So, in this map of the North Island of New Zealand, the green line is what I have traveled so far. 277 miles of biking by the mapping program. This sounds good until you realize that this is just an eighth of my total planned distance, and it has taken me 10 days to do it (including 2 rest days). Cox, thanks for the idea of putting up a map - Good on ya!
So much for the rain forecast for today.
I stepped out my door today to a cloudless blue sky, a perfect day for Cape Reinga. As noted yesterday, I had decided on a rest day today, but needed to do SOMETHING, and so hired on to the Cape Reinga bus tour. A leisurely breakfast led into waiting at the front of the hostel for the bus (the Harrison Cape Runner) to show up.
Hills became meaningless, but the loss of that particular stress came at a cost: freedom. It felt very odd to be told exactly where we were going and for how much time. As a matter of fact, our first stop was the "Kauri forest center" which was basically an expensive tourist trap, where we waited 30-40 minutes to let the amazing richness of the region sink in in the form of various wood-related pens, cheap necklaces, and lots of bowls.
Things did pick up from there, though. The bus headed right onto the beach, which would act as our personal highway for the next 40 or so miles.
I was told that we were going to stop for a picture, so by God, I took a picture.
Our driver was actually great, very knowledgeable, and loved fly fishing. We got along well and he easily kept up a one-way conversation while the bus was moving describing everything from history to bird species to random facts.
There's a hole in this rock, which makes it snapworthy.
After awhile, we turned inland and followed a freshwater creek upstream to a large area of sand dunes. At that point, another stop was made to do a bit of dune surfing. The pictures really explain it all - sled down sand.
Real men do sand sledding on pink sleds. Sized for little girls.
Apparently, people DO get injured doing this, according to our driver, and a helicopter had to land yesterday to get someone out. This was not mentioned in the brochure. I like New Zealand.
Took a bit of a hike just over the dune. Ocean to the far left.
My sweet whip. And my homies at picture right.
Off once again after having experienced nature's toothpaste (sand may have entered most orifices, but it does leave your mouth with that dentist-cleaned gritty feeling). Made it further up the coast and dropped into a little bay for lunch.
Isn't this where everyone eats lunch?
Lunch is not bad - scones and random snacks. Better than my usual fare.
Finally, we head toward Cape Reinga. The Cape is the northernmost place you can go in New Zealand by the road system. It is where two seas meet. It is the place where the Maori believe their souls travel to when they die. It is solemn and dignified, and you know this because it appears on many trinkets which will no doubt give to you eternal peace if you just buy them.
Actually, the last time I was in New Zealand (in 2003), I took a picture here that is one of my favorites from that trip:
New Zealand circa 2003. Before construction.
It now looks like this:
Note the cattle drive of people.
There is also a new pathway, and they are paving the road out to Cape Reinga. Talking to our hosts later, a lot of people are upset at the modernization of some of these more out-of-the-way places, and I don't blame them. Not pictured are the new bathrooms and roadway.
I am glad, by the way, that I did not try to bike this. For almost 20km, the road here is still gravel, but the kind of larger, pointy gravel that does a number on tires.
Headed back and took a few stops for photo ops to assure that the picture gods for those particular areas were appeased.
This guy was kayaking with two fishing poles. All it would take would be one shark to grab that lure to reenact "The Old Man and the Sea".
Finally were returned, safe and happy, to the hostel. A quick trip to the Pak'n'Sav discovered shrimp on major sale, so I gourmeted up a pasta/pasta sauce/shrimp concoction that was mostly shrimp. Talked to a few other people here at the hostel - a group of Canadiens that also did a bus tour today (and made homemade pizza in the real-life pizza oven here) and a Scottish woman (Kat, a biomedical statistician, very cool). All very nice and it surprised me to figure out that it was already 9:30 when I glanced at my watch.
Just before sunset over Kaitaia. Looks like some sort of Christian band CD label.
Planning on either a really long day tomorrow or two more enjoyable short days to Kerikeri to catch up with my British friends, Sara and Nick Hampson. Got to get some sleep.