Biking across New Zealand

It’s time for a new trip, and it will be awesome!

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Astrid and I have planned a trip across New Zealand. We will bring our own bicycles, fly to Auckland , hopefully get to Cape Reinga and bike as far south as possible. The photo opportunities, the sceneries and the camping spots will be awesome, and I’m looking forward to some marvellous skydives!

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Thanks to Tobbe and Emily, we had an easy trip to Arlanda.We were there four and a half hour before the flight would leave, as we had special baggage to check in all that. After some walking back and forth (check-in on one place, get papers for the baggage on another, pay at a third, back to the second and then letting the baggage in at a fourth place) we were finished, with about two hours before the flight would leave.

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Somehow the airline had fucked up our food ordering, and there were no veggie food for us on the plane. We managed to get something, at least, consisting of mainly bread, and a little bit of fruit. We watched movies, and managed to sleep for a few hours, before arriving in Beijing, China. There would be a long 14-hour wait until the next plane would leave for New Zealand, and we decided to leave the airport to do some sightseeing! It was fairly easy to get a 24-hour visa, and after exiting, a guy came up to us while we were waiting to withdraw cash. Because of the tiredness, and just having landed, we followed him. It may have been a bit expensive, but he made everything really easy, including a taxi ride consisting of sleeping for one and a half hours.

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We took the cable cars up to the wall, and walked for a bit, until we felt really tired. I have never been astounded by monuments and such, and neither this time. Now we’ve been there at least, and managed to kill some time!

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Back at the airport at around five, with seven hours until boarding, we took a two hour nap, went to a restaurant, made some shopping of decorations for the handlebar bags and a some fresh fruit and talked with some personell to assure ourselves that we would maybe get the right kind of food this time.

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In 14 hours we should be on our bikes, on our way to the first planned visit!

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Getting to the northwesternmost point, and starting the ride down

After a slow flight, but with the right sort of food (although really disgusting according to Astrid, who doesn’t long for neither the flight home nor China) we were able to get our visa, and soon thereafter all our baggage. My bell was missing, and Astrids front brake disc was bent, but apart from that the bicycles were in good condition. We took the brake disc off and started our first trip.

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Through a lovey of mine we hade gotten a place to stay at in Auckland for our first night. With approximately 21 kilometres to get there, it didn’t take too long, even though we had to add two kilometres because of taking the wrong turn twice.

When getting there, we got tea, a hot shower, washed our clothes, dinner and a nice chat. We had some things to plan and were pretty jet lagged, but managed to get to bed at 02.00 AM.

Up again at 08.00 to shop for a brake disc and some USB chargers fitting the New Zeeland outlets, and then to the bus. At 10.30 we left Auckland to get to Wharangei, where a skydiver would meet us. He had even offered to drive us all the way up to Cape Reinga, which would fulfil our wish to start in the north. Astrid was really tired, and slept most of the bus ride, and also most of the drive up from Wharangei.

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En route to Cape Reinga we stopped for methylated spirits and food, so that we could cook ourselves dinner, breakfast and lunch.

Jim let us off, and hopefully we’ll be able to visit him on the way down and, if the weather and timing is alright, do a skydive or two. We’ll see about that on Wednesday!

We set up camp and started making dinner. Being the northwesternmost point of New Zealand, it was really windy, with winds mainly from the west. It was steep on either side, and we were really careful when putting our tent up.

We managed a marvellous dinner and a bottle of wine, with a beautiful sunset. The night photos were also really cool.

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I (Jackiie) went upp quarter past six to try and get some nice photos of the sunrise. Clouds were in the way most of the time, but a lot of the photos were really good!

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After waking Astrid up, eating breakfast and getting all the gear together, we started biking at 09.30. The start would be more hilly than the end of the day, and with the wind strong in the side it was pretty hard to start with. Soon the road was going mainly south-south-east, which gave us a lot of tailwind. The few times we had headwind was terrible, though.

We managed 35 kilometres with one big break before making lunch. It was not that easy, as we didn’t have a can opener, but stones worked good enough!

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Finally arriving at our planned destination, Pukenui, we special ordered vegan pizza before going into the small supermarket for shopping. Both of us were exhausted, even though I have been biking a lot more than Astrid, as I took the front position for the whole day. That, plus the hills, makes my body scream.

As a shower and internet seemed nice, we went to a camping nearby. It was really refreshing with a shower, and I got the chance to look through all the pictures form last night and this morning. Beautiful!

Let’s just hope we manage do this for three more days, and then a planned rest awaits us!

Day two of biking, and some Maori history!

It was easier to bike, probably because it was a lot flatter. After maybe 30 kilometres we met a girl who was going to spend half a year in NZ, biking around and experiencing stuff. She told us about a road that was supposed to pretty nice to bike on, kind off flat and all, along Highway 10, instead of Highway 1, where she came from. There had been lots of traffic, and for about 15 kilometres it was not fun at all. We took her advice, as it would only add 9 kilometres over three days, and took a left turn in Awanui after shopping for dinner and breakfast!

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Thanks to the turn, we had tail wind, which brought us forward pretty fast. As there were no cous-cous in the store in Awanui, we stopped in Mangonui, bought cous-cous and ate most of the preserved fruit we had bought in China. There were a free camping just three kilometres after the store, but that would set us back around 8 kilometres. Because of that we continued until getting too tired, with another hill in front of us. As wild camping so far had been hard due to all the fences and hills, we knocked on a church where no one opened. There were a house on the opposite side of the road where a man named Wayne let us camp in his garden and use his bathroom. Forgot to take pictures, but the view was amazing, especially with the morning mist in the valley!

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The next day, we mostly biked to get to Paihia, close to Waitangi, where the treaty between the British and Maori had been signed in 1840. We thought it would work out to go up there for a visit after the biking, but as the camping was on the way, we checked in and asked about it. At least two or three hours would’ve been needed to actually get something from the visit.

As we wanted to get down to Whangarei, and Jim, by Tuesday evening, we knew we didn’t have time for both. Therefore, we planned to go to the Treaty Grounds the next day for a visit, and then take the bus down to Whangarei.

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Campsite for the night

It was pretty early, and there were a BBQ on site, so we decided to try and make ourselves a really nice dinner. After some wandering in the store we had sweet corn, tomatoes, mushrooms, rootbeat, nachos with avocado spread and salsa, olives, pineapple, hummus, a baguette and some wine!

No before pictures, but something in the middle!

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The next morning we arrived at the Treaty Grounds at 09.20. There would be a guided tour at 10.00, so we first went to the newly opened museum.

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The tour guide spoke about the Maori history, and mainly the treaty, but also discussed about it, to show the problem. The treaty itself had been signed in one Maori version, and one English version, which differed in its meaning.

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He also showed us the big war canoes. This particular one could hold a total of 120 people!

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The history about the reputation of Russell, earlier also called the Hell Hole of the Pacific, which also was one of the events leading to the treaty, was another thing we got to learn about, with the city in the background.

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After the tour it was time for a performance of the traditional Maori dances, beginning with a welcoming ceremony.

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They were really skilled in what they did, and the whole performance was a really awesome experience!

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After a small history movie in one of the oldest houses of NZ, it was time to get our things at the camping and prepare for the bus ride.

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A short journey later, and we arrived in Whangarei again. As we were in a city, we tried to get me a new bell (which was too small for my handlebar) and see if someone could repair my speaker (which is turning the sound itself off every now and then, but maintains connection). None of those were a success, and we biked to Jim’s place. First, we wen’t to his neighbour (same looking car) before getting to the right place! It was an awesome evening, making “real food” for dinner (chick peas and sweet potatoes with curry, coconut milk, sweet corn and onion) and some wine, and a real nice chat with Jim again! This time we also got to finally meet his wife, Karin!

Skydiving, biking and random invites outside the food store

Jim helped to set us up with the DZ nearby, Ballistic Blondes Skydiving, and we went there to see what price a tandem could be for Astrid, and for me to just make a fun jump. She got a fairly good price, and after my briefing and testing out equipment, Astrid, her tandem instructor, I, a and another jumper with their coach loaded up the small Cessna 206. After a lot of time (compared to my home drop zone), we were up at 11000 feet. It didn’t feel that long, as we had lots of new views to look at!

The jump itself was really nice. Mainly focused on the views, did some turns and pulled pretty high at 5000 feet to get more time flying. I flew a 190 Safire, which was really fast on the turns, but didn’t pitch at all like I’m used to. Did a perfect landning two meters from assigned point, though, so that was awesome.

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Astrid was delirious after her tandem. She told me she was pretty cool about it until I jumped off, where she kind started thinking “what the hell am I doing”. She even got to steer the canopy a bit!

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Back at Jim’s place, Trem went by. Trem got a small war museum in his house, so we followed him up to take a look. It was astounding!

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Trem!

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At five o’clock, Jim and Karin left, as they would go to the US for some wingsuit competition. It was a bit empty after they left, as the time we had spent with them was great! Really lovely people!

With the house empty, we could do what want! Said and done, we made awesome pancakes, added some white wine and watched awesome movies!

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Avocado, lemon juice and salt? Damn, that was awesome!

We had planned to leave the day after, but as we went up late and were pretty slow in the morning, we decided to just stay another day, plan better, and talk things through. We also used the day to do some shopping, as we needed a few cables, a SIM-card, a rear light, a bell and some bits and pieces. I also slept through most of the movies we watched, apparently I was pretty tired.

At the 21st, we managed to start biking again. Even though I am pretty sure my bike computer is tens, maybe a few hundreds, of kilometres off, it passed 9000 km this day!

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That’s worth a selfie!

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When we were going to make lunch, we discovered that we probably forgot my fire steel back at the camping in Waitangi. The lighter we had bought earlier were nowhere to be found, but luckily, we had a food store maybe a hundred meters away, where I bought two lighters and two bananas.

During lunch, there were tons of ducks who seemed really curious about us, or just wanted our food.

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This day went fairly easy, and we decided to make a push for it. There was a park in Wellsford located a little bit outside the small town, with a public toilet and all. That seemed perfect for tonight, but would mean we would’ve to do about 90 kilometres in total before arriving there. The winds were gentle, and the road fairly flat, so we did it without a problem! The shopping for food went pretty fun, as both of us were overly tired, and the manager in the store was really nice.

On the outside, we were preparing to bike the last kilometer, when a woman came up to us and told us we could camp at her lawn if we wanted to. That would be awesome, as there would be no problem with police, locked toilets or anything else.

This turned into an awesome night, where we got to sleep inside, used the kitchen, took a shower and had tons of talk about stuff. Instead of getting to bed at nine, I managed o be up until past midnight. She even offered her box of nail polish (and there were tons of them), so I could have something better than my three week old one. Now I got space blue-ish to look at while I’m biking!

Headwind and awesome views from the tent

After another loaf of bread (but as breakfast this time) we were heading out! Really happy that we met Ana, and that she invited two totally crazy Swedish strangers into her house!

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Her daughter has built a beautiful magical village, by the way!

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Because of the form of New Zealand, and the mostly constant western winds, we would have pretty good winds on the north island, and probably less good winds on the south island. Thanks to the general direction we had biked so far the winds had been awesome, but this day consisted of mainly headwind.

We spotted a really random park, or whatever it was, consisting of many att projects (or just random stuff people had managed to put there, what do we know). There was a fence and gates around, se we didn’t enter, but had a nice view for lunch!

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When we finally arrived at the drop zone in Parakai, they had already closed down for the day. Instead of living ten minutes away, we decided to rent a small box (or room, but more like a box) with a bunk bed in it, as this was much closer to the DZ, and also we could use the internet, do our laundry and use the kitchen in there. There was some nice people too, which is always awesome!

In the morning I went up quite early to try and get my briefing at the drop zone. Even though I was there quite early, about half past eight, I had to wait about two hours before someone had time enough to help me convert my license and show me the landing areas and rental gear. I got a Safir 170, and went up as soon as possible. What they didn’t tell me was that the landing area was a bit wet, which made me pitch a bit early, just to get to a somewhat dryer patch. My pants and shoes still got dirty from the walking, though.

Astrid had a small sleep in, but when she was fully awake, she went shopping, and also cooked lunch! Really awesome.

Meanwhile, I made a second jump with two guys I met. To make it easy, we did a Skydance (more or less three people holding hands, and starting on one side, one person let it go and flies to the other side of the line). I had added a weight belt of four kilos, but I was still too light. We managed to do some rounds, though, and it was lots of fun!

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Also, my pants and shoes were clean again, after a minute in free fall and a more planned, and dry, landing.

Those two jumps took a lot of time, and after eating and packing, we departed at around five. There was a road that was supposed to be shorter and closer to the coast, but we had no idea about the quality of the road. We took our chances, and after ten-something kilometres into the woods, we found a locked gate, with the text “forest harvesting – public access forbidden” or something like that. As we are Swedish, we lifted our bikes over the gate, rather than turning around and bike uphill again. It was labour day, and that may have helped, because we saw no-one in twenty kilometres. What we did do was to experience an awesome forest, some sometimes good-sometimes bad roads, and a lot of wild life! I saw at least four rabbits and five deers, and of course there were birds both here and there.

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“Bicycles Allowed”-fence, not the “Nothing Allowed”-fence

After getting through two more fences (more like car blocking, but we had to get our bags off), we just had a couple of kilometres to what would be an awesome camping place! Down to beach, where there were supposed to be a camper van area, and we found public toilets and drinking water. There were sand dunes, some beautiful black sand and also a spot that looked like it was made to be ours. Up on a small ”cliff” with a steep wall down to the beach we pitched our tent, with a great view for dinner!

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When we were almost done with ours, we saw some germans down at the beach trying to light a fire, but failing. Of course we would be nice enough to help them, and walked down there with our kitchen fuel. It burnt alright!

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One of them gave us a good tip about Coromandel, where we were headed next. Awesome!

Skipping Auckland and getting nice tailwinds

The black part of the sand was magnetic! Really cool!

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After a breakfast at our sea-view spot, we biked to Swanston, where we would take the train. Biking through Auckland would just be a big hassle, being a big city, and that usually doesn’t give much if you’re not going to stay there.

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We had a few errands to check, and got ourselves a new fire steel, the last one still being in Paihia. Also checked a few other things, and ate vegan fast food at Pita Pit!

On the way to the bus station we saw a nice fire juggler, who we watched for a while, before buying tickets to get out of Auckland. We were supposed to go all the way to Pukekohe, but the trains stopped in Manukau today, so we didn’t have too much of a choice. I do think the trains were pretty cheap, though, and of good service!

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Went we got off the train we asked around for a camping as we hadn’t found any through our phones. There really wasn’t any nearby, but we settled for a big park just five kilometres south-east, Totara Park. Being lazy, and also a bit cold in the rain, we ate out at a thai place, before going to the park and finding a pretty dark spot close to the toilets. Being a weekday it wasn’t any people there, and we figured it should be okay, as there were no signs telling us we couldn’t camp there. It was already dark, being close to nine. Apart from a stray dog it was quiet all night!

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Our tent was in between those trees

I actually looked at the playground the evening before, but it was too small to fit both of us…

The wind was blowing from north today as a change, which sucked, as we were going east to start with. We got to the coast pretty fast anyway, and had a nice lunch with a view over the sea. There were a few ducks and tons of seagulls around, who tried to snap every bit of grass we throw into the air. They also seemed to have some internal fights, but didn’t care too much about the other group.

After lunch we started going more in the south direction. That meant massive tailwinds!

With an average of about 25 km/h, we flew along the coast. Just 15 more kilometres and we would have to start getting east again, and there no more campings along the way, so we decided to stay in a small town named Kaiaua. We stopped at a small cafe-shopping place, where we bought dinner and breakfast, and also a bit of snacks. She had a wifi we could borrow, but we think she got tired of us, or that we may have used too many gigabytes, because suddenly the internet turned itself off. As we wasn’t done with our planning, we just hooked the telephone up to the computer instead.

All that done, and be biked the couple of hundred metres to the free camping area nearby. It was a nice view, even though we had a hard timing finding free drinking water, but a really nice couple who had visited their daughter had a 100-litre tank with nice water from Rotorua, and gave us as much as needed. Even topped us up the morning after before they left!DSC_1519.jpg

Beautiful camping and a beautiful bath

The winds continued being northerly, so we started with 20 kilometres of tailwinds, followed by another 20 being sidewinds. When we headed up against Thames it started going real slow!

We shopped for lunch, dinner and breakfast, and I tried to send my speaker to Minirigs as it was faulty. The post office wanted a huge amount of money for it, though, and required a telephone number for the recipient, which I couldn’t provide. Better luck next time.

After a rainy lunch we continued north along the bay. The twisting road gave us protection from the wind half the way, but every time we came to an outer bend on the road the wind poured at us.

We arrived at Tapu, which would be the last chance to camp at before getting over the next coming hill. The road to Coroglen consisted of 660 height metres climbing, before having a looong downhill slope.

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I enjoyed the climb, and felt it was fairly easy, not being too steep. On the other side, we saw what I think was a big kauri tree! Really cool to see one up close, and I had to back off pretty far even with my wide angle lens!

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About forty minutes later, we didn’t have that fun, as Astrid had a puncture on her rear wheel. First puncture this trip!

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Also took the moment to take a picture of my bicycle with an “adventurous”background!

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Some luck still existed, despite being tired, and also not having too much daylight left. It was only three kilometres to a pretty cheap camping, including a hot shower without time limits! It was an easy decision, which I am happy we did, because the camping was cosy, awesome, had a good kitchen, good showers and you could do small adventures really close to it!

We enjoyed using a toaster for our bread in the morning, and really chilled out, sleeping in and relaxing. A man probably working in the camping told us about a small waterfall nearby which would be a neat experience, and so we went there to take a look!

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The first part was reasonably easy, but continuing was a harder. I managed to get by, but Astrid didn’t want to risk breaking a leg or anything.

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Another couple of hundred metres up, I found the big pool the guy also told us about! Of course I had to take a dip, and it was icy! I’m glad it was pretty warm outside, and it was a marvellous experience to bath up there!

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I started walking down again, this time in shorts and without shoes as it was easier to walk through the water than jumping stone-to-stone, and also my right shoe was pretty wet from an unexpected dip earlier.

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I overestimated my foot grip on a stone, which made me slip, and gave me a small scratch. DSC_1587.jpg

After another hour of relaxing at a small cliff, we headed back to the camping. It was so easy to relax there, and a fabulous view!

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Pretty late, around 17.30, we started biking the 20 kilometres to get to the next camping close to Hot Water Beach. The winds were good, and it was a quite easy ride. Being hungry, we bought an extra loaf of bread, and also a bottle of wine, when checking in. As it was already rather late we set camp and started making dinner. After tons of couscous, raisins and peanuts, and a couple of slices of bread, it was already getting late. Hot Water Beach was best within two hours before or after low tide, and low tide would be half past eleven.

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Instead of paying money for shovel hire we brought a pan and a pot from our kitchen to dig with. The Hot Water Beach is a beach with really hot underground springs, which at low tide can be felt through the sand at the beach. If you dig at a hot place, warm, or rather scorching, water would surface through the ground, making your own pool. At some spots the water reaches temperatures higher than 60 degrees celsius! The waves also brought in glow worms, which made the water full of green glowing dots!

Our pool got a little bit too hot, but by digging to the side, we managed to get a pretty nice hot tub, where we soaked for more than an hour, watching the outstanding night sky overhead.

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Just biking on

The 28th and 29th not much happened. We biked, and in Whakamata we stayed to shop for dinner and check the air in our tubes. While doing exactly that, a guy when by and said ”Oh, I didn’t expect it to be a queue!”, and we said he could just use the compressor before us, as we were still fiddling with checking our pressures. In a haste, I asked if he knew any good camping ground, and he said we could camp at his place! He drew us a quick map before heading off to his pool game he was a bit late to, and we went to his home. The only direction of what not to do we got was ”Do not touch the plant!”.

His home looked really awesome, and the guy seemed like he could build things, both practically and for artistic style. The awesome kitchen table was made by him, a big, beautiful, wooden one.

The evening went awesome, and I got some homemade glitter nail polish added to my blue one.

The 29th we biked on the Hauraki rail trail, which is made into a kind of bicycle trail. It was not that good, though. You didn’t have to bike with the cars, but instead, it was mostly gravel. I’ve biked many great gravel roads, but those were just too big stones, too soft and too many obstacles, like those kind of bars with space in between so cattle won’t be able to walk that path. Everything shakes when you pass by, and you have to lower your speed. Sometimes they even appear every few hundred metres, making it a nuisance.

We arrived in Te Aroha, and went shopping again. After talking with some nice people we settled to camp in or nearby a park. As there were wifi outside the library we ended up on that side the river.

Hobbiton! And a bit of hitchhiking.

After biking the last 50 kilometres, we were at Hobbiton! This is where they first filmed the Shire scenes in The Lord of the Rings; they tore it down, but rebuilt it for The Hobbit!

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The tour was about two hours, but it felt much shorter. And that was mainly looking at hobbit holes!

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Not much else to say, but it was a lovely tour, and a really good tour guide.

There was a camping real close to Hobbiton, where we would stay for the night. Really cheap as well, as not much were included, but nice views of mountains far away!

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In the morning we asked some people if we could possibly hitchhike with them, but they were not going in the right direction, or would have too small of a car. The first part would be pretty short though, and so we biked to see the Blue Spring! A short walk from the parking lot, and you would see really clear water with a beautiful colour!

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Back at the parking lot I saw a big bus with four people coming out of it. It looked like a tour bus, but I asked  where they were headed, which was the same direction as we were (Rotorua), and if they could take us with them. The tour guide had to ask his three customers, who said yes without hesitating. As they were going to check out the spring we just hanged around for an hour before they came back, and loaded our bikes onto the bus!

They had a stop to do before Rotorua, being the OGO balls. We decided we could try it as well! As our biking clothes were not that clean, we went in those instead of changing before. It was like a big washing machine!

You could choose from two different tracks, one fast one and one going like a serpentine road, and we opted for the latter.

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Soon we were in the middle of Rotorua, where the tour people would stay for the night.

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What we had seen on Campermate (our primary app for finding camping spots) it was legal to camp in one of the parks in the city. Before that we had some sightseeing to do!

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Rotorua is well known for its geothermal activity. We started with visiting the pretty central park where there was lots of free sightseeings, and even foot baths.

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Then, we visited a Maori church in the northern part of the town. With the sunset everything was extra beautiful.

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There were geothermal vents everywhere, and at some places, boiling water by the sidewalks!

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As we didn’t have too much food we went to the supermarket. We managed to forgot some sort of spread, and while I went in again, Astrid was approached by someone interested in our bikes and tour, more specifically Michael. When he understood our plans for the night he took us to a friend of his, David, where we would spend the night in a real bed instead of a park. David was a bike mechanic, and both of those two went everywhere by bicycle instead of riding a car, which is pretty uncommon in New Zealand!

We had a delightful chat before going to bed just a bit too late, as it usually turns out!

 

A couple of Skydives and bad weather

This was a resting day, and my plan was to do a few skydives at Taupo Tandem Skydiving. The weather in the morning was bad, though…

…until I suddenly got a message! I put Adam’s rig on my bicycle and went there as fast as possible!DSC_1907.jpg

While I was writing all the necessary information, Geoff, the guy organising the sport jumping, recognised my dads name. There were also another guy, Andy, who had been jumping at Gryttjom DZ around 2001!

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I got to do three awesome jumps, and got one of my exits filmed as well. It was also the highest altitude I’ve ever jumped from, and it was nice to try a Sabre2 150 as well (for me, a small canopy, while being kind off standard/big size overall). I had views over Mt Ngauruhoe, also called Mt Doom, which was really cool!

As Geoff wanted me to first jump a 170 Safire 2 to see that i was safe on that canopy size, I had two rigs at my disposal. By having two rigs I managed to go directly from my first load onto the second one, with maybe a minute waiting time, but I got enough time to pack between second and third load. It was some time ago I packed my last canopy, though!

Astrid had been biking through the city while I was skydiving. When both of us were back at the house Astrid and I planned for the next coming days, including Tongariro crossing. Weather didn’t look too good, but we hoped.

Night pancakes!

We got up all too early at 05.00, but to no avail. When I called them at 05.30 they told be it would have to be cancelled, as the weather was too bad, and it otherwise could’ve been a risk to or lives.

As Rose and Trevor were going to Auckland to pick up their daughter, we said good bye. Thanks for all the help planning the rest of the trip, and for the tip about Maungatapu Track!

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The rest of the day was pretty slow. We went to check about the busses for tomorrow, as we would more or less skip everything south of Taupo on the north island. We had heard that there would be unpleasant roads to bike on, and not much too see, between Taupo and Wellington. As we had limited time, we skipped Napier, and aimed at a bus all the way to Wellington. After a lunch with wi-fi outside of the information centre we pitched the tent in a park close to where Rose and Trevor lived, with a pretty good view over the lake.