkes Bay, before returning from Wellington to AKL by train.
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