Oh. Very Good, and Good.

Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Saturday, June 16, 2012

Righto, last blog of this trip so I better try and make it a good one!
We started the month off with a long weekend in Wellington and a visit from housemates Ross et Randy. Our plans to use them as an honorary support crew never really materialised - I'd been quite looking forward to the prospect of riding along with a bacon sandwich and a cuppa stop every 20km. Instead we had a little look around some of the ale houses and a bit of a sniff about the city. After our fair share of pale ales, pilsners and other excellent craft beers we ventured out to Zealandia.

Basically the wildlife in New Zealand evolved in isolation without mammals and other land based predators. When Man came along a few thousand years ago everything went tits up for the wildlife and lots of species were wiped out. Zealandia is an inland island project where they have built a reserve to act as refuge for these endangered native species. Essentially they built a big fence and killed all of the introduced predators inside it. Now the Kiwi and his mates can live in peace and the native 'bush’ is regenerating. Quite a cool little project but after three days it was time to get out of Wellington. Or so we thought.

Next morning Adam was sick with Aids. Fortunately it was the good kind so we only had to wait an extra day until he was feeling well enough to ride again. We finally pushed out of Wellington on the Wednesday and got as far as the ferry terminal before we hit a problem. Ads’ bottom bracket (the bearing that runs between the pedals inside the bike) had seized up meaning we weren’t going anywhere. Back into town to get it replaced at the bike shop. I had mine replaced as well as a preventative thing – they normally wear out after a couple of thousand km and ours had done over twice that.

With a bitterly southerly now blowing and some driving rain, the same weather system that dumped 80cm of snow in Christchurch and shut a lot of the high passes that we rode over last month, we set off once more through busy city traffic. 
Seemingly Adam’s run of bad luck wasn’t over and he lost a bolt holding his cleat in place (that’s the bit that clips your bike shoe to the pedal). What that meant was that he couldn’t unclip and was fixed to the bike – not ideal in busy traffic. He ended up taking his shoe off and pushing the bike through the traffic to a safer place where he could fix it. All you could do was laugh. Sometimes you just gotta know when you’re beat so we jumped on a train to Lower Hutt on the edge of city and called it a day.

We got going properly the next day with an hour long long climb up to 600m over the Rimutaka range.The weather was dry but the top of the pass was cloudy so we got a good soaking as we rode through it. Warming up again in Featherston we pushed along the flat through the "daffodil capital of the world" and into Masterton. 
We found somewhere to stay but “the room won’t be ready for another twenty minutes. We had drillers in here last night”. Dirty lot them drillers – it was 4pm and she was still cleaning. ;-)

Next day the wind had swung around and we had to battle a ferocious headwind for the entire morning. We were going along at a pitiful 12km/hr, less than half the normal speed with the panniers acting as big sails blowing us backwards. At one point a gust blew me out into the centre of the road and a couple of seconds away from death by cattle truck...
I think ordinarily we wouldn’t have bothered riding on a day like this but we had a deadline and a flight to catch. We did however end the day earlier than normal, luckily this time there were no dirty drillers about.

From Woodville we rode to Waipukurau, again into strong headwinds and more rain. It seemed like our luck with the weather was definitely up. The entire time in the south island I think we had only four days of rain, now it was rain every day. We stayed here for two days to recover, both of us now quite ill with a cold. The next day we had good weather again and pushed on through Hastings (named presumably after my home town) and through Napier on the East Coast. With everything that had gone against us it had taken a week to get here which should have really been an easy three days ride from Wellington. It was still great riding and a lot more interesting than SH1, the main road that runs up through the centre of the north island.

From Napier the route turned back inland in a north-west direction back up to Auckland. The road from Napier to Taupo is quite remote with not much along the way. We were on the road at 8am as we knew it was going to be a big day. And what a day it was! We had to cover 130km in the eight hours of daylight and cross three big hills. Total ascent was around 1500m and it was bloody freezing. We got into Taupo just as it was getting dark but had somehow managed to do the job. The hardest days ride of the trip by a country mile – good job we’ve had twelve weeks of practice I suppose.

Next day was Adam’s birthday and lucky for him he got to spend it with me. We had a ‘day off’, hired a car and set off for Rotorua for some excellent mountain biking! Well that’s what we’d bought these bikes for…

Unfortunately there was no longer time to swing out to Mt Maunginui to see Rich and Jemma and pick up some gear we’d left at their house (cheers for posting that Rich, you’re a bloody legend despite what everyone says). With a straight line back to Auckland we stopped at Tirau and then onto Miranda – a mammoth 143km in a single day. I won’t lie to you about how hard that one was since it was mostly on the flat with a tail wind!

So to the last day on the bikes in NZ.  A short hop of 60km or so back into Auckland, we planned to catch a ferry to avoid the crazy traffic into town. A great morning’s ride hugging the coast before one final steep hill – there would have to be wouldn’t there. It was a stinker but nothing that 5 minutes of hard climbing out of the saddle couldn’t fix. So it was with a final descent, our last ferry and across Auckland Harbour and we were back into the city. A short ride through the city saw us back on the summit of Mt Eden where it all began three and a bit months ago. After the inevitable photo session at the top, we found somewhere to live for the night and went out to celebrate. And to pat some Goldfish...

Total distance is pretty much bang on 5,000km or a touch over 3,000 miles. Although we’ve been going a while we spent a total of 61 days in the saddle, the rest of the time spent doing other cool stuff. Quite the adventure really and I can definitely recommend a visit to New Zealand, with or without a bike.

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