Ups and Downs: Wellington – Taranaki – Auckland

Fall is arrivingAfter the warmth of Vanuatu, I returned to New Zealand, where Fall has more or less arrived. I already made it back to Auckland after starting cycling again in Wellington in the mean time. The path to here wasn’t as straight forward as expected and there were some ups and downs. More about it now.

Auckland – Wellington
I took in the morning the bus (not the night bus this time…) back to Wellington after my return by plane to Auckland. I would have loved to take the train but it was more than four times more expensive. And that with the same speed. Anyway, I arrived in the evening in Wellington and had also my bike and luggage back the next day. Thank you, Helen, for storing it!
My bicycle needed urgently a new back tire and also a new chain. Thanks to the BikeBarn next door, this was done quickly. The new Schwalbe Marathon tire was pretty expensive but at the end it’s just worth it, if you don’t have to repair at the worst place. After a short tour around Wellington, the bike and myself were ready again for the second part of my New Zealand cycling journey 🙂

Wellington – Wanganui
There is more or less only one road heading from Wellington to the west coast. And it’s a pretty busy one. My guide book “The Pedallers’ Paradise” therefore recommended to take the suburban train. That was very practical, because you could just drive into it. And they did not even charge me extra for the bike. In Waikanae, I finally started to cycle again. It was a bit uncommon after this long break and I did only around 50km that day till Levin therefor. I also saw another cycle tourist from a distance and I didn’t know at that time, that it would be the only one till Auckland…
After a pretty cold night (around 6C in the tent after at least 25C in Vanuatu), I continued slowly and did around 60km that day. It was much easier before the break… I guessed (and hoped) it would get better again after some time. I continued the next day and met an old friend: the wind. Unfortunately he was going into the opposite  direction but he also wasn’t that fit yet luckily. That way I at least made it to Wanganui, where I planned to camp. However, the guy at the motel wanted 30 NZD for a simple tent site. I wasn’t willing to pay that and took a bed in a hostel for 25 NZD instead.

Wanganui – Taranaki – Waitara
After a relaxing night, I wanted to continue in the morning. However, my mobile phone decided in the night to stop working and I had to fix that first. Unfortunately, also the great support of Alessio, another IT traveller in the hostel, didn’t help. Of course you can now say that it’s only a phone which is true. However, for me it’s pretty important because I use it as a GPS and to organize things like hostels, camp site and so on and check weather forecast. This additional to communication. I was pretty frustrated therefor but had to continue without this support.
Originally, I planned to do a kayak tour on the Wanganui river (which is pretty famous). However, I didn’t have anybody for this and it was also a bit late in the year. I therefore continued cycling towards Mt. Taranaki (a dormant volcano) the next day. It was pretty hilly but I did almost 100km till Hawera that day. I was still able to do it :-). On the way, I could see the smoking Tongariro massive and the volcano Ruapehu in a distance.
From Hawere, I could either continue along the coast or cross the peninsula. I decided to cross because it should be a bit less hilly that way. It was a bit flatter and also Mt. Taranaki was well visible at the beginning before it disappeared behind clouds. It was my intension to also climb that volcano. However, I again didn’t have a companion and also the weather wasn’t really right. That’s why I continued till I reached the sea again and stayed on the campground in Waitiara. I was probably the only guest which didn’t live there. Or I was for sure the only person in a tent. The tenting season seemed really to be over…

Waitara – Te Kuiti
I continued the next day along the coast towards north. The destination for the day was Mokau. However, till there I had to climb a few hills, especially Mt. Messanger. And this one had the message for me, that I wasn’t fit enough yet. Nevertheless, I made it to Mokau in the evening and put up my tent at a motor park. I was the only guest…
From Mokau or better Awakino, a side road left the highway to roll along the coast. I was planning to take this one for avoiding the traffic. However, I wasn’t in the mood for another two days of loneliness and was looking forward to stay at a hostel for meeting some people. My next destination was therefore Te Kuiti and I continued on the highway. It was pretty hilly and the hostel was a bit outside again on a hill. But I had big hopes that it would be worth it. Unfortunately nobody was at the hostel, not even the owners, when I arrived there. The friendly neighbors welcomed me and I finally decided to stay anyway because the sun was setting already. One of the disadvantages of traveling in fall. At least I could enjoy the stars above the Casara Mesa hostel and also take some nice pictures during the night. At it end it was well worth the visit.

Te Kuiti – Waitomo
The best known attraction in the area are the Waitomo caves. I had them on my list for quite some time. They also got recommended to me by Femke (the Dutch cyclist I met in Kaikoura). It was a pretty short drive that day. However, it could have ended spectacular… A few kilometers after I left the main road, I was passed by a car. Shortly afterwards, it stopped very brisk just before reaching the top of a small hill. A moment later, it was also clear why: Another car was driving in the opposite direction but on the same lane. A ghost driver! Luckily the driver in front of me saw it on time and the wrong driver changed back to the right lane… I didn’t want to think about what could have happened if both would have been driving a bit faster or would have seen it each other a second later… With additional adrenaline in my blood, I continued till the next hostel, which was situated just opposite the Blackwater Rafting Company, which offers tours to the cave.
You can choose between different types of tours, depending on how much money you want to spend and what kind of trip you prefer. I chose the cheapest Labyrinth tour for 119 NZD (which is still a lot of money). On this one you are swimming and floating through the water in the cave and that was for me more important than abseiling. First we got a wet suit, rubber shoes and a helmet. It should get really wet. Afterwards we got transported to the entry of the cave by bus. The driver told us on the way, that we should use the safety belts because they have sometimes gost drivers in the area… At the cave, everybody got a truck tire for floating. And then we entered the darkness. New Zealand is dealing with a drought that summer and I therefor was wondering, how much water there would be really around. Anyway, it was definitively enough. We floated across an underground river/lake and enjoyed the glowworms in the darkness on the ceiling. A very magic experience. After falling of the ring once (the water was really cold!), we finally reached daylight again and got back to the base by bus, where we all got a hot soup for warming up again. This tour was for me one of the highlights of my NZ journey and definitively worth every single dollar. At least if you don’t have a problem to get wet 😉

Waitomo – Hamilton – Raglan
My plan was to cycle from Waitomo along the coast towards north. However, the weather forecast was very bad and I didn’t want to cycle through rain and storm and spending the night alone in a tent in nowhere. After a long back and fourth, I finally decided to cycle to Hamilton instead. I forgot unfortunately, that this also meant, that I would cycle against the wind… It got pretty exhausting and the last 20km also pretty wet… However, I finally made it to Hamilton and stayed there for two days, because it continued to be rainy and stormy. On the third day, I decided to continue anyway. It got very wet. On the way I changed my mind and decided to cycle to Raglan. When I reached the hostel there completely soaked and enjoyed first a hot shower to get warm again.
Raglan is famous for surfing. I never tried this but I had it on my list of possible activities for  a while. I therefor registered for an introduction course. It was a lot of fun but I would not call that surfing what I did ;-). It was so much fun that I went again on the second day but this time without a course.

Raglan – Auckland
After those relaxing days, it was time to continue even if the weather forecast wasn’t very promising. However, it also shouldn’t be that far that day. The destination was the campground next to the Waingaro Hot springs und till there, it were only 33km. I arrived already in the early afternoon und put up my tent; just in time before the big rain with several thunderstorms started. The rest of the day, I enjoyed the warm springs. I wanted to continue the next day (I had a hostel reserved in Auckland because of the school holidays) and after the sun showed up again in the morning, I even could dry my tent more or less. Just when I wanted to get on the road, a heavy thunderstorm started to pass and I couldn’t resist the offer of my campground neighbor Simon, which invited me for a coffee till it was over. The world almost drowned outside but we enjoyed the hot drink in his camper van. I wanted to check my stuff during a short rain break and I had to recognize that my whole bike crashed to the ground during the heavy rain. That’s not really a problem in general but it crashed so unlucky that my handle bar bag partly opened and therefor didn’t protect my camera anymore. As a result, the camera didn’t work anymore… Why ever. Because the strong thunderstorms kept going, I decided to stay for another night and tried to get my camera working again (without success, unfortunately). At least I had with Simon a good buddy. He offered to give me a lift to Auckland the next day and I was happy to accept that because it would have been pretty hilly and wet ;-).

That way I made it to Auckland and try now to repair my phone and camera or get an exchange for it. It wasn’t the plan but that’s how it is sometimes. I hope that my bad luck wit the electronic devices is finally ending. There is anyway not that much left which could die on me… I still would like to get to Cape Reinga but will see if that works out. I will fly to Australia mid of May and time is getting a bit tight finally. I know, a luxury problem :-).

All the best from Auckland,


PS: Pictures can be found in the Gallery.

About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my wife Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website Stefan, Switzerland

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