Day 11. 0km cycled $15 spent
It was another wash out with torrential rain coming from all directions. Luckily I was warm and dry at Vic’s place where we spent the morning talking over breakfast at the dining table. I spent a while fiddling around with the brakes of my bike which keep causing me numerous issues and only now am I beginning to understand why my brother wouldn’t let me keep fixing my bike in India. If I did this I’d never get anywhere so I adopted his saying “as long as you are moving that’s all that matters”. I hate being house bound so cycled in the rain to my favourite Coromandel cafe, Wharf Road, for one of their delicious ginger lattes.
Vic’s friend had invited us both to dinner that evening so Vic and I started the night early and polished off a bottle of red wine before 6pm. Dinner was freshly caught snapper with homemade chips and traditional northern English mushy peas. The guy was a pommy and didn’t like processed food so cooked all his meals from scratch and you could tell. It was the best fish and chips I have ever tasted. I brought along a frozen cheesecake from the supermarket which looked nothing like the picture and couldn’t have been more artificial if it tried. A bit of an embarrassment but we all ate it anyway.
Day 12: 70km cycled $5 spent
I woke to another wash out. I guess I’m in no rush with nowhere to be but I am starting to get fed up with the rain stopping me from cycling. With this in mind I decided to set off on my bike anyway. I waited till 11am when I thought the majority of the rain had been and gone. Hell, I was mistaken.
It was a wet and windy ride down the coast to Thames with two knee-breaking hills to contend with. I’ve actually come to love hills especially now I have fixed my brakes and I can whizz down at lightning speed. I also had my phone working again so I put on some 90’s hits and belted out the tunes for all to hear. Despite my good spirits, it was a pretty gnarly ride clocking 70km in one hell of a wet and windy afternoon.
Luckily I had organised a place to stay through Warm Showers again which meant a warm shower and a proper bed for the third night in a row. I stopped in the quaint town of Thames at a modern looking cafe called The Depot. Despite just finishing my second lunch of the day I indulged in a carrot cake while waiting for my Warm Showers host to confirm their address. Shortly after they replied to tell me I still had 15km to cycle. It was getting dark real fast so I gobbled down my cake and hopped back on the bike.
By the time I arrived at Maria and Geoff’s adorable house in the country it was dark. Maria greeted me with a much needed Berroca and some homemade beans and bread. Maria has such a positive energy which really rubbed off on me and I soon forgot my tiredness. Her home was filled with plenty of colourful knitwear like the gorgeous maroon tea cosy and a mishmash of quirky art and furniture. “Would you like to come to Scottish Dancing?” She asked.
Well, I never imagined I’d end a days cycling with Scottish Dancing accompanied by Maria, Winniford, Barbie (with purple hair) and the rest of the club. Hats off to them all (many well over retirement age) because it was harder on the mind than Sudoku. Although I struggled to remember the sequence and my head was hurting from the influx of information, I had a really great time. Afterwards Maria and I enjoyed a glass of ginger wine and whisky with some more dinner before heading to the land of nod.
Day 13: 60km cycled $20 spent
Since Whitianga, well over a week ago, I’ve had real trouble sleeping. The bags under my eyes are so dark I resemble ET on my bike. I wake every couple of hours with numb hands which is normal when cycle touring (due to the position I ride in) but I’ve also been waking at 2:30am on the dot and failing to get back to sleep. Even with a comfy warm bed I struggled to get much kip and had to go for a coffee and cereal bar just 5km after leaving Maria and Geoff’s place. The Cheese Barn at Matatoki was somewhere I had my eye on anyway and it was a dear little place to spend the morning, albeit a little too long.
I had 70km to cycle until my planned stop for the night which would have been doable even after my extended coffee break. Sadly the weather was against me again and I had a cracking headwind. No matter how hard I pushed my legs, I just wasn’t moving. Soul destroying. Locals had told me about a wee farm shop/cafe in Miranda called the Stray Dog so I decided to check it out even though it was a 6km detour from my route. Thankfully it was a charming little place and I spent a whole two hours there enjoying coffee and hot soup. Now I was really behind schedule but I didn’t care, I needed to get out of that mind-numbing headwind.
I continued cycling the coastal road which I practically had to myself apart from the odd farmer. There were a fair few slips on the road and at one point I had to wait 15 minutes at a stop sign to pass. Thankfully there was another car waiting too and I killed the time by chatting to the old fella in it.
Dark started to fall and reaching my planned destination was beginning to look ambitious. The wind and lack of sleep had made me tired and I couldn’t wait to settle down for the evening. Others had told me to knock on people’s doors and ask to camp on their land so I thought I’d give it a go. The first two houses didn’t answer and I was beginning to loose confidence. I became real shy as I guess it isn’t something we really do in England but the excitement of going to bed took over so I kept on trying. Luckily a young family on a block tucked away from the wind in a forest clearing agreed for me to camp next to their house. They even offered me a shower and a hot drink, how kind. For once I was in my tent and cooking couscous before dark.
Day 14: 35km cycled $90 spent
There’s something quite nice about rain when I am tucked up in my tent and I didn’t end up getting out until 8am. I only had 35km to cycle but that was 35km more than I was geared up for. I reworked my route to cut out the last bit of the coastal road and head inland to Papakura where I could catch the nearest train to Auckland. The torrential downpours and another strong headwind meant that I was pretty much over it. My mood has always been influenced by the weather and is even more so when cycling touring.
I needed warmth, a place to get dry and young company so I checked myself in to Bamber House hostel in Mt Eden, my favourite Auckland suburb. I enjoyed a few beers with Rina, an English girl I met at the hostel, before heading to my friends house party. I had had too much to drink to drive so I gave Rina my keys and asked her to take me to the party in my car. She even picked me up again too.
Day 15 & 16: 0km cycled $100 spent
I enjoyed my time at Bamber House so much I decided to extend my stay. I had planned to do some more cycling around the west coast but it’s more than often the company that makes a place not the destination itself. With this in mind I spent the next few days with Rina visiting Piha Beach, enjoying a three-course roast dinner at the hostel, a lunch-time curry and another spontaneous dinner at the country house of a couple who are totally self-sufficient and even make their own cheese. New people make new adventurous. The story continues…..