Maungatapu track

So this was the day! We would try and get over the Maungatapu track, which would have its highest height at almost 800 metres, only gravel road and a steepness close to 18 percent at its places! It is a ”grade 4: Advanced” mountain bike track according to most books and websites, and it’s closed off to standard vehicles, meaning you need a 4WD and permission, a motorcycle or a bicycle to pass there. It’s not maintained, as there are no ordinary traffic going through.

Quote: “for the brave” and “lightly loaded bicycles only”. 600 height metres in 5 kilometres means an average of 12 percent!

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This was for 26 kilometres. Pretty steep!

The climb started easy, off course. The gravel started early, and not too far up into the mountains we met four motorcycles on their way down. Those would be everyone we would meet all day. There were also places where we had to cross the river, but fairly easy ones! Still added to the whole experience.

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Not too much to say about the track otherwise; pleasant views, a hard challenge and I had to let some air out of tires to keep the grip as I didn’t want to push my bicycle. Still had to for a couple of hundred metres.

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As we were high up, we could refill our water bottles in the stream as well!

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This clip shows you one the quite easy parts riding uphill, as I had the energy to actually put the camera up.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at the top! We stayed to make lunch up there, with a view over some mountains and a lake.

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The road down was in one way much harder than the way up. It was actually even steeper, and the brakes had to work most of the time. Asphalt had been awesome, but this was a blend of big and spiky stones and the usual gravel. There were huge ruts ruts all over the place, not making it any easier! The hands hurt a lot from all the pressure, but it was much fun!

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Suddenly, we were at asphalt roads again! We made a quick stop to inflate my tires again, and then biked all the way into Nelson to do the shopping for food. The plan was to stay at a Warmshowers, but he wouldn’t arrive until an hour later, so we took our time shopping before going to his place, just sitting down and relaxing the legs.

When Wayne arrived, we did the usual routine, and I took a bath! So relaxing. The evening was spent grieving Trumps victory, and also a lot of interesting talks with Wayne about all sorts of stuff related to different countries over dinner and some wine!

Weta Cave and also real Wetas!

This day’s adventure would be visiting the Weta Caves! As Julie worked close to the port where we would leave with the ferry later, the first step was to leave our bags at her place.

We then biked our way to the eastern, more industrial, part of Wellington. At the Weta Cave we went on a tour where they showed us what they are working with – more specifically the props for different movies, such as District 9, Narnia, and mainly, Lord of the Rings! It was a really cool tour, and afterwards we got to hold Sting and Gandalf’s staff!

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After biking back to Julie’s work, we said our goodbyes. The ferry terminal was just a couple of hundred metres away, and we checked in fast and easy. As we hadn’t eaten any lunch and didn’t really have time, I ran to a McDonalds to get us some french fries.

On the ferry we met a bunch of people who were traveling as well. One of the guys were from New Zealand, but lived in the same town as the others in Austria. He had a Swedish girlfriend, and could speak fairly well! The company made the trip go pretty fast.

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It had been raining the whole day, and it still was. Our first priority getting off was getting food, and then start our 15 km trip to get to a camp sight. It was one of those where you pay in a box, but we didn’t have change. After asking around a guy in a camper van gave us two tens, plus six dollars. Thanks a lot!

The camping was really small, and we started talking with one of the other people there. As he lived in his car we invited him to cook in our tent. The plan was to take the inner tent down to cook inside, as it would otherwise be too much water in the food. When we left Wellington we still had ingredients for curry-chickpeas-sweet potato soup, and didn’t want to make it out in the rain. All went well, and the warm dinner was great in the rain!

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As our plan was to ride the Maungatapu Track, we wanted to camp as close as possible. Therefore, this day would be easy, and we slept for as long as we wanted. During breakfast this little bird, the Weka, came really close and tried to snatch things from us in its search of food. There were also a couple of small children!

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Just before our first stop for the day we had a really nice view.

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After biking half the distance, 20 kilometres, we took a break in a small village named Havelock. To get more information about the area we visited the information centre to get maps over the south island and ask about the village, as there were supposed to be museums in this city. As we had time, we spent an hour in there, reading about the gold rush and other things.

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We cooked lunch, and then went to a cafe to get ourselves something to drink and wifi to check how many kilometres we had to bike on the south island. From Nelson it would be around 1400 kilometres, which should be doable without stressing.

The camping were just 19 kilometres away, and we bought sand fly repellent when we arrived. There were a few things to do around this camping as well. There were a hollow tree with about ten Wetas in there! Fun to actually see what Wetas looked like after the Weta Cave in Wellington.

When they produced The Hobbit they had recorded the barrel scene really close to this camping. Of course we had to check!

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The last thing we visited was a small waterfall, where there were hundred of glow worms! Sadly I didn’t bring my camera, which was really stupid in hindsight… hopefully I get another chance later on!

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Hitchhiking and Te Papa

We were supposed to get on the 10.20-bus, but when we came there 9.30 the bus driver told us we would probably have to get off in the middle due to normal luggage being prioritised before bicycles. The next bus would leave 14.20, but we couldn’t be sure we would be able to go with that one. Up on our bicycles and we went to the nearby camper van parkings to ask around. None was going in the right direction with space enough for us and bicycles. One guy was positive, but he was going north. To actually have a real chance, and not just ask parked cars, we went to the main road just east of Taupo. It took maybe fifteen minutes before we got picked up.

I think his name was Max, and he just happened to have a trailer as he was moving (or his girlfriend. Something with getting a car for his dad as well, I think.) He wasn’t going all the way to Wellington, but would stop in Palmerston North. That was about two thirds of the way, and would help us a lot!

After a nice ride (and I only fell asleep once) we got dropped off outside of the information centre in Palmerston North. There was less than one hour before the bus would arrive, and we booked that one. When the bus arrived it was the same bus driver, but another bus. He told us we must have been fast on the bikes, and if we could fit our bicycles in one of the smaller compartments, we could go with the bus. The front wheels had to be taken off, and my saddle had to be lowered, but we managed, including running in to the office to pay for the tickets. The bus driver didn’t care about the extra 20 NZD for the bicycles, which was nice. At least half of the bus fare saved through hitchhiking!

Without any food, we arrived in Wellington. As we would live with another Warmshovers host we bought ingredients to be able to eat ”real food”, and then started our small trip through the city. The GPS suggested to go through an awesome park. It was surrounded by buildings and roads, but the park itself had everything – cliffs, trees, bushes and walkways making it look like we were out in the middle of nowhere. And it wasn’t even that big! If I would have lived in Wellington, I would hang out here. A lot!

There were stairs, though, which our bicycles didn’t like. In the end we found a way up and out (as the park was in a hill) but we had to push our bikes on a really steep gravel road.

Starting downhill, I knew there was another uphill we would need to go up to get to their house. It was long and steep – but damn, good views!

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Julie and Thomas were our hosts. Thomas had Swedish parents (which we though after seeing the name) and there were a bit of Swedish things here and there (Dalahorse!) They were going on a barbecue for the evening, so we cooked our dinner.

This evening was the celebration of Guy Fawkes as well. None of us had the energy to get back to the city, knowing we would have to bike uphill on the way home again, and so we missed out on the fireworks. There were small fireworks going around us for a couple of hours anyway, and we had our own little celebration; watching V for Vendetta!

Our main event for the next day was the national museum Te Papa. We began with their World War 1 exhibition, which took two hours alone! I was afraid we wouldn’t have time to see what we wanted, but this was apparently the longest of all the exhibitions.

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After a lunch at Pita Pit (one of the places that serves vegan fast food) we continued exploring. One of the, according to me, more interesting exhibitions was about the LGBT-rights, and the anti apartheid protests. Other exhibitions were random art, immigration history, millions of years of transformation of New Zealand, earthquakes and much more. In the end, I felt one day was actually quite enough, as we were looking at less and less interesting parts in the end of the day.

In the evening Julie had made falafel for dinner, which was really awesome. Thomas told us about the times he had been in Sweden, and we talked a lot about Sweden and New Zealand, trip plans and life overall.

What I like about Warmshowers, instead of Couchsurfing, is that I never had anything close to a bad experience through this. People have the same interest as well, being mountain biking, bicycle touring or commuting – but biking it is, in many different ways!

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.

Long names and Darcy’s hometown

The morning was spent fixing a few bits and pieces on the bikes. My front brake had been pretty bad, so we started with changing the pads to the extra I had brought, cleaned the disc and actually changing the whole cable. The idea was to clean the cable, but we couldn’t get it back again, so a new one it was.

After some adjustment, the front brake is now able to lock up, as it should be! Thanks for the help, the stay, and the nice evening before, David (and Michael)!

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Our next plan was to go to Te Puia, which was a Maori cultural centre, I think. We started biking there a little late, but managed to be there with a few minutes extra, even, in time to see the Maori performance!

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Both me and Astrid felt the one at Waitangi had been better. Could be because this one felt more touristic, and less intimate, or because it was the second one seeing it. Still really good!

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The guy on the guitar played Stairway to Heaven in the middle while one of the women explained something. Interesting.

After that, we went on a guider tour with the Maori guy with a real Maroi name, Paul. It was a nice tour, with more geothermal activity. Paul explained the name of the park, and not just the short part of it, but the whole one!

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Among other things a geyser, a mud pool and a place where they held Kiwis to get better. No photos allowed in there, though!

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Next adventure would be Kerosene Creek, which is a river with hot water. And it was perfect! After sitting too many minutes on my knees in the sensational water, I decided that I would eat my lunch in there. Said and done!

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We had planned to camp at another geothermal point, which David had told us about, Butcher’s Pool. Someone had actually made a pool out of it, letting the water ascend through the ground and filter itself. People were bathing in it with shampoo and soap, so none of us felt intrigued to bath in that one.

As we had read on the reviews, there were many people visiting the place during the night. Why I am not sure, but it may be an assembly point for local people.

It was supposed to rain a lot the day after, and int he morning I asked a camper van if we could hitchhike with them. They were actually two vans going together, so we put the bicycles in one of them and rode in the other one! The were going by Huka Falls on the way, so we got to see that as well, before they let us off in Taupo.

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I messaged the host we would stay with in Taupo, who met us by the i-Sight in just a couple of minutes. We got the directions to the house and biked there. It was really nice to be able to stay inside, let everything dry, clean the kitchen for real and use a real kitchen!

Adam, who I met at my home drop zone in Sweden, was passing by Taupo on his way home, so he went by for a fika. Fun to actually be able to meet him again, and we planned for the possibility to meet up in Ashburton and have a mini boogie! Would be awesome if we managed. I also got to borrow his rig, which would save me a lot of money while jumping in Taupo.

In the evening, when Rose and Trevor came home, we talked with them about road choices, among other things. Thanks to them we got a really detailed plan, and some good tips which was on the way anyway. Really glad we chose to stay with them!

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!

 

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.

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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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

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!