Sunday, December 21, 2008

12/21/2008 - A Gorge - Fun Surprise for All!

The deep beat of heavy rainfall woke me this morning. In my mind, that acted like a "snooze". I had set up this camp in the rain, surely a bit of time will allow Mother Nature to rethink her mood this morning.

Sure enough, Mother Nature finally finished her coffee and felt better. The rain let up, and some cracks were seen in the clouds. My signal to get up.

Breakfast was a limited affair - the last of my Muesli, one piece of bread (heel), and a Clif bar. And a liter of milk. Need that protein.

I don't need much anyway, I thought. Just 42 miles today, and no one has mentioned any big hills. As a matter of fact, the hostess here specifically passed on that there were NO big hills on my route today. Nice, easy pedal. No problems. Probably be there in 4 hours.

The above paragraph is an example of "foreshadowing" for those of you interested in the mechanics of writing.

First thing this AM was the ferry taken a mile and a half across the bay. Already down to just over 40 miles!

IMGP0859.JPGA NZ$2 ferry ride. The ferry guy was a lot of fun, and noted that his son had ridden 6,000 miles across northern Canada and into Alaska. I feel like a little girl.

Rolled off the ferry and into some small ups-and-downs along the coast. Quite nice. A few bigger hills, no big deal, and a nice approach into the bigger highway 1. An interesting thing happened at one point. Typically, cattle will either a.) ignore me or b.) watch me without any comprehension and chew their cud. Today, as I was passing a large herd of cattle, they were "moo"ing and I, of course, "moo"ed back. Suddenly they went into a frenzy of mooing, and followed me - the whole herd - as far as the pasture would allow. I felt like I should have stopped and given a sermon or something.

IMGP0860.JPGNew Zealand's answer to Alcatraz?

IMGP0861.JPGApproach to a small forest. It feels weird to be on this side of the road.

By the time I hit highway 1, I started on a Clif bar (given the smaller breakfast). Legs were somewhat sore today after increasing the mileage and were voracious for energy.

Before long, I noted a trend - my speed was slower, and the grade was uphill. Hmmm. I was following a river up toward its source. Interesting. A sign came up explaining that I was coming into the scenic Mangamuka Gorge. That word tickled the back of my brain for a bit. "What's a 'gorge' again?" it thought. "Natural formation from a river, or what we do every Thanksgiving? Verb or noun?" and so on.

IMGP0862.JPGNote that the angle of the road is increasing. This was on the approach to the gorge. The Imperial March would be a good song to start here.

Ate the last of my food for lunch (including a squirt of the kind of nasty "coffee, milk, and sugar" syrup for instant energy) and kept on it.

"Huh," I thought. "That big, forested, clifflike wall is getting closer. It almost looks like a river carved it. I wonder how the road engineers are going to make a nice, easy, mostly flat road through this?"

IMGP0863.JPGThink fast - Costa Rica or New Zealand?

And up I went. Multiple switchbacks requiring some standing on the pedals, several water stops, and a couple of thumbs up from passers-by finally resulted in that best of feelings, topping out over the pass.

IMGP0864.JPGA meter is, like, at least 15 feet.

I met a very nice couple up here, the Joneses. We started talking a bit, and, as it turns out, they have lived for some time in both China and Cambodia. They note that China has already changed significantly, but that the people there are very friendly, and they had no problems with the government. They feel it would be a good place to bike. They also said not to take the set-up tours. People after my own heart.

In true New Zealand fashion, Richard gave me his card and asked for me to give him a call if I was going through Cambridge (New Zealand) as I would have a place to stay. Very kind and interesting people (they were actually taking a friend from Beijing around New Zealand). He took the above photo for me. Will have to consider China in future travel plans.

Maybe it's that I am now used to my bike, or maybe the hill itself was just less steep, but the ride down was very enjoyable and kept angling down even after the steeps right into Kaitara, my destination.

IMGP0865.JPGLooking back at the gorge from the other side, about halfway down.

IMGP0866.JPGFantastic clover field coming into town. More four leaf clovers than a box of Lucky Charms.

I was planning a rest day for my legs to catch up, and felt that it would make sense to couple that with a bus trip to Cape Reinga. I had figured out that it would take 3-4 days to go all the way up and back, and feel that it wasn't worth it - it's rather barren and boring, according to several people, until you get really far north. I stopped by an information kiosk and set up lodging at the local hostel (NZ $55 per night for my own room and piece of mind) and a full day bus tour to the Cape (NZ$45, with lunch and sand surfing provided). On my way to the hostel, a guy stopped me and said he had passed me as I went over the gorge. His words: "Good on ya!" Truly motivational.

IMGP0868.JPGSomehow felt appropriate given the length of time between bicycling New Zealand the first time and this time.

Settled into the hostel. Ellen and Clea host this particular one, and it is very clean, smells good, and is in good repair. Total difference from the fleabag hotel I stayed in. Room is spartan with a single, comfortable bed and a couple of chairs. Bike and trailer get locked in a separate room. Not bad. I shower, unload, and walk to the grocery store for food (you have to pay 10 cents per bag if you want plastic bags there!!)

IMGP0869.JPGThe sign says "Home Kills Processed". Apparently, this is a mob town. Merry Christmas, indeed.

Settle down for a bit of relaxation. A foot-long sub, part of a bag of chips, diet coke, bag of chewy candies, part of a chocolate bar, and an apple all go down posthaste. Like I said, calorie deficient. I watch "Kung Fu Panda" on the computer (Great movie, if you haven't seen it). Doing laundry. AMAZING sunset.

IMGP0873.JPGSky on fire.

Getting picked up at 9AM, so will go to bed soon. No wireless internet, will try to find a place to post this tomorrow if possible - sorry to all I promised Skype to!


  1. I can't believe that sunset is real! Amazing!!

  2. Ryan-son! I certainly hope that the "aged persons" sign wasn't at the hostel!

  3. R.T.,
    Great fun reading your blog -- also listening to "The Mom" chortling and laughing as she reads it on her Mac.
    All reservations made in AU. Ordered a trailer to match yours (and saved $400 in oversized luggage fee)! Finding new, lighter, better camping gear to replace worn-out items.
    Have you finished "Miles from Nowhere"? Please try to look up Geoff Thorpe in NZ.
    The Pa

  4. Merry Christmas!

    You are likely still asleep but if not get up and open your presents. I understand that in New Zealand Father Christmas brings the presents which are made by Maori spirits that look a lot like elves.

    Drop us a line on skype if you get a chance and be sure to eat plenty of food. If you like I will eat an extra piece of the prime rib I’m smoking for you. Oh, and an extra piece of cheese cake as well (yes this is my lame attempt to make you jealous).

    Good to see the first map pop up, now I’m just waiting for some geotagged photos as well.

    Oops Jack Reacher just told me you don't need stuff for Christmas, it just slows you down. I see your dad is taking the opposite approach and getting all new stuff involving nothing but titanium high tech fibers DARPA doesn’t even know about.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.