Yes, I’m a wimp. When it was raining heavily the morning when I wanted to leave Hahei, I decided to stay for another night in the nice hostel. Also because the weather forecast for the rest of the day wasn’t really better. The good thing is: because of that, you get now this blog entry, also if the English version is a bit delayed. It’s about the first few days in New Zealand and includes also a small adventure :-).
Cairns – Auckland
After a last extended dinner in the Tropic Days Hostel in Cairns (All what you can eat Pizza), I left early by shuttle bus to get to the airport. Check-in was painless and thanks to my Works Deluxe Ticket of AirNewZealand, I didn’t have to pay extra for my bicycle. This ticket already included two pieces of luggage. On the other side, it got checked, if I had a return ticket to leave New Zealand again. Luckily I organized such a ticket in advance… After a last security check, I went on board and we left with some delay out to sea. I finally had a window seat again and had a chance to see the Great Barrier Reef from the air. And as a introduction to New Zealand, I watched the first part of Lord of the Rings :-).
After arriving at the airport in Auckland, I went through immigration and got my three months visitor visa without problems. As in Australia, I had to go through the bio hazard control and my bike box got opened and my tent checked. Both got declared as clean and I could continue by shuttle bus to the hostel. During the next few days, I organized a prepaid SIM card for my phone, some maps and books and other things like new cooking pots. And in the evening before leaving, I took together with the young German Hans part in the hostels international food contest. We cooked the Swiss dish Älplermagronen (pasta on a cheese sauce with onions and apple sauce). It was fairly good but we couldn’t compete against the in red whine soaked meat of the French. However, our dish was at least also suitable for vegetarians :-).
Coromandel Town – Fletcher Bay
On the 27th of November, I started my cycling adventure in New Zealand. My first destination was the peninsula of Coromandel east of Auckland. To speed up the journey a bit and to avoid Aucklands traffic, I took the small ferry. It was very well worth it and we also saw some dolphins on the way. Also on the ferry was a young backpacker from South Africa and a young cyclist from Germany. I cycled with the German to Coromandel Town and stayed there in a hostel. The best part of the hostel was clearly its pool and hot tub.
My goal was it to cycle around the northern tip of the Coromandel peninsula. But there was a small problem: There is no road around except a foot path, the Coromandel Walkway. I couldn’t find a lot of information about people doing it with a touring bike. However, I also couldn’t find somebody saying that it is not possible. I wanted to give it a try therefor. I started the next day towards north. It was hilly from the beginning and starting in Colville, it was also gravel. I only had road tires and wasn’t sure, how well that would go… After having a pie from the supermarket and some great sweets from the cafe next door, I drove along a beautiful coast line and reached the camp site in Port Jackson in the later afternoon. Except from the super friendly camp hosts, I was probably the only non German in this half of the campground :-).
It rained a bit during the night and I was therefor unsure if I should continue or not because I was hesitating to do the Walkway during wet weather. I finally packed my stuff and continued towards Fletcher Bay. It started to rain again on the way and it didn’t stop anymore. I therefore decided to stay over night in the Backpackers at Fletcher Bay. Camping isn’t that great if it’s raining… I was the only guest at that time, which was a bit lonely. Late in the evening, some Kiwis arrived which were planning to go fishing the next day by using a kayak.
The rain stopped in the evening and heavy wind started instead. The camp warden couple warned me of the strong gusts on the way but I started the adventure anyway. After crossing a fence, I continued on a grassy path. Cycling was difficult and the wind was so strong that I had to stop and wait a few times. The path was partly very steep and I wasn’t as fast as expected therefor. I was slower as written on signs for walkers… Not a surprise because my bike was very heavy… The first third of the path was not really easy but well doable. And the view was gorgeous.
Around the middle of the path, the real stuff started: It went fast from around 150m above sea level down to the Poley Bay and very steep up again on the other side. I got close to my limit here and almost couldn’t push the bicycle up the path anymore. The alternative was to unload the bicycle and to carry the luggage separately up the hill. Luckily I could avoid this and after a very hard fight, I reached again the flatter area of the Walkway. It continued through different type of forests and grassy areas towards Stony Bay. The path was partly muddy because of the rain but it wasn’t too bad.
After around 4 hours, I finally reached Stony Bay and with it the end of the close to 8km long Coromandel Walkway. I was so exhausted, that I decided to stay at the DOC (Department Of Conservation) campground in the bay… The Walkway is for sure a little adventure. However, you should at least think twice about doing it with a touring bicycle. It’s not without risk and very exhausting.
Stony Bay – Coromandel – Hahei
After saying good bye to Suzanne and Max, my very friendly Kiwi neighbors at the campground, I continued towards south. First up a hill and this on a pretty bad gravel road. On the way down, I felt a hit on my rear wheel and was thinking about putting some more air into the tube. Too late. There was no air in it anymore. My first puncture since the last one in Santa Lucia in Chile in March, more than 8’000km ago. I wasn’t that surprised because my tires were not really built for this type of road. It took me some time to exchange the faulty tube but I continued after around 30 minutes. From now on very carefully and slowly. I didn’t have any spare tube anymore and the old one had two around 5mm long cuts…
The path was very hilly and my nose was running because of a cold or/and hey fewer. Neverthless, I reached Colville in the early afternoon and had my lunch break in the cafe before continuing and arriving in Coromandel Town in the evening. The circle was closed and I’m very tired. So tired that I stayed for three days… There I also met the French cyclist Valentin. He stays in the hostels and works there. Those Work and Travel Visas are a great thing. Unfortunately, I’m too old for it…
On Monday the 3rd of December, I finally continued. I had the choice between the paved road to Whitianga or the gravel road 309 across the mountains. I decided to take the gravel road because it sounded more interesting and it was also a bit shorter (if probably not really faster). I drove carefully, because I still didn’t have a new spare tube. Nevertheless, I reached Whitianga shortly after lunch time, bought a new tube and some chain lubricant and crossed the harbor by ferry after enjoying a pie. After the short ferry ride, I continued towards Hahei, which offers two more famous things to see: The Cathedral Cove and the Hotwater Beach. The weather forecast for the next few days wasn’t that great and I therefore continued straight to the Cathedral Cove. The sun already disappeared behind clouds but the natural arch was still worth a visit. On the Hotwater Beach, you can dig a hole in the sand during low tide and then enjoy the hot and sandy water, which collects in there. I didn’t really feel like going there and had a great evening with the Finnish cyclist Jocke “Thomas” Eriksson and the American Eric Mortenson instead.
And yes, I planned to continue the next morning. But Thomas gave forfeit because of his bad knee and when I wanted to start cycling, it was pouring. My motivation sank to the bottom and I extended my stay in the hostel by a day. Things can change very fast :-). However, we continued the next day and our next destination would be Rotorua in around three days. From there, we will continue to Taupo and the volcanoes Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. And latest on the 21st of December, I have to be in Wellington for catching the ferry to the South Island.
All the best from Hahei and have a nice pre Christmas time,
PS: Pictures from New Zealand can be found in the Gallery.
PS: PS: If you are planning to order stuff from Amazon.com or Amazon.de, it would be nice, if you would use my links. It doesn’t cost you anything and helps me to finance this website. However, it is of course still better to buy it from your neighborhood store. Thank you!