Day 1: 70km cycled $5 spent
My latest adventure, cycling the Coromandel, starts in Mount Maunganui at the home of Warm Showers hosts Myra and Ken. For those of you who aren’t aware of Warm Showers, it’s an online community where cyclists offer other cyclists a warm shower and in some cases a bed for the night and food. I’ve had nothing but good experiences from it and have found everyone I’ve stayed with enjoyable to spend time with, especially Myra and Ken. I half felt like I was back home as they were somewhat similar to my parents who have also become my friends as I’ve grown older.
Myra and I took a walk up the Mount in the morning before enjoying a coffee together at one of the many decent coffee shops in town. What strikes me most about Mt Maunganui is how beautiful everyone is. Even the children look like they have just walked off the set of a Gap Kids advert. The beach is just as beautiful and the huge houses too. In fact everything is beautiful at the Mount. Warm climate, great eateries and an active lifestyle held by all, this was MY kind of place. I could certainly see myself living here except I don’t fancy being the ugly duckling amongst all those beautiful people. I guess I could just get rich, get fit and become Mt beautiful myself. One can dream.
After Myra, Ken and their cycling pal left me that morning I cycled on to Katikati for lunch. I saw a sign for 49c avocados at an Indian shop so I went in to get one for lunch. Arvos have reached $4 so this is a BIG deal. I picked up a tomato as well and was shocked when my bill came to over $3. I told her I no longer wanted the tomato. She huffed. Ha. There’s no bloody way I’m paying over $2 for a tiny tomato even if I did get the avocado for practically nothing. I went to the local info centre and got speaking to the lady there who recommended a nice picnic spot for my lunch. She told me to be careful on my travels which worried me because I have never thought about danger over here, New Zealand is a pretty safe place.
It was a short cycle to Waihi Beach which I reached in no time. The sun was out so I had a wee nap on the beach. A few people approached me to ask about my cycle, one family offered me their shower and one man even offered me a room but he lived 10km in the wrong direction. After my nap I cycled around in search of a good little camping spot and found one next to some public loos and posh houses. One thing I hate about camping in New Zealand is that I have to wait until the majority of people have gone to bed so I can sneak my tent up ever so slightly illegally. Sitting on a park bench in the cold after dark is the last thing I want to do after a day on a bike. I really don’t have the balls to freedom camp even if the area is full of people illegally sleeping in their cars, I just can’t stand the worry of getting caught.
Once I had made myself some couscous and a cup of tea it still wasn’t late enough and I was beginning to get real cold when an old couple approached me and sat down next to me. They were called Dan and Thelma and were staying at their batch just across the road. They invited me to stay and I enjoyed a home-cooked dinner followed by tea out of a cute little tea pot with matching crockery. After Thelma’s creamy scrambled eggs on toast the next morning, I set off on what was to be another glorious day of cycling.
Day 2: 75km cycled $7 spent (plus $50 on bike pump)
I had reached Whangamata by lunch time which is where I had planned to spend the night. Whangamata was nice and had a few cafes I could have happily chilled out in but I had an urge to keep cycling especially as the sun was shining. I decided to push on another 40km to Tairua in search of ‘Caravan Man’. Myra and Ken had told me about a man who lives in a caravan in Tairua who may let me camp on his land. I arrived in good time so I took a leisurely ride past the million dollar batches that seem to dominate these small coastal towns. I found a plot of land with some caravans on and an eccentric looking house number outside so I figured this must belong to the man I was looking for.
With no one at home I decided to change into some warmer clothes when all of a sudden a huge cow came running past me and into the garden of some millionaire. It was all very bizarre. I jumped in to help the utterly useless farmers plodding along with a fag in their mouth and their arse hanging out their trousers. With me was an old guy in leggings and some cameo print shoes. Wouldn’t it be funny if this was Caravan Man? I thought. After a good half an hour we got the stubborn beast back on to the boat it had fallen off using a rope, a bit of man power and some gentle persuasion. As the old guy rode off on his push bike I called out after him and asked if he was the man I was looking for. Sure enough he was. He took one look at my bike and told me to pitch my tent on his land and have a hot bath.
A bath?! Yep! Sure enough there was a huge stand alone bath tub surrounded by candles in a building out back. I couldn’t believe my luck. Dino and I immediately hit it off and spent the night nattering away whilst eating Russian sardines, caviar and fresh salad. Known by everyone, 68 year old Dino is one of the most interesting and intelligent characters I’ve ever met.
Day 3: 30km cycled $9 spent
I made an early start in the morning as I wanted to climb Paku summit before setting off. It is a steep climb rewarded with fantastic views of the coast and volcanic islands out at sea. I returned from my walk to scrambled eggs and coffee from Dino and he accompanied me on my cycle out of town. He told me to call in to a man called Nick he knew at Hahei so this was where I was heading.
On the way I took a detour to Hot Water Beach which is one of the Coromandel’s “must do’s”. At low tide, hot water packed full of healthy minerals can be reached by digging a shallow hole in the sand. Luckily holes had already been dug so I jump in one of the empty ones, laid back and relaxed. Unexpectedly the heavens opened and the cold down pour made the experience even more special. I had hung my tent on a fence to dry so now it was ten times wetter than before. However, the sun was now shining again so I chilled out for an hour with a coffee and some rice pudding while my tent dried out.
I pushed on the Hahei without putting my padded shorts back on and my god did it hurt. I’m riding on a new saddle so my arse is certainly feeling it this week. I arrived at Nick’s place and asked if I could camp on his lawn. “I have no grass but you can stay in my room” he said. I was a little hesitant at first. Did I really want to share a room with a random man that I had never met? What if he snored? What if he wanted to stay up late? I was shattered. Oh heck, I got good vibes and it was only for one night.
Nick dropped me to Cathedral Cove Walkway which is rather long and hilly especially if you go up to the view point. I spent a bit of time on the beach chatting to an American girl and a couple from Korea while I waited for the tourists to bugger off so I could get my token photo shot. Once the sun had set Nick picked me up and invited me for drinks with friends, a Dutch backpacker and a couple of English waitresses at his restaurant. We had a good night at Purangi Winery which was nothing like a winery but a quirky run-down looking bar filled with WWOOFERS. I had only had three homemade ciders but I was slumping and crashed out before midnight. That’s one of the downside to cycle touring solo, my body gets used to going to bed at sunset and waking up with sunrise. Now we’re approaching winter this usually means a very early bed time and a reasonably early start, very anti-social if you ask me.
Day 4: 15km cycled $80 spent (on what?!?)
The weather forecast for the next three days was not looking good and I don’t want to cycle in the rain on this trip, I’m in no rush so why bother? With this in mind I had decided to stop at the nearest town called Whitimanga just 15km up the coast. The past two days feelings of guilt and disappointment have come over me for not clocking the km’s. I have to remember though that this is a holiday and cycling is merely my mode of transport. I want to see places, experience things and meet people. Sometimes if you’re just cycling on a highway for most of your days these things pass you by. After booking in to Turtle Cove hostel the predicted storm did not arrive – typical! Rain or no rain I am rather looking forward to some TV, a sofa and a kitchen. Little things.