Let me first the describe the ordeal I had getting onto the flight. I showed up to the airport in Krakow a good two and a half hours before the flight with bike packed in a cardboard box. I checked the weight of my luggage before check in and it weighed in at 38 kilos a good 6 kilos more than allowed. As I was flying with Emirates I had hoped like in asia they wouldn’t bother weighing me in. Upon checkin I was asked if I had my visa for Australia, as I was going to stop in Sydney for a few days to visit a friend. I was suprised to hear that as a Canadian, and fellow commonwealth citizen, I too needed a visa, even though it was the Electronic transit visa which is bought online. I told the lady at the checkin that I would apply for it and return, but I made her aware that I was bringing my bike with me. Even though I bought my ticket through Emirates the flight to Dubai was operated by Dubai air. She told me to first get the visa and then we will talk about the bike. I waited until just before the check in closed and still did not receive my visa confirmation. I approached the check in lady once again and requested that she give me my boarding card to Dubai and by time I get there I should have my Visa for Austrailia. She confirmed that this was an option the only catch was that I had to recheck my luggage. It was time to weigh the bike as I knew it was over weight I tried to lift the box with my shoulder to give a lesser reading but I was found out Instantly and asked to step away from the box. She told me firstly that Dubai air does not take sporting goods, secondly it was too heavy to take. I took the bag off of the scale and tore apart my wonderful packing job to gather would I could and save some weight. I managed to get it down to the needed 31.7 kilograms. She responded positively that the weight is now acceptable however Dubai air does not take sporting equipment. I told her I bought my ticket through Emirates and specifically called their customer service to let them know in advanced that I would be taking my bike. He assured me on the line that it would not be a problem. Even after I told him my flight connection. As a result ten minutes before the check in closure I was given a form to sign that I was aware of the fact that I may arrive in Dubai without my luggage. You can imagine the frustration and pressure I felt as my flight was soon to leave. I signed the form like a forced confession and headed to the boarding gate with three pieces of hand luggage. Upon boarding the plane through the sleeve I noticed some service men coming in from the outside. I asked if they were handling the luggage to which they replied rhetorically ‘do we look like we handle luggage.’ In my head I answered affirmatively. Still no sign of my box. When I found my seat I kept hovering across the aisle to the windows to see if I could see my box being loaded. The other passengers must have thought I was extremely afraid of flying. The flight from Krakow to Dubai is 6 hours and at this time I pondered what options I had if my bike didn’t show. Alas with a sigh of relief it had. I had to get that off my chest. Now let’s move on to the good stuff.
I landed one hour late in Auckland, it was now 3am local time. As expected the customs do great care in checking I was not bringing any foreign bacteria into the country. They check for dirty shoes, as well as give camping gear a bio exam that takes 15 minutes. I became increasingly aware of the scrutiny that was awaiting me when I had to 4 times check that I, nor anyone I know, has turboculoses. My box was once again opened for a third time and no longer represented the shape or structure of a rectangle. I knew I would have no choice but to assemble the bike at the airport and ride from there; no matter the state of lag I was in. Fortunately there is a bike assembly stand just outside of the airport. At 3am I was ready to ride out to the hotel I had booked. As most hotels are found in industrial zones I met with difficulty finding my way, as many roads ended with a dead end. I rang the hotel to ensure them I was coming and to confirm my late arrival would not be a problem. Once I finally got the hotel I was told that they did not have my reservation. I showed them my confirmation email, where he told me that this was a reservation request that was later denied. I told him I did not receive such a response to which he printed out the letter of denial, to which I pointed out that the adress of the recipient is the same as the sender. In the end he found one bed in a dorm for me and I finally got to sleep.
The next day I had a 20km ride to the city Center of Auckland. In the rain. I crossed the harbour bridge into town as per my google maps direction. As It turned out I was on the highway where bikes are not allowed. There was a smaller bridge just underneath me. I rode In the pouring rain as cars whizzed passed at a hundred kilometers and hour. Once on the other side I quickly turned off the highway and found a bike path into town. Checked into my hostel, had a shower and beer just as the sun poked its head out so I took a walk in downtown Auckland. You could see many young mauri in the street speaking in their native tongue. You could tell this country was proud of its native history as traces of it are visible in the currency, the names of cities, the art, and almost everything.
The following day it was time to get back on my bike and get a full day of travel in. I first had to check off one tourist attraction in town and that was Mount Eden; one of the five volcanoes in town. Unfortunately the weather was poor and there wasn’t much of a view. But it was a good warm up to the day. Metropolitan Auckland is a vary large land mass that stretches on for about 20 km. AS you get out of the city the landscape starts to improve but at the same time so too did the weather deteriate. I stopped to relieve myself on the side of the road just as the heavens opened up and wet came down from high above. I zipped up my coat and continued on my way and eventually bumped into Wallace, a Kiwi road cyclist in his late fifties who took the responsibility of explaining my route to me, eventually he just accompanied for the next 15km. We spoke as rain traced the contours of our face. After are farewells the sun returned once again just as I descended to the coast where my destination lay, the town of Miranda. According to google maps I was there, but there was nothing only an empty street. I continued south and eventually a saw a sign for a campground with its own natural springs. Without hesitation I pulled in. And was greeted with the typical friendly Kiwi smile and ‘how’s da reydin today>? Kiwis have a funny sense of humour that I greatly appreciate. The signs on the hot spring pool in the campground stated ‘any children left unattended will immediately receive an espresso and kitten.’
FIrst night in the tent was behind me. When I awoke I found there was another cyclist camped beside me. Ashley had already been in New Zealand 2 months riding and she’s thinking about staying a year. Apparently she rides slowly. I departed along the gulf and at the bend stopped for a pastry and a donut. Anywhere you go in New Zealand they have good coffee, in this case it was a hardware store. I got some gas for my stove finished my pastry and continued down the road to the far bend of the bay to the town of Thames. It was there that.i met two other cyclists from the North West Territories. They warned me of the fine print when it comes to wild camping, some places do not allow it if you are not ‘self-contained’. Meaning I need to be carrying a toilet with me. New Zealand prides itself on its ecological sensitivity. We spoke about the good coffee in this country which has been slowing them down due to the amount of coffee breaks they were taking. They too were traveling for a year. I thought it was cute that the lady of the pair had a paperback novel in her front basket and nothing else, while her bike was loaded with 4 panniers. We departed in opposite directions and I set out along the Coromander peninsula. The road was narrow as it hug the coast on one side and the hillside on the other. But I enjoyed the sights and especially the smell of the ocean spray. Just before getting to the town of Coromander, where I planned to sleep, I had to big hills of 300m to climb. Which is that much by they were only about 2 km long meaning the slope was very steep. Once I got into town I went for fish and chips, as this was a town of fisherman. The meal did not dissapoint.
The next day I was to cross the panisula to the other coast. And so another steep hill to climb. As I was slowly stroking one pedal at a time I was passed by a German on a trekking bike with 2 small planners. As he passed he asked Sprichst du Deutsch. Niene I replied. We talked of origins and destinations before he wished a safe journey and took off. Although I could see him in the distance all the way to the top. Once at the top I took a series of selfies before getting into my tucking position and coasting 50km and hour to the bottom. Once I got to the town of Whitianga I took a much needed brake. This was one of those towns that you feel instantly good in as soon as you arrive. As has become routing I grabbed a coffee and a pastry at one of the local bakers before catching the fiery across the straight. Even though the crossing was maybe 400m across the ferry could brake ice bergs in Antarctica. Once on the other side I bike to Shakespeare’s cliffs. Where I took in the view and read about James Cooke’s first landing in New Zealand 100 years after the original European landing by a Dutchman by the name of Abel Tasman. From there I rode a little further to Cooke’s beach where I stayed in a quite resort but I got access to the jacuzzi.
In the morning I set off for Cathedral cove. I knew of this place from running the treadmill at the gym. In the simulator you get to run along the beach through a rock arch. It was a steep ride along the coast and then I steep descent where I had to dodge the tourists on the walking path with my bike fully loaded. Just before the beach was series of stairs so I locked up my bike got my sandals and walked down. The place was packed with tourists and periodically boat loads would arrive or a groups of kayakers would disembark. It was here that I took out the drone for the first time. As I spent a lot of time I only made it 50km before it was time for a coffee break. Just as I stopped the rain came. That night I camped out in Tairua at campsite.
Today I was to decide whether to continue along the coast or cross the hill back towards the town of Thames at the base of the paninsula in order to catch my first bike rail trail 25km south again across the hills to coast. I chose the latter and was not dissapointed. The roads were steep and it was hot. The road after Thames was straight and boring. But once on the cycle path from Paeroa to Waiki beach was great. Even though I was already tired from the ride once I got on the cycle path my energy returned and was anxious to see what was behind each corner. Some of the highlights was a narrow 1km tunnel and the Karanghake falls themselves were well worth it. Once in the town of Waiki I met another cyclist by the name of Christian from Germany we ended up seeking out a campsite together. We found one next to the beach.
That morning I awoke to find that my German friend hall already packed up and was finishing his breakfast. We were both setting off for Rotorua, by he got an hour head start before me. It was a rainy morning riding along the bust coastal highway. As usual I was listening to my headphones attached to my phone on my headset. As I was coasting down the highway all of a sudden my headphones snagged and while figuring out what just happened my phone flew off on to the busy road. I quickly jumped off my bike, parked on the side of the highway just as another cyclist approached. I passed her running up the hill yelling that I had dropped something. My phone was in two parts in the middle of the street and somehow the oncoming cars avoided it. I found my phone that was only detached from its protective casing but the back of the phone was cracked, the front was fine and thus continued to work as before. I return to my bike to find the cyclist waiting for me there. She was a finish cyclist riding on her own. And as it turned out I replied to one of her comments on a Facebook group regarding cycling in New Zealand. It was nice to mean someone in reality that you had only met virtually. She was eager to talk of her ailements, but as we were standing next to the highway it hardly was the proper environment for a chat. I wished her well and continued toward Rotorua. I found a shortcut on Google maps through the town of Bethleham. That later joined the main road for a bit before a turn off onto a country road. I almost passed the turn as it was not marked and was a bit suspisouce of this. After 40km of riding on a quite road I came to a clearing and a signe that beyond this point was private property and trespassers would be prosecuted. I really didn’t want to turn back after climbing the last 40km so I continued just as google directed me. Shortly a young girl on a motor bike pulled up to me and explained that this was private land and she did not have a problem with me crossing but she doesn’t know about the land owner of the next property. She assumed I would not get caught but could not guarantee of the owners reaction if I were stopped. I thanked her for the info and continued on the dirt road all the way to a cattle gate. I stopped and seriously considered turning around until all of a sudden the farmer app reared on a quad bike. He asked if I was heading to Rotorua to which I responded affirmatively and he proclaimed I go on this same road. I thanked him for his permission to continue as I feared the worse. I crossed the farm for the next 15km half of which was cattle grazing land and the other half full of deforestation. Once I got out of the woods or rather lack of I hit highway 5 straight to Rotorua. Just before the city Center I stopped for a burger and the adequately named Fuel Burger.
The weather turned even worse while I was in Rotorua as I had a reasonably priced bed in a dorm hostel where I had the room to myself. The whole city of Rotorua is laced atop a geothermal spring. You can smell the soulful in downtown and as you walk the streets there are streams of steam shooting our little geysers on people’s yards. As a result my hostel had its own hot spring pool. If it’s gonna rain why not spend the day in a hot pool. I got some supplies at the K-MArt, yes they still have K-mart. Later in the day I took a walk around town and along the Geo thermal lake surrounding it. On my way back to the hostel I bumped into Christian the German who took a different route to Rotorua but by the sounds of it he had it harder than I did. He said he was going for a walk before grabbing a beer then taking a dip in the pool. I responded by holding up my grocery store bag and proclaiming that i was two steps ahead of him.
After two days the weather was still questionable, but there was a children’s bike race going on in the park next to the hostel. And as i told the reception if children can ride today than so can I. Today I would embark on my second of many organized bike trails in New Zealand. This one took me through the redwood forest surrounding Rotorua before running parallel to the main road. Overall not as eventful as the last. THe town of Tuapo, where the trail ended, was hardly a dissapointed.
The town of Tuapo rests on the shore of lake Tuapo, one of the largest lakes in the country. It too had some Geo thermal hot springs as well as a mountain bike park. So an extra day was in order. I was aching from the ride into town so I walked to the spa thermal park 2 km from the Center of town. The walk follows the gorge where they do bungee cord jumping. The hot spring shoots out to that very Same river. The cascading falls of the spring were relaxing and soothing. And the knee that was starting to ache as I rode Into town no longer ailed me. IT seemed everyone who took a dip was more energetic including the ducks that floated centre meters away from the humans.