Day 5-6: 0KM $90 spent
When it rains it pours. My plan of cycling the Coromandel was beginning to look a little non-existent after spending three days sitting on my arse in a small hostel in Whitianga. I drank beers with a German guy, went for daily coffee and cake, spent a fortune in New World and that was practically it. I was desperate to get back on the bike and couldn’t wait for the rain to clear.
Day 7: 40km cycled $10 spent
Hurrah, the clouds had miraculously cleared to present the bluest of skies and a magnificent crisp Autumn day. I was on my way to Lukes Kitchen for coffee just up the road in Kuaotunu, after hearing good things about the place. The guy I sat having coffee with heard about my plans to go to New Chums Beach and suggested I leave my bike at his friend’s house just across the water. There was no one at home so I locked it up anyway and hoped for the best. I set off on the 40km walk which more resembled a muddy rock scramble with my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and rucksack. It was a struggle but certainly doable even at high tide.
The beach was surprisingly busy for one of the “top ten untouched beaches in the world” but I guess it was a sunny Saturday afternoon. Everyone soon vacated apart from a group of lads on a stag do who saw me suspiciously spanning the length of the beach. “Are you looking for somewhere to camp” they asked. “No” I replied with a cheeky smile. I was so obvious. Camping is prohibited on or anywhere near the beach but they seemed to not mind and showed me a good spot to pitch my tent.
The lads left soon after and I pitched my tent and went for a walk to the peak above the saddle you cross to get onto the beach. It was a fantastic view out to sea and I had it all to myself. I soon learnt that I had packed an empty gas canister when attempting to cook couscous for tea. Not to worry, I had cereal and milk powder. I then learnt that the extra water I had purchased at the local store was sparking so that put an end to my cereal, I didn’t fancy fizzy milk. I did wonder why it had cost me over $4 for 400ml of water. No gas and no water, it would have been a pretty glum affair if it hadn’t have been for the tranquillity of having the beach to myself. It was a 40 minute walk to the nearest person or building, now you don’t get that often these days.
Day 8: 21km cycled $80 spent
Despite the peaceful setting I had a terrible nights sleep which I can only put down to the mean sounds of the waves crashing down in front of my tent. I explained to the people who had my bike who I was and then got chatting to an old dear named Wendy who gave me a grand tour of her incredibly large house on Whangapoua Beach. I was up before 6am but didn’t get on the road until 10am, too much talking as per usual.
It was only 21km to Coromandel Town but boy it was a hilly one. Up and up I went and it was only the last 4km where I took great pleasure in freewheeling down. I took up the offer to hang out with a guy called Richard I’d met a few nights earlier and why not, I was in no rush. So another day of not much cycling and more than a couple of beers, this time with locals, no harm in that.
Day 9: 75km cycled/walked/struggled $45 spent
I was out the door by 7am the next morning but like usual it was never just up and out. My phone charger had died so I made my way to the local petrol station to grab a new one. Of course these knock-off electronics, usually purchased from an Asian I must admit, are never the most reliable and it didn’t work. I got another in Foursquare from a more reputable brand but that still didn’t work. Back to the shops I went. The kind staff in Foursquare invited me up into the office to see what the problem was. Turns out it was my plug so out came the card and another few bob spent.
After the whole two hour charger fiasco I was finally on the road north where I was hoping to complete the Northern Coromandel loop in two days. Many said I was too ambitious, this ride was far from easy. Not only did I have the Coromandel Forest Park and windy coastal roads to contend with but the road north of Colville isn’t sealed. It was a gruelling 75km to my intended destination, Stoney Bay Campground. I arrived at Colville where I had planned to stop for a coffee and to charge my phone. It was just my luck that nothing was open and I ended up asking the lady in the local petrol station to plug my phone in behind the counter while I sat on the road outside and boiled some water on my camp stove.
They were right, the road past Colville was steep and rough but I made it to Port Jackson pretty much on schedule. Here I found a sign across the road which told me the road ahead was closed and the Coromandel Walkway which I needed to cross to reach my camp ground. The thought of cycling 40 odd kilometres back over those hills and gravel roads almost killed me so I went to speak to the DOC Rangers working close by. They warned me that they had yet to assess the track but told me if I really wanted to I was welcome to give it a go but to be careful.
Fantastic I thought, I had the whole area to myself! No car, no campers, just me. I started the 10km Coromandel Walkway track at 3:39pm which was plenty of time to reach camp before dark, or so I though. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The track was a mud bath and horrendously steep which meant for every step I managed to push my bike forwards upwards I fell twice the distance back with the bike on top of me.
I cannot tell you how hard it is to half push, half drag 30kg worth of bike and luggage up a hill for over three hours. The last hour flattened out but I was in total darkness by now. The damaged track meant that even the flat parts weren’t rideable and there were trees and new rivers across the track.
When struggling to lift my bike over one tree my bike and attached luggage fell off the cliff. I quickly grabbed it with one hand and with the other grabbed hold of the fallen tree and held on for dear life. With all my strength I pulled the bike back on top of me and back on to the track. My bike was totally buggered and myself bruised and grazed. The clay mud was so thick my wheels stopped spinning and to top of all off I walked into some water which I didn’t see thanks to the dark.I finally reached camp cold and wet at 7:30, four hours after I had set off on my 10km walk. I spent a good hour trying to clean the mud off my bike without much luck so I ate some couscous, half a pack of Timtams and went to bed.
Day 10: 55km cycled $0 spent
The next morning started with another hilly ride which seemed to be all up and not much down. The gravel road on this section between Stoney Bay and Kennedy Bay is in really poor condition. I stopped for multiple lunches at every bay along the route to try keep my energy up. I wasn’t hungry as such but so tired that food was my only source of energy. A flat battery on my phone meant that I had listened to no music during the entire two days, a time when I needed it the most. Over the course of the trip I saw only a handful of people, most locals who looked a little odd. I guess you have to be to live somewhere so remote.
I spoke to a young farmer shifting cattle and I asked him how he copes living all the way out here, he replied “I have the best fishing and the best hunting here, what more do I need?”. He was on his third cigarette by the time I left him ten minutes later. A sign maybe life was a little tedious? Who am I to judge. The weather was dull but calm and even if a little grey I could still appreciate the beauty of Northern Coromandel. Despite the tough ride it was truly magical. What a place.
I whizzed into Kennedy Bay which had a weird feel to it. It was very Maori with spiritual looking buildings. Not that I have anything against Maoris but signs saying “this is our land not the public’s” didn’t really make me want to hang around. I craved a picnic bench to enjoy lunch on as I felt like I was continuously eating on the side of the road. I also craved a duel suspension mountain bike and a full set of working gears and a new set of brakes. I thought I could last the final 20km with worn brakes and I did until the last 4km where I nearly died going down the hill.
I used my feet to slow me down and burned through the soles of my shoes. Ultimate fail. After an incredibly tough but wonderful journey I made it back to Coromandel Town and headed straight to the pub for a hot coffee. I didn’t have anywhere to stay that night but thankfully 83 year old Victor came to my rescue and even treated me to a home cooked meal. Legend.