Sunday, February 17, 2008

Gisborne Hospital. International Orthopedic Surgeons. Titanium Plate.

My stay here at the Gisborne hospital has been interesting. The hospital is pretty modern and very up to date. It is pretty fully staffed, but also not extremely busy, which means that you get pretty close attention. I'm in Ward 9, the orthopedic ward. The first two nights, before my operation, I had a single room, but after the operation, they switched me to a four-bed room, where I am currently the only patient. It seems that many of other patients in the ward are pretty elderly, with injuries from falls, although the nurses said that they do a lot of hip, knee and shoulder replacements here. Being in a more rural area, it's probably a pretty hard life on those farmers. I think that they probably get better attention and care here than at the big hospitals in Auckland.

My operation went well. When I first met the surgeon, he was considering putting on an external frame to hold the bones in place, but after looking at the later set of x-rays, decided that putting in a plate would achieve a better result, since they could fix all of the broken bone pieces in the right place, and was less likely to have any danger of infection or injury, although it was slightly riskier as they had to open my arm at the wrist and move a nerve out of the way. I agreed with his assesment.

This meant that my operation was delayed a day since the titanium plate had to be shipped from Auckland. Friday morning they did the operation. I thought I was going to be able to see it, but I slept through the whole thing. It was a pretty international surgical team. The primary surgeon was from South Africa and he was assisted by surgeons from India and Somalia. The anesthesiologist (called an anaethsetist here) was a woman from Wisconsin. She did a really careful job of explaining what she was going to do, essentially blocking the nerves in my arm and giving me a sedative (which I had also been given in Te Puia, when I was first treated). She said that since I was an American, she'd give me the long list of possible risks and side-effects, since that was what they had to do in the US now.

Anyway, the operation took about an hour and a quarter and I missed the whole thing, waking up in the recovery room. The nerve block was quite effective as I couldn't move my left arm at all, but it all came back in a couple of hours.

It was quite painful last night and I'd get pain relief every three hours or so, when I'd wake up with the wrist really hurting. The nurses were a little careful in their treatment. Although I was cleared to get morphine, they would come in and first give me Panadol and codeine and then come back about 5 minutes later and ask if it was any better. It wasn't, so then they'd give me morphine, the pain would go away and I'd sleep for another three hours or so.

I also had to keep the arm raised all night, which was a bit of a pain to get comfortable with and I had a lot of swelling on the back of my hand and around my thumb. They actually cut away part or the bandage to relieve the tightness (I have pictures). Rather than a full cast, they use a partial cast called a backslab. It essentially goes around half of my arm an wrist to immobilize it. but they fasten it in place with bandages. This also means that they have access to the stitches.

It felt a lot better today and they have put my arm in a sling. The swelling has gone down and all my fingers seem to be back to normal. My thumb is still stiff and sort of numb, but the surgeon says that is normal. It is connected to a nerve the they have to stretch out of the way during the operation, so it takes a while to recover. I haven't lost any feeling, but it is just stiff and sort of numb feeling. He said to keep exercising my fingers and thumb, even in the cast.

They had me get up and get dressed this morning, fortunately, I had my dry bag with some clothes other than my rather torn jersey and shorts. Taking a shower with one hand is a bit tricky though. Actually, it is the drying that is a bit tricky. During the week, I had a male nurse who would help me out (he also had to rub me down with some kind on antibacterial solution when I showered prior to the operation), but I was on my own this morning. The nurse did put a plastic bag over the arm though, to keep it dry.

I should be here until Monday. My friend Tom Hepburn is driving down from Auckland, a favor above the call of duty, to pick me up on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Seven Hills. One Bad Descent. Tour Over.

The bicycling part of today's tour

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The Ambulance part of today's tour

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This entry was going to begin: After 90km, 7 hard hills, 7 bottles of water, two bottles of juice, a big sandwich, two peanut slabs and a chocolate afghan, I finally made it to a bed in Tokomaru Bay.

Instead, it begins: After 85km, 7 hard hills, 7 bottles of water, two bottles of juice, a big sandwich, two peanut slabs and a chocolate afghan, a broken wrist and a 100km ambulance ride, I finally made it to a bed in Gisborne hospital.

So, I finally made it to Gisborne--a little earlier than intended

First, the exciting part--if you consider falling down exciting. I'd just left Te Puia Springs, which is quite high up, and was heading down to Tokomaru Bay, where I planned to spend the night. It is downhill all the way. about 5km outside of Te Puia, I hit a bit of a bump where some recent chip seal started and my handlebar stem snapped off. The front wheel flipped sideways and I was thrown off while traveling about 35kph.

After skidding to a stop on the new, rough, chip seal, I was pretty well abraded on my right arm an shoulder. Then I noticed that my left wrist was not at a natural angle and I couldn't really move it. Fortunately, there was no traffic. About 30 seconds later, truck coming uphill stopped and helped me get the bike and trailer out of the road and very shortly thereafter, another pickup also stopped to help. The second fellow gave me a lift back up to Te Puia Springs, where they have a small community hospital. The first man loaded the bike and trailer on his truck and brought it up to the hospital.

It was around 5:30pm and the small hospital at Te Puia had only a nurse on duty, but she called in the doctor who was just next door. In about half an hour, they had given me a bit of morphine, put me on a saline drip, as they assumed I might be a bit dehydrated, cleaned and dressed my road rash, and splinted my arm. By then the local ambulance had arrived to transport me to the hospital at Gisborne, as it was obvious that I would need an orthopedist.

I think the paperwork took about as long as the actual medical work, but since I was an unknown patient, they seemed to be quite careful. They did a medical history and asked lots of questions about my current state, and, of course, they had to do the ACC paperwork, since it was an accident.

The trip to Gisborne Hospital took about an hour and a half, as it was about 100km from Te Puia Springs. I was admitted to the Gisborne Hospital ER, where I was the only patient. More paperwork, more medication, x-rays and the ER doctor anesthetized my arm, straightened out the wrist and put it in a cast. After a quick sandwich, since I wouldn't be able to eat after midnight, they put me back onto a saline drip and I was off to a room.

Comparatively, the rest of the ride was hardly eventful, just hard work. It was the longest day of my tour, unfortunately also the last, and had the most hills. After a stop in Te Araroa to fill up my water bottles, I tackled the three hills to Tikitiki. It was only 30km, but they were definitely as rated "hard". The Pedaller's Paradise guide accurately describes the section between Te Araroa and Tikitiki as "too many hills in too few kilometers".

I arrived in Tikitiki at about noon. The camp there was so rudimentary that it didn't even have a kitchen. It was actually more of a POP and even had an NZMCA sign. For a small village, with a well-known church, which I visited agin, and an RSA, it didn't even have a store. It had a small takeaway within the RSA, so I bought a sandwich and a drink, refilled my water bottles and headed off towards Ruatoruia, a much larger town.

After a couple of more hard hills and 20km, I found that Ruatoria had stores, the Ngati Pouru information center, and even a cafe, but no place to stay. I looked into the info center, where they had a display of very good local carvings in wood, bone and pounamu, and a fellow getting a traditional tattoo on his arm from the local Maori tattooist, a woman with a full moko, even the lips.

Since there was no place to stay at Ruatoria, I headed off towards TePuia Springs, where one of my guides said the hotel had a small camping area. It was uphill all the way including one more "hard" hill before the last hill into the town. I'm really glad that the stem didn't break as I was descending the last hard hill. As I neared the bottom, I looked in my rear-view mirror and ther was a fully loaded double lorry log truck right on my tail. I pulled over as far as I could and he whizzed by.

I trudged up the last hill to Te Puia Springs and stopped at the dairy for a snack. As I was coming out a young German cyclist was pulling in behind me. He had also ridden the same route as I, but started out at the East Cape lighthouse. After chatting a bit, I headed over to the hotel, one of those old Victorian hotels with pub, to find that they no longer had camping. I briefly considered staying at the hotel, but knew that there was both a campground and backpackers hostel at Tokomaru Bay, just 10km away, almost all downhill. So, I climbed the last short hill out of town, making my total climbing for the day more than 1000 meters and headed downhill.

Then, I fell dow.

Tomorrow, they will operate on my wrist. They plan to put the end of the radius bone back together with a titanium plate. It is curved to match the shape of the bone, and, if all goes well, it means that I will not lose the motion in my wrist. The two major possible complications are that there might be some nerve damage as they have to operate around the nerve going to my hand and the motion in my wrist might be reduced and I could end up with a stiff joint. They had to wait until tomorrow because the plate is a special order item, quite expensive and they have to courier one from Auckland.

Today's Photos:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Five Hills. Free Range Pigs. Called Home.

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I got an early start today and was on my way by 7:45. I hoped to beat the heat, since I was dreading the five hills that I had to climb. Three were rated "hard" and two were "moderate" according to the Lonely Planet guide. It seems like there a couple of extra thrown in that evidently didn't rate a mention in the guide. Much of the ride was inland. I'd be looking ahead and on both sides and see nothing but steep hills and wonder where the road could possibly go.

The humidity wasn't present today and the early start helped, although that first hill (a "hard") was, as always, a killer. IT seemed to get better as I went along. I just had to pace myself. I developed a mode of just pedaling a bit slower, not trying to force the pace on the hills and counting steps. I go about 1000 steps or until my heart rate went above 155, then I'd stop (preferably in the shade), rest, take a drink and wait until I caught my breath. It seemed to work. Usually there would be at least a view to stop at.

The road was pretty quiet for the first half of the ride, except for the birds and cicadas. At about halfway through I passed a road that went to a quarry or sandpit, because, all of a sudden there were all these big double-lorry heavy bulk trucks coming and going.

I was glad to get out of the Waihau Bay campground. Black flies. My ankles and legs really got nailed last night. They still itch badly. I didn't notice until it was too late.

As I was coming out of the camp store yesterday afternoon, a fellow pulled in with a bike on the back of his car. As I asked him if he was doing some riding, his partner pulled in on her bike. They were going around the East Cape by alternating rides. One would do 50km, then they'd switch. They'd left Opotiki yesterday morning and had done what had taken me three days. As I was stopped at the top of my second climb of the day, taking a drink, he came zooming by on his bike and disappeared down the road.

I spotted cell phone towers while climbing out of Hick's Bay. When I got to the top of the hill there was a scenic view turnoff. So I did. I took few pictures, pulled out the cell phone (the signsl was excellent) and called home. It had been nearly a week without internet access, so I'd had no contact outside of the East Cape. The highlight of my day (and week) was talking to Ellen for a while.

The Te Araroa campground was empty when I pulled in about 1pm, but it has filled in a bit now, about half small tents car camping and half campervans, mostly private. The park is in pretty good shape. They just built some new ensuite accommodations (at $120/night--my tent site $11) and a couple of those have been taken. Like most of the ones on this route, they don't seem to have any sit down space in the kitchen or have a lounge, but since I was the first here, I scored the picnic table.

The camp is very pet friendly. The folks across from me have their Dachshund along in their campervan. Unlike the Bongo, this one is one of the big ones, a year old, complete with the slide out BBQ and the satellite dish and the small car towed behind.

It's not only pet friendly, but it seems generally animal friendly. There seem to be some free-range pigs that came wandering about this afternoon, a sow and three piglets. They were pretty tame. The sow and one of the piglets came over to look when I tried to take a photo. They even sniffed at my hand. Soft noses, but the bristles aren't. They weren't the only hogs either. Shortly after, a hedgehog came trundling past the front of my tent, blithely ignoring all of the people.

I rolled the bike and trailer today. Fortunately, I wasn't on it at the time. I'd stopped to take a photo and noticed a ripe blackberry bush in the fence next to the road, so I parked the bike by cocking it at a right angle to the trailer. As I was picking a few berries, I heard a noise and turned to see the bike roll back fall down and it and th trailer rolled completely over and landed against the fence. The only damage was the flag pole on the back of the trailer was snapped. Of course, I then tweaked my hip getting it back up.

My right hip and my right ear are the only parts giving me any trouble. The hip seems to be sore most mornings, probably from sleeping on it. Today is the only time that I've felt anything while riding and that was after I got a twinge picking up the bike. My right ear seems to be blocked in the mornings, but only once I've started riding. I think the Eustachian tube is congested, because it eventually clears, although it took most of the day today.

More hills tomorrow. There are three hill rated "hard climbs" in the 20km from Te Araroa to Tikitiki. I'll be in the midst of the hilly inland portion of the East Cape road. We'll see how it goes.

Today's photos:

Monday, February 11, 2008

Slippery Start. More Big Hills. Disappointing finish.

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Today, I had the choice of Waihau Bay at 25km or Hicks bay at 70km, with hills. I could have never made it to Hick's Bay. It is beginning to get abit discouraging as the hills are getting harder to climb and I don'tthink that they are getting any steeper.

After last night's rain, it started out pretty muggy. The Maraehako Bay Retreat was right at the waterfront down a steep driveway, about thesteepness of our driveway on Waiheke (a 35% grade). Getting down yesterday wasn't bad, after two years of practice, but getting the bicycle and trailer back up was another story. The concrete was smooth and wet. I could barely go a step ata time without stopping to keep from slipping as well as move the weight of bike and trailer.

By the time I got to the road, I was absolutely drenched with sweat. It was the first time I had to stop and rest. Now that I was at the top, it was down the hill to the stream and then up the first hill of the day.This was repeated several times. There was a good section of flat road near the end of the ride. One more hill to go over and I was in Waihau Bay. The holiday park was about 5km further on at Omaio Beach.

There were a couple of camp sites beside the hotel at Waihau Bay. I probably should have stayed there. This is not one of the best I've stayed at., but I was seduced by the latte sign At least the showers are clean. It seems that the campgrounds out here on the cape are much more rudimentary than those closer to civilization. If there is a place to sit in the kitchens, you are lucky. The grounds are fairly nice with lots of big old trees, but there are quite a few permanent caravans and they are spread out all over the camp, so there doesn't seem to be a nice quiet area. I've actually snuck onto the porch of an unused rental cabin that has a table and chair to write this.

I actually started it by going over to the "cafe" and store at the entrance to the camp. I bought a soft drink and went out to the deck where the tables were. Unfortunately, the worse of Maori society was there, and they run the store; four very fat ladies and an even fatter man (reminded me of my brother Jeff only with a bigger pot belly). They had their backs to the tables in a rather grimy corner and were sitting around smoking and scraping out the dregs of those big tubs of ice cream that they sell cones from. It was most unappealing. I figured it was time to leave when the man and one of the younger women, his partner I expect, started loudly going on about their lack of sex.

Thank goodness for the scenery on my ride or that might have been the highlight of my day. I'm beginning to think that much of the East Cape may be best appreciated from a car window.

The other highlight was doing laundry when I arrived here. My riding clothes were so sweaty and grimy that they wouldn't even dry overnight (and that's only since Opotiki). It's been so warm that the only riding shirt I can wear is my ventilated LL Bean yellow one. It has gotten so stained that I can't get it clean and the back will probably have faded to white by the time I finish my tour. Everywhere else I've been the washers and dryers were $2. Here they are $4. Add in $2 for detergent and it was $10 to wash a half load of laundry--and that included throwing in my towel and sleeping sheet for good measure.

It is getting cloudy again, but coming from the opposite direction from last night. I hope it doesn't rain, as I'd really like to get a very early start tomorrow. The Lonely Planet guide lists two moderate climbs and one hard climb (all between 1 and 3km) between here and Hick's Bay and If I want to get to the Te Araroha Holiday park (where Ellen and I stayed last time around the Cape), there is a final 2.7km hard climb.

Then there are 3 short, but tall, hard climbs to get to Tikitiki on the next leg. I wonder where I can catch a bus? I am really beginning to wonder if I can make it to Gisborne. And the climbing to get to Napier is even harder than the Cape.

Amazingly, I already gone 592km, about half the length of the South Island, so I am on about the same pace, but I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it up this time. Part of it, I think, is that it isn't the same when you've already come this way, even by car. maybe it is that the East cape route, while beautiful, is otherwise uninteresting.

Today's Photos:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Right Decision. First Big Hill. Real Bed.

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It's raining--and I'm sitting on the covered deck of the Maraehako Bay Retreat, with a cat curled up next to me, drinking an afternoon latte (My Italian ancestors would cringe, I'm sure).

Sometimes you make the right choice for totally unrelated reasons. That was my day.

The free fresh snapper was excellent. I just fried it in a little olive oil until it was just flaky and made a big salad of tomatoes, pepper, avocado and celery to go with it. Those bloke fishermen are all right.

I decided that the campground was actually split up into three "permanent" sections and a large middle campground for the rest of us. One is the old blokes and spouses. They have the caravans converted into baches, with gardens. Then there is the other old blokes section, where they've circled the caravans (like an old wagon train) and just have those canvas extensions, but are all long term. The third section is the young blokes section. They have a line of caravans along the side of an old lodge (not currently in use) and party a bit more. It was definitely one of the more interesting places I've stayed.

The first bicycle tourer I've seen since Miranda Hot Springs showed up at Hawai last night. It was an Englishwoman touring alone, who I had seen, but not spoken to, at Miranda. She is traveling a bit faster than I as she did the Coromandel after Miranda and then passed through most of the same route I took. But then again, she's about 15 years younger and looks a lot fitter than I. She lives outside the New Forest ("new" since it was taken by William the Conqueror) in the south of England not far from Kent. She has 10 weeks here and is doing the East Cape and then some cycling on the South Island.

I left the bloke's fish camp (Hawai Bay Camp) fairly early, planning to go about 40km to Te Kaha, where there is a Holiday Park. Immediately across the river is the first big hill on the East Cape circuit, 218m (715 feet). The first part was the steepest (just the way to start ones day). As I was trundling up that part I looked in the mirror to see a big double trailer heavy hauler coming up behind me. As I looked up, I saw the bus coming down the hill. It seemed a good to pull off the road as they were destined to meet as the same point as I was. (They did) The tuck gave me a toot and a wave as he passed, because there wasn't much room. The rest of the hill was just a long slog, but it felt really good when I crested the top. The view was pretty awesome as well, both going up and coming down.

From there it was basically a succession of rolling hills. I stopped at Omaio, about 25km out, for lunch. As I turned around to go down to their little shore front domain, The Englishwoman was coming down the hill behind me. She stopped, we chatted over lunch and she left me in the dust at the next grade. I recognized the abandoned church at Omaio from the first trip Ellen, Sam & I made around the Cape and didn't take another photo of it.

I got to Te Kaha, my intended destination, around 1pm. They have a Holiday Park and Dairy and cafe there. I checked out the campground. The grounds were nicely kept, but it was divided into small paddocks with very tall windbreaks. All the campers seemed to be crowded into the last paddock. It had no views and seemed almost airless. As the day was becoming more hot and humid, it was decision time.

I went back out to the office, which was on the road by the store. There were three teenagers hanging about at a table there. All of a sudden the boys runs across to a horse, tied up across the road. The horse, saddled, had decided lie down. The boy got it up and stared abusing it by throwing fake punches at its face. He then climbed on, pulled up his hoodie, whacked it with a bandanna and rode off. Not a good vibe. The decision was made. I made a quick stop at the store for some perishables for dinner and off I went to Maraehako Bay, 20km away, the site of the next campground and a backpackers hostel.

As I was riding there, it was getting more humid and cloudy and the clouds looked rather low and threatening, so I opted for the Maraehako Bay Retreat, a hostel, rather than the beach campground. It will be my first bed in nearly two weeks.

I went down the steep hill to the hostel (sort of like our driveway on Waiheke) and was greeted by Pihi, the Maori owner. It seemed like a pretty nice place, clean, good great room and kitchen and big hot showers. It isn't Old Bones outside of Oamaru, but nothing I've seen is at that level. I took a bunk in the dorm room (which I have to my self) and took a well-needed shower after a hot ride.

When I came out of the shower, it was raining. The hostel was a good decision, initiated for a totally unrelated reason.

Not your usual backpacker guests here tonight. There are only five of us, a family with a teenage daughter, a thirty-something German woman and me. Pihi, the owner, is an interesting guy. He's probably a little younger than us. His family has owned the land around here forever, about 2000 acres. They own the campground across the beach as well, raise organic cattle, grow Kiwifruit, and fish. Pihi is primarily a fisherman, as well as running the hostel.

Today's pics:

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Heavy Hills. Too Much Stuff. Lighten Up?

As I hit the first hill this morning, it became abundantly clear that I am dragging too much weight. I seem to be accreting stuff as I travel along. Although I complained mightily on my 2002 South Island tour, there was only one hill that I had to walk up. I was able to cycle today's "moderate" climbs, but did have to stop on one of them. The "hard" climbs are yet to come.

What's the problem and what to do?

I obviously carried less last trip. Since I was staying in hostels, homestays and farmstays, I didn't carry a tent, ground sheet, sleeping bag, mattress, or cooking gear. I also had a smaller camera and computer.

I also seemed to carry less food. Hostels usually had a supply of condiments like salt and oil and I seemed to be able to buy a day's food most times that I stopped, so I only carried enough for lunch and a small emergency supply. Most of the time, I was in a town where there was at least a dairy and usually a restaurant or takeaway.

Campgrounds are much different. Since most camping is by car or campervan, the expectation is that the camper will bring all the kitchen utensils and food necessary. They often don't have there own camp store and are often not in a town (so far).

So, what do I have?

The tent and ground sheet. These are probably a heavy item. Without buying new, I had the choice of a small single person tent, not large enough to hold me and the trailer's dry bag, or a three person tent, which is more than large enough, but a whole lot heavier. The ground sheet keeps the bottom dry and is just a light weight blur poly tarp. I don't think I can do without them and still camp.

Sleeping bag, Thermarest mattress, sheet. I use these every day. Can't really do without and still camp. One might make a case for sleeping on the ground, but I'm sleeping bad enough as it is.

Cook Kit--two small aluminum pans, plastic bowl and cup, knife, fork, spoon, micro espresso maker, foamer, lightweight butane stove, stove gas, mountain soap. Except for the stove and its gas canister, I use all of it every day. Again, can't be done without if I'm camping.

Bicycle tool kit. This is pretty heavy, even though I left about half the tools back on Waiheke. But it contains those items that I'd need if I had a breakdown or had to partially disassemble for shipping. I suppose that I could have found a more modern multi-tool for the bike, but I used what I had. It is emergency gear, so I'd consider it necessary. It mighty be overkill.

First Aid kit. Bandages, steroid ointment, aspirin, tums, alcohol wipes, ranititdine, decongestant, antihistamine. I've used the ointment, tums and band-aids so far, But it is fairly light and emergency gear. Probably not overkill, but might be more compact.

Bike locks. Cable and U-bolt locks. I suppose that I could delete the U-bolt lock. I've only used the cable so far. Paranoid? maybe.

Toilet kit. Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, scissors, brush, foot & body powders, vitamins, Bath Towel, two Pack Towels. and some spares of toothpaste, powder and deodorant. Could probably do away with the spares. Maybe the bath towel, but I do use it every day and it is more convenient than the smaller pack towels, although I use one of them as a hand and dish towel.

Clothes. I could probably cut a bit here. 2 convertible pants, 2 short sleeve cycling jerseys, 1 long sleeve cycling jersey, wool T-shirt, short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, 3 pairs socks, 2 pairs underwear,1 pair cycling underwear, 1 pair cycling shorts (used as underwear)light weight fleece. hi-vis vest, hi-vis wind jacket, rain jacket, rain pants, cycling/hiking shoes, crocs. arm and leg warmers, head warmer, gloves, helmet.

Based on what I've used so far, I could cut a pair of pants (using the cycling shorts as the alternative), the wool t-shirt, the long sleeve cycling shirt, the short sleeve shirt, a pair of underwear and a pair of socks. I might be able to delete the Crocs, but after a day of riding it is good to get out of my cycling shoes and socks.

Electronics. If I wasn't a geek (or if I were a wealthier geek), I'd probably save a lot here. I have a MacBook, Large digital Camera with add-on polarizing filter and accessory wide-angle lens., spare batteries, backup disk, battery charger, connecting cables for camera and GPS, ethernet and modem cables, mouse, GPS, Heart rate monitor/cycle computer. Without these, I couldn't do a journal or take pictures. I could probably delete some of the spare batteries, the wide angle lens and maybe some cables. (last time I had a smaller computer and a smaller camera-that's what I'd do next time)

Some miscellaneous items. Compact binoculars, spare eyeglasses, headlight/torch, iPod shuffle and earphones , Leatherman, Cell phone. Use them all.

Food- This seems to be the biggie. It just seems to continually get bigger. I currently am carrying coffee, sugar, rice, pasta, olive oil, salt, salad dressing, one cup UHT milk box, PB & J, 3 small cans tuna, 1 can pasta sauce, 1 can salmon, cured sausage, piece of cheddar, apple, orange, envelope of curry mix, most of a loaf of bread, some tea bags, a large bag of Weet-bix (I couldn't museli), three containers of yogurt ( a buying msitake) .

Earlier today I was carrying, OJ, 1/2 liter of milk, another orange and apple, 2 tomatoes, a pepper, and avocado, some celery, but I've used them up.

The cans are, by far, the heavy items. I cannot do without the coffee and sugar. Once I eat what I have, I think I'll try a new regimen. In addition to coffee and sugar and one milk, I'll carry only one day's worth of lightweight rations, such as a dried past meal kit, muesli bar, and a small tuna lunch kit. I'll pick up the evening's dinner and next day's breakfast before or when I stop and the day's lunch before I leave or at the first dairy. I just hope that I can get over tomorrow's hills carrying what I have.

It looks like the best I can do, without converting to hostel or credit card touring is to lighten up on food and possibly mail some clothes and spares back to Waiheke at some point.

Short Ride. Fresh Free Snapper. Blokes Camp.

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It was a short ride today, just under 30km with a couple of "moderate" hills from Opotiki to Hawai. The next practical stop would be Te Kaha at 70km from Opotiki with several more hills in between, including a 200m high one just after here (my morning exercise tomorrow--or will it be morning torture?)

If the small hills from Opotiki to here are considered moderate (and there are "hard" ones ahead), I'm going to be doing a lot of walking in the next 300km.

I am obviously carrying too much. I certainly seem to have too much food. I think it is time for a rethink there. When I left this morning there was a heavy stuff sack of food in the BOB bag (the heaviest item in the bag by far), and I had both panniers filled with food. At least I will have a big salad with dinner to reduce the fresh stuff. Also, too many cans, I think, among other things.

I was going to make pasta with a Salmon-based sauce for dinner, which would eliminate two cans, but as soon as I got my tent set up, the fellow in the bach behind me came over with fresh snapper fillets for my dinner. I've had three other fisherman offer fresh-caught snapper since.

About the camp--The amenities are a bit rustic, by the toilets and showers are clean. The kitchen could be a bit cleaner. Since most of the campers here either have caravans or set up big tents, I expect that the kitchen is not heavilty used except at the peak season.

The grounds are actually quite nice, with trees and little gardens. there is a row of "baches" along the back of the camp which have been here a while. They started out as caravans, but have morphed into buldings. The one owned by the fellow who gave me the fish is a log cabin, with the original caravan totally within the walls.

Most of the baches seem to be owned by blokes with wives who come along, as they have some really nice little gardens in front of them.

There is another section of the camp which is basically a circle of caravans with tent porches. This seems to be a bloke's haven. Unlike some of the holiday parks we've seen this isn't overrun with permanent caravans. There is much more open space than permanent space.

The section above seems to consist of old blokes without their wives. There is another section of caravans for young blokes.

I got an early start this morning. I was out of the park in Opotiki by 8:15, which meant that I was here by 10:30.

I took a fair number of photos on the way here as the coast is really interesting. I also took a walk along the beach here, accompanied by the usual Oyster catchers (actually they were ahead of me and kept walking away). White Island is right in front of my tent, although pretty far out on the horizon (it was closer in Whakatane). It doesn't seem particularly active at the moment.

The camp seems especially dog friendly. The managers have several, as do some of the campers. The managers have a Jack Russell bitch with two really cute puppies (still nursing). She's quite protective of them. Fortunately, I'm way too over weight in my baggage to abscond with one of them.

The manager is a retired DOC "pest control" specialist. When I think pests, I think insects. His (DOCs) pests are deer, wild pig, wild cattle and possum. In fact, he shot a deer just yesterday that had wandered down into the river next to the camp. Two Maori Blokes pointed it out to him as they were heading into Opotiki, so he just dressed it out and gave the meat to them on there way back to Te Kaha. He said that he's tired of venison at this point and would prefer a good steak. I asked him if the wild cattle provide good meat -- "Only after the dogs have chewed on it awhile". Wild pig is quite good though. Hmm, I'll bet a wild boar prosciutto would be quite tasty.

It's that kind of place.

A fish story--It is a true story. I saw the pictures in the sporting goods store in Opotiki.

The point just off Hawai is excellent fishing and has Marlin. This fellow was fishing off the point with 37lb line and caught an enormous Marlin (I think I remember the article saying it was 638kg (about 1400lb)). Not only did he catch it on fairly light tackle, but he was fishing from a 14' tinnie (think aluminum skiff). The fish was considerably longer than the boat and almost as wide. Another larger fishing boat had to come over to tow it back to Opotiki for him. It was as large as the larger boat and was at least half in the water when it was being towed.

Well, it's nearly time to make dinner, pan-fried Snapper and a salad. It is into the hills tommorrow.

Today's Photos:

Friday, February 8, 2008

Port (N)Ohope. Cheddar Valley Pottery. Big Trucks.

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For some reason, I found the campground at the end of Ohope Beach to be somewhat depressing. It must have been the disheveled end of the season look of a holiday camp at a too popular vacation spot. So, I left Port (N)Ohope fairly early and headed to Opotiki,a town we have visited in the past, the gateway town on the way to the East Cape circuit and only 40km away.

The day started out with a slight wind, but it picked up as the ride went along. The hills weren't to bad and I made fair time over them. The only real challenge was when I reached Rt. 2, the main road. Lots of trucks and road construction. It was a bit hairy to be riding on new seal, trying to stay where the gravel has been packed in, and being followed closely by a big logging truck. I don't often ride on the narrow shoulders, because they are usually quite rough, but I did today.

I stopped at a petrol station/dairy after a windy, traffic-filled, 2km of riding new seal for a morning snack, as my breakfast was a bit light. Next to the station was a big sign for a straw bale model home. I would have made the detour, but it was back at the other end of the stretch of new seal. I didn't really want to do it again, twice. The owner of the station had a brochure from the builders, though.

Unlike the barn, southwestern or "hippie" style of straw bale that I've seen in the books in the US, these builders are doing them in the modern Kiwi shed roofed style. The pictures of the model home looked like any of the modern ones we've seen going up on Waiheke and other trendy places. They also use a steel frame, rather than timber, which seems to be the US style, and steel foam-cored roof panels, amde in NZ, which are like the Structural Insulated Panels I've been researching. It sounds like a good well-insulated structure (a departure for NZ constuction).

As I continued on to the coast, I came across a beach-side park on the far outskirts of Opotiki. In the Parking lot was an espresso cafe bus. A fellow has converted a small Japanese ex-library bus to a cafe. I couldn't resist. (I have pictures and will post soon, I hope). The bus already had two big opening panels on one side and he fitted it out with full cafe bar and added a gas-fired Italian three head espresso machine.

He is there every weekday and attends events on weekends. He is successful enough at it that he's bought a second used library bus to convert into a cafe, which his wife will run at weekend events. I guess they are already doubled-booked. Even the roadside weekday cafe is successful. He said that he gets about 2/3 of his daily sales in the morning from regulars who commute from Opotiki to Whakatane (no wonder that road seemed busier than I expected). They text message in their orders and the drinks are waiting as they pull in--even better than drive-thru.

He has a view to die for and every day is a day at the beach, sitting back and reading a good book waiting for customers to chat with. An almost ideal retirement career (except for the rainy days and the early start to be there for the commuters.

I made it to Opotiki by about 1pm. As my rides go, so far, this has been one of the better ones. It wasn't overly long or hard and the view was interesting. I passed by a wetland not far after I got back on the main road beyond the Ohope turnoff. It was filled with little wading bird on the mudflats on one side and larger tern-like birds on the other. I stopped at a pottery in Cheddar Valley, which was unfortunately closed until 11am (it was just 10am when I got there). It had a lot of works outside, however, and I took lots of pictures.

Just before I got to RT 2, a big hawk swooped overhead, heading towards some fresh roadkill. I stopped hoping to get a photo, but it was scared off by oncoming traffic. Finally, as I was riding down RT 2, a big gray heron pulled along side and flew a few dozen yards alongside the bike before pulling away and crossing the road to the fields beyond.

I'm staying at the Opotiki Holiday park. I'm pretty sure Ellen, Sam & I stayed here on our Demio trip to the East Cape in our first year here. It has been taken over by a British couple (a year ago today, according to the owner) and is in really good shape. The amenities and kitchen are the best I've seen in a while and a big improvement over yesterday.

Obviously, I'm committed to doing the East Cape (maybe it's just "should be committed"). Based on the hills I've come down from the North, there is no turning back and the alternative is going through the gorges to Gisborne. The east Cape sounds much better. There seems to be campgrounds or hostels, and stores, no more than 50km apart all the way around. I expect it will probably take a week to get to Gisborne.

I am going to spend an extra day here, before pressing on. I'm pretty weary. It will give me a chance to post several journals at the Internet Cafe in the town centre, tune up my bike (it has been having shifing problems--I can't quite get the rear derailleur adjusted correctly), and generally clean up and rest a bit.

It may be the last chance to post for a while. The East Cape is one of the more isolated areas on the North island and, although there are plenty of little places to stop with campgrounds or hostels, I don't know if there is any Internet connectivity at these places. The current plan is to go to Hawai, then Te Kaha, Waihau Bay, Te Araroa, Ruatoria, Tokomaru Bay, Tolaga Bay and, finally, Gisborne (all subject to chaage,of course).

Today's photos:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cool Night. Whakatane or Ohope? Gale Repeats.

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I seem to be a glutton for punishment and the wind does not abate (a familiar refrain).

The ride today was eventful only in its length. A 70km slog to the coast, ending at Port Ohope.

While having breakfast this morning at the Rotoma Holiday Park. I was talking with the other camper who was there with his son and daughter. The daughter, about 10, was participating in a 1K swimming race on Lake Rotoma later that morning.

After I got packed up and set off on my way, I came across the race, so I stopped to take a look. It was an event with many classes and distances and one of the top class races was in progress at 5K swim. This is definitely an event for racers and family. Much like sailing, as a spectator sport, it is like watching paint dry.

Right after the lake was my first hill of the day, and just about the last until Whakatane. It was on a par with some of the hills on Waiheke, so it was just a long continuous climb.. Since I was now about 250 meters above sea level and Whakatane is on the coast, there was a long downhill following, complete with the 35kph S-curves, but there was a long stretch of flat road to windward after that.

Most of my ride today was on the main road from Rotorua to Whakatane, which was fairly busy, but it really got heavy after it crossed Route 2. But I got into Whakatane around 1pm.

Once I got to Whakatane, it was, as usual, time to find a place to stay. Although Whakatane is a god sized town, it has only one campground. The choice became one of staying at Whakatane or moving a little further down the road to the Ohope holiday park, I decided on the Port Ohope one as it looked better in the guide. I also figured that it would be a bit closer to Opotoki, my next destination. So after sending stopping at the NZ Telecom Hotspot (in a phone booth) to send yesterday's mail I headed to Ohope.

As I parked outside the Whakatane i-site, looking for the Hot Spot, there was a small version of the Kiwi Experience green bus parked. The driver, who was about my age, asked about my trip. The bus was also doing the East Cape, but in four days. I'll probably take longer than that. He asked what route I was taking and I said that Ohope was next, then Opotiki. He told me that there were two routes out of town in that direction, A short steep hill or a 5km longer route with a long no so steep hill.

(At that point, his passengers returned from their break, about a dozen young women, two older women and one young guy. Looks like he picked the right bus)

I decided on the short steep hill, Hillside Road, right behind the i-site. This may have been a bad choice. It was not doable, at least not by me. I pushed the bike up most of it. Once I got to the top, it joined the main road and went up some more, but I could manage that, then the road went straight down and directly into the wind. The last 10km to Port Ohope were directly into a gale.

Perhaps it should be called the Port Nohope. A rather disappointing end to the day. It was at the end of the peninsula, I saw from the map of Ohope, when I got off the main road that there was Dairy at Port Ohope, so I passed up the one in the main Ohope village. A mistake. The one at Port Ohope was just about the worst stocked I've ever seen. I thought about eating at the local restaurant, but it seemed to be closed for Waitangi Day.

The holiday park seems to be in off season mode, with some of the facilities closed. Unfortunately, no one told the visitors. It is pretty crowded. The park also seems a bit worn out after the summer. The most of the sites are pretty dusty. It seems to be in the mould of the Top 10 at Mt. Maunganui, converting to flash rental units. The "end of summer" comes quickly here.

After a 70km ride it is pretty disappointing. Tomorrow it's a hilly 40km ride to Opotiki and then prep for the East Cape. I hope the gale abates.

Not many photos toda:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Torrential Downpour. Short Ride Wanted. Yeah Right.

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After my day as a tourist in Rotorua, I came back to the camp hoping for an early start the next day and a ride towards Whakatane. Didn't happen.

A torrential thunderstorm came through at dinner time. I thought that Ihad the tent sited well on a little knoll under a tree. I had heardthunder when I was bringing my stuff up to the kitchen to make diner, soI was sure to put the computer and camera in the BOB trailer dry bag,along with the down sleeping bag.

As I was sitting there eating the couple who were in a small van justbeyond me came in and said that there was a stream running through my tent. I ran down in the rain to check. The tent was sitting in about an inch of water. The runoff from the street above came down the hill under their van and across the flat and under about 3/4 of the tent. It did have a stream running under it.

Fortunately, the floor was holding and the inside was mostly dry andeverything was still dry. I moved everything on top of the Thermarestjust to be sure.

When I came back later as the rain let up, there was some leaking aroundthe front and back where the rainfly doesn't completely cover the sides.It was leaking at the stitching where the sides meet the bottom. Alsothe floor was damp where anything was sittng on it, under the dry bagand the mattress.

When I finally went back to the tent after the rain let up and the river stopped running through it, the floor was only wet where something was sitting directly on it. Since I'd moved all my stuff into either the dry bag or onto the Thermarest, it meant my stuff was dry, but the floor was wet under the mattress and the dry bag.

From RotoruaToRotoma

I shifted the bike bags, etc. to the top of the dry bag, laid out my sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep in the damp. Not too successfully. At least there was no sulphrous aroma overnight.

It was clear and drying when I got up. After my breakfast of lattes, muesli and yogurt and OJ, it was time to start drying things out. I was actually luckier than some. There was a larger tent that had been been set up lower down and was now standing in the middle of a pond. There was no car near it, so I expect the owners abandoned it in the night for a room somewhere.

Under the tree behind my tent was already pretty dry, so I hauled everything out and set it there. I un-staked the tent and moved it to a dry patch. The soggy tarp underneath was completely covered with clumps of grass clippings and needles where the water ran between the tarp and the tent. I dragged it away and shook it out and staked it down to dry as it was getting breezy.

As soon as the rainfly dried, I took it off to expose the tent interior and it dried fairly quickly in the breeze. By the time I had everything dried and packed up it was nearly noon so I headed back to town as I needed cash and it was time for lunch.

After lunch, I headed east, directly into the breeze. My intent was a campground indicated on the AA map as about 15km away on the road to Whakatane, near Lake Rotoiti. It wasn't there. My choices were to ride on to Lake Rotoma or about 10km back towards Lake Rotorua. I chose the former, figuring it would mean a shorter ride tomorrow. The Tumonz mapping software showed the route as practically flat, so even with a bit of breeze, it should be an okay ride.

Yeah right. After a nearly 37km ride (from Rotorua), into a stiffening wind and up a 170m hill, that somehow didn't show in the profile, I finally reached the Rotoma Holiday park at about 4pm.

I guess the ride could be called the Lake Quartet as I passed Lake Rotorua, Lake Rotoiti, and Lake Rotoehu before reaching the camp at Lake Rotoma. The naming on the map seems a bit redundant since roto is Maori for lake.

The wind got so stiff towards the end that I was riding directly into it on the flats in the lowest gear on my middle ring. I could see the sign for the entrance to the park ahead, but it seemed to take forever to reach it.

It was also a cold wind. It was actually chilly riding for the first time since I started out. It has cooled further as the sun has gotten lower and I've put the legs on my pants and am wearing my lightweight fleece top. I hope it abates and turns around overnight. It will be a test of my sleeping bag.

Setting up the tent is a bit of a trick in the wind, but I have a system that works. I found a lightweight blue tarp at the Warehouse before I left Auckland. It is nominally 8X10, but just so happens to be exactly the same width as the tent and the pre-made grommets line up with tent corners. I start my laying out an staking down the tarp at the grommets that match the tent. I then unroll the tent and slip the corner rings over the preset stakes. This is pretty easy to do, even in a breeze.

I then put together the two poles and slip them onto fitting at each corner. I do the first one and leave it lying down in a semi-circle, then I do the other one over it and lift the both up together. I can just reach the middle of the tent and pull up the center toggle and attach it to where the poles cross, then I clip on the top tent fitting on each pole and then finish up clipping on the fittings on each pole.

Bingo it's up even in a breeze. Doing the rain fly is just as simple. For a cheap tent it has performed well so far. I can set it up in just a few minutes. Taking it down is a little longer since everything needs to be folded and stowed.

The camp ground is quite nice, but a bit rustic. The kitchen and ablutions are very clean and the shower was hot. The only time I could have asked for is a camp store. The nearest shop is 5km away to windward. It was tunafish sandwich and fruit for dinner.

It is pretty empty at this time of year as the holiday season just ended last weekend and the kids are back in school (but Waitangi Day is either this week or next). There are a about a dozen caravans with "cabanas" but they take up very little of the campground. Only a couple are in use at the moment. There was no one else when I arrived, but two other tents have appeared since then, one with a fishing boat towed behind.

I was walking about the camp and noticed a big playground. There is a primary school next door. It was about 5pm as I walked past, but noticed a door open, so I poked my head in and spent some time talking with the teacher there. It was a school of about 60 students, but the roll has droped to 40 this year. They have three teachers and a principal, but may lose a teacher unless enrollment increases. She's been teaching there for about 10 years, since emigrating from South Africa. She doesn't live out here though, but commutes from Rotorua. I suspect it is less than 30 minutes by car.

Todays Photos:

Monday, February 4, 2008

Going Nowhere. Just a Tourist. Downtown Rotorua.

My first day off, unless you count the ride from the camp ground to town. I spent the day as a tourist in Rotorua.

After having a morning cafe latte and internet session at the Rotorua Starbucks to check today's mail and upload yesterday's journal and photos ("free" broadband is handy, if rare), I took off for a ride around the waterfront and to the Government park, where the famous Victorian Baths are, now the Rotorua Museum.

I took a look at the Te Papaioru Marae, which is right on the waterfront, asking permission to enter, of course. The two "aunties" sitting on a deck near the entrance seemed surprised that I asked, but were grateful nonetheless. They had a Dogue de Bordeaux on the deck with them, which they said has become rather popular in New Zealand of late. I expect is is because many of the so-called fighting breeds have been banned, but the Dogue de Bordeaux, although it is historically a fighting dog, is not vicious.

It is a small marae, but has a handsome meeting house and a Maori-decorated chruch. It is notas nice as the one in Tikitiki on the East Cape. Unfortunately, taking photos inside was prohibited. It had an interesting modern window which was clear and looked out directly on the lake. It had an engraving of Christ wearing a Maori feather clock, giving the appearance of walking on water into the church

From Rotorua

After the marae and church, I rode along the waterfront to Government Park and the Rotorua Museum. The museum, which also prohibited photographs inside, was originally built as a grand medicinal baths, sponsored by the government, which functioned as such up until the 60's when the Dept of Health finally considered them a non-scientific treatment. One part of the museum was was about the history of the baths. I especially liked the "electric" bath treatment where they put you in a tub of sulphrous mineral water and applied an alternating current--what an idea!

The other half of the museum was used to for exhibits of local history and art. They had a fairly extensive exhibit of the Tarawera Eruption of 1886 and the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces. There was also a very nice exhibit of the Taonga of the Te Arawa .

Today's Pics:

Slow Travel. The Big Hill. Quick Descent.

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Ellen recently wrote me about Slow Travel, suggesting that it was my mode this trip. An interesting idea, but it seems to have been co-opted as a marketing theme for short-term house rentals. That isn't really all that new a concept. Villa rentals in Europe, at least, have been going on practically forever. We did that in the 90's.

So, my trip has been a different type of slow travel, not moving far each day and taking time. (I guess we'll have to call it the "Travel Slowly" movement as "Slow Travel" is already trademarked.) It has also been going on for a while, since there have always been cycle tourists. Maybe it should involve other modes of transport as well. There's no reason why one has to move hundreds of miles a day when traveling by automobile, but it seems that it inevitably happens, at least when I'm driving. maybe this time the lesson will sink in and the next motorized journey will be a "Travel Slowly" trip.

Off the soapbox and onto the journal.

I tried to start early yesterday, but was lazy about breakfast, much to my chagrin. I'd packed up by about 8am and had decided to go over to the hotel (the Okoroire Hotel) for breakfast. I'd had a good, relatively inexpensive pub dinner there, the evening before. Unfortunately, it was Sunday and they didn't serve breakfast until 8:30. No big deal, I figured, I'll just pull out the laptop and use the excess wireless minutes I'd paid for the night before to send email. Oops, the hotel's ISP expired my prepaid card over night. It was only good for one calendar day, not 24 hours--argh! To add insult to that, I waited around for breakfast. had the continental breakfast and it was $17, significantly more than dinner. They get you at the hotel dining room--oh well, I should have eaten more.

I ate quickly and headed off. The starts always seem really tough and my legs really seemed weary on the first little hills. About 10k into the ride I came across a cafe (complete with an Emu), where I stopped for a real coffee. After that I felt better and then the real climb began. The climb itself wasn't as bad as the traffic. No quiet back roads today, the only route is SH 5 to Rotorua. Fortunately, the really heavy traffic was coming in the other direction. There was a big Reggae concert in Rotorua last night and the returning traffic was just constant.

From OkoroireToRot...

The problem was that this meant that I had to really stick to the left of the shoulder, as the traffic in my direction had no place to go around me and you know how Kiwis drive. It was a bit nerve racking as I was going so slowly, it was tough to not wobble.

From OkoroireToRot...

Although I stopped to rest a few times on the way up, I was able to pedal all the way. It did about 6 kph on the way to the top, but it was a whole lot easier going down. It took over 3 hours going up. On the other hand, it took only a half hour to get down the other side. It was about a 15km coast. I maxed over 50kph, but only at one point. One big hill down, who knows how many to go.

From OkoroireToRot...

I got into Rotorua about 2pm and stopped at the Starbucks for lunch and a well-deserved latte. They also had a Telecom Hotspot, so I took about an hour and a half of free time to update my journal and upload photos, before heading off the the Thermal Holiday Park just outside of downtown. In all, it was another 60km day of (mostly) slow travel.

Today's Pics:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Moving slowy. Riders on the road. Many motorcycles.

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I got off to a very slow start today. There's still nothing like a good nights sleep. Last night was different, however. I had picked a nice quiet spot that was shady in the afternoon for my tent. Unfortunately, I didn't think to look up. Imagine my surprise when I came back from the kitchen after dark to find that the brightest security light I've ever seen was posted on the TV antenna mast of the cabins across the grass. I could read by the light inside the tent even with everything closed up. I won't forget to look next time.

It actually got a bit chilly last night and I found out how mummy-like my new sleeping bag is. It was warm enough, but it is quite tight. I cannot unzip it from the inside when I have it zipped all the way up. I can barely move my arms. I had been using it unzipped until now as it has been quite warm at night.

As I was sitting outside the kitchen having breakfast, this woman came out of a tent across the grass wearing bicycle garb. She evidently saw me wearing my hi-vis riding jacket and came over to ask me if I had a bicycle pump for presta valves. She was going for a morning ride before her daughters got up, but had a soft tire and the wrong type of pump.

I got mine, which will do both types of tire valves and pumped up her tires. She had come up to the park with her three daughters, who got the cabin while she got the tent.

I didn't get out of the park until about 10:30 and promptly ran into an older couple wearing Matamata Pedalling Club cycling shirts, who were out riding in my direction. They stopped to chat. While they were a bit older than us (at least the looked older than us), they were avid cyclists. It was interesting to get an older perspective on routes on the North Island. (Although the woman rider at the park, who seemed 40-something, told me that the route to Tauranga, over the Kaimais was quite hard and even offered me a lift if I was going in that direction).

While the younger riders I've met seemed to think that just about any of my choices weren't all that hard, these older folks advised against the Taupo-Napier road. They said it is quite hilly and there aren't really any services on the road. It is longer than I think I could do in a day, even if it were flat, so I think that route is out. The East Cape is still the top alternative at the moment.

From Matamata To O...

A short way down the road was the Firth Tower Museum, which I stopped at to look around as it looked interesting. It is a historical museum built around a big watch tower that the original owner built in the 1800's. They have collected a series of old colonial buildings and have fitted then out in period furnishings. They have a church, school, jail, Post office/early telephone exchange, a settler's cabin, and several farm buildings, as well as the tower and the owner's finer home. It was quite interesting. Everything was open and there wasn't another soul around. There was no one at the ticket office, but there was a sign that they were elsewhere on the property and they'd sell a ticket when they saw you. I never saw anyone.

By the time I finished, it was nearly 1pm, so I stopped at a cafe and had lunch in Matamata, then it was on to Okoroire about 30km away. It was a pretty easy ride even in the afternoon, although it was pretty flat. It rolled towards the and and the countryside was more interesting. My leg muscles are still sore, particularly the upper part in the back. Tomorrow will be more of a challenge at about 50km and 500 meters (1500 ft) to climb to get to Rotorua.

I made it to the Okoroire Hotel with Golf Course, Camping Ground and Pub by mid-afternoon. It is a well restored Edwardian hotel that was built near the local hot springs. The campgound is across the road from the hotel, and is pristine, although the camp amenities are pretty rudimentary. I'm the only camper and there are no lights to deal with tonight.

From Matamata To O...

When I arrived at the hotel, the parking lot was filled with motorcycles. It is evidently a popular Saturday afternoon gathering spot. There were probably 20 or so when I arrived, they kept coming and going all afternoon. One of the guys said that there are usually around 150 on a good summer Saturday. That would have been quite a sight as it was not a large parking lot. They had all kinds of makes. I saw BMW, Triumph, Moto-Guzzi, Ducati, MV Augusta, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, KTM, Harly-Davidson and a Buell. (there was now a Trek 520 pulling a trailer parked next to a Triumph). Most of the bikes were newer models and everyone was dressed in all the gear, mostly leathers. Lots of tattoos, but that's not unusual in New Zealand. Once I mentioned that my other bike was a BMW GS and my wife had a Buell, we were into bike talk. There seemed to be quite few couples riding together with the women pretty evenly split between riders and clingers. I was talking with a BMW rider with a R1100RT. He said that he was ready to move on to something else. He didn't take up my offer to trade for the Trek 520.

From Matamata To O...

After I got settled at the campground, I came back up to the hotel. It was around 5:30 and most of the bikes had left although a few kept coming by. Dinner at the pub was tasty, a Soy Beef Salad and a Bundaberg Ginger Beer. They have a nice outdoor porch and I had dinner and was able to plug the laptop through the window.

Shortly after coming back to my tent and it was dark, a car pulled in and couple unloaded a ton of stuff and put up a huge tent that seemed big enough to be the garage, under the light of their headlights. It looks like I won't have the campground to myself after all.

Then the lights came on! Suddenly there was this bright light shining on the back of the tent. I could have sworn that there were no lights in the campground. There weren't, but there was a path about 20 feet behind where I had set up the tent, which led down to the hot pools near the river.

I went up to the hotel to see iff they could be turned off as it was 10pm at that point. They said they'd turned them on for guests who had just gone done to the pools and would turn them off when they returned--as long as it was by 11pm, which was when they closed up. Fortunately, they went off at 11.

Tomorrow the hills and Rotorua.

Today's Pics (many today):

Friday, February 1, 2008

Gray Again. Lots of Onions. Old Campers.

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Today's journey was a relatively short one, 39.96 km, from the Te Aroha Holiday park to the Opal Hot Springs Holiday Park, outside Matamata.

It sprinkled a little overnight and was just cloudy (and a little bit cooler in the morning). Aside from the free Internet access, the Te Aroha holiday park was definitely an amenity-free zone. The kitchen was bare, not even a bench rag to clean up the counters. I had to sacrifice one of my few cotton bicycle rags (still clean) to clean up after dinner. Even the men's loo had only a single role of toilet paper. It was one of those struggling campgrounds without a holiday theme and, although it had nice new cottages, seemed to have a significant number of "long term campers".

As I was making breakfast when this really worn looking person comes in (I couldn't fathom the gender, but I think it was a rather butch female). She puts down her coffee cup, fills the electric jug and leaves. About five minutes later comes back and realizes that she hadn't turned it on (I hadn't really noticed), grumbles about it all being too hard, walks over to the sink, turns on the hot water and makes her cup of instant. It was that kind of campground.

I had an earlier start than yesterday, but not by much. It was a fairly good ride, although my legs are still quite tired. The countryside I pedaled through was nicely mixed farmland, lots of dairy, some beef and a fair number of horses, but there were also a lot of vegetables, huge fields of potatoes and onions (which were being harvested) as well as corn (looking near ready for picking) and some root vegetable that had foliage like carrots only much longer (it might have been carrots). It seemed to be mostly onions, though.

From TeArohaToMata...

I made a stop at the new Kaimai Cheese Company (est.2005) factory and cafe. I had a cafe latte and the only small cheesy item from their menu, a piece of delicious cheesecake (and before lunch--life on the road is tough!).

I also stopped to admire some painted ponies. Well, two were painted and the other a canvas awaiting application.

From TeArohaToMata...

After I got to the Opal Hot Springs park, I set up my tent, had lunch and then went to the hot pools. I don't have a bathing suit, but my black lycra cycling shorts have that wetsuit look. It felt good. The cooler water to cool off in the heat and humidity and the hot pools to ease the aches.

The campground is nicer than Te Aroha, but not as nice as Miranda. It also has an amenity-free kitchen, but there are real campers here. And it does have hot pools and a cooler large swimming pool. They also have the same pre-paid Wireless Internet provider as was at Miranda. I still have minutes, so I should be able to post the first draft of this (sans pictures and map as the connection seems quite slow and I don't have that many minutes). Look for a new draft in a couple of days or so.

As I was preparing my dinner, I was talking with and older woman, about 80. She was camping by herself in a tent smaller than mine and she is spending three months here, camping out since before the holidays.

From TeArohaToMata...

She lives in Queensland, but is originally from New Zealand. She went over there to be near her daughters, who all moved across. She prefers the summer here. One of her daughters has moved back to NZ, so she thinks she will come back as well.
I think she has been here at this campground the whole time. She doesn't seem to have a car and walks slowly with a limp, but seems to be a happy camper, living in her little tent.

Even stranger, as I was talking with in comes another camper who is also staying here for the summer. He is from Indiana and is over 80. Judging from the way he walks and talks, he is recovering from a stroke as well. he lives in a cabin, but upon meeting the woman camper, decided to try camping in a tent, it was a bit too hard, so he's back to a cabin. It seems like he comes here every year. I'd leave Indiana in the winter,too (actually, I'd leave Indiana any time).

Dinner, by the way, was a melange of tomatoes, onion, yellow pepper, courgette and shredded roast beef in a balsamic sauce served over rice (yeah right -- cooked with balsamic dressing as I had no other spices).

Making dinners are a challenge at these no-amenity kitchens. All I have is my cook kit, which has two pans, a plastic bowl and a cup. I also have knife, fork and spoon. To make tonights dinner, I cooked the rice in the deeper pan and while doing so, started the onions in the other one and added most of the other ingredients as the rice cooked. When the rice was done, I transferred the rice to the bowl and the rest to the rice pan since it was deeper. I finished adding the other ingredients, cooked it until the zucchini was slightly soft and then used the shallow pan as a dish to eat from.

In addition, there are no cutting boards here so I had to cut the vegetables from my hand directly into the pan. The ripe tomatoes were particularly tricky. I may look for one, only one, flexible board to tuck in my stuff (more stuff-eck!)

Today's pics:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mostly Cloudy. Long Flat Roads. Te Aroha.

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There's nothing like a good night's sleep, and I've had nothing like a good night's since I've been on the road. I'm not sure that the Thermarest and I are cut out for each other. A couple of more tries and it will be time for a good hotel (or at least a clean cabin).

The Miranda Hot Springs campground is as clean and nicely kept as ever (as long as you don't have to stay in the Dog section). I had a nice quite shady spot under a tree, complete with a picnic table that I dragged over from an empty site--at least until a couple of Swiss cyclists camped next to me and commandeered it while I was taking a shower. They have bikes with panniers.

From MirandaHotSpr...

It is nearly twice as efficient to tour as a couple, rather than solo. Most of the load is shared. Basically, only clothes and sleeping bag, which are light, are the only things which are duplicated. I'm not doing the next tour, wherever it is, without you (It's either that or credit card touring).

When I got up this morning and was going over to the office, to get some yogurt from the camp store, there was a trio of motorcycles, packed for touring, outside one of the rooms, BMW 1200GS and two Honda Transalps. I didn't meet the riders, but they passed me heading south, this morning.

From MirandaHotSpr...

I rode from Miranda to Te Aroha, which turned out to be almost 82km (this includes the 5km detour when I misinterpreted the map and didn't realize the road turn-off I was looking for was actually on the other side of a bridge and it includes the 6km ride back to Te Aroha for food, since I forgot the campground was so far out of town).

The day was quite warm and humid, but it was mostly cloudy, which kept the radiant temperature down (and kept the roads from melting). I dressed quite a bit lighter today as well, wearing just my ventilated hi-viz riding shirt, rather than the New Zealand Merino one I'd worn the past couple of days (duh, no wonder I was dying). The ride was mostly on very flat roads through the Hauraki Plains. It is mostly cattle country with a bit of corn, for the cattle I expect.

From MirandaHotSpr...
From MirandaHotSpr...

Aside from the cows, about the most interesting event was the hare in the road. (I don't count going the wrong way interesting). I was riding along and there was a hare loping up the road in my direction. It didn't notice me until I was almost on it, at which point it hopped off the road and continued in the same direction, only much faster. As I was moving at about 20kph, it ket running, faster and faster until it about doubled my speed, but always in the direction I was traveling.

When it was far enough away (in its mind), it would stop until I got closer and then it would tear off again in the same direction, up the road and parallel to it. This continued for about 2km until we reached an irrigation ditch where it finally bore off away from the road.

The ride was about 25km more than I had estimated and about 35km m ore than my legs really wanted. At least the roads were flat until the last 15km and it stayed mostly cloudy. I had hoped to stop at a dairy or takeaway for lunch and kept looking at my AA map for places (yellow dots) that seemed like towns, but they were all just yellow dots on the map.

Fortunately, I had stopped at a dairy at the end of the road from Miranda and picked up an extra 1.5 liter bottle of water and I sure was glad to have it. I went through just about all of it before I reached the next store, just outside of Te Aroha, where I was able to guzzle down a sports drink, have a sandwich, and a cookie before going the last 10km to the campground.

So far, the riding has been very different from the North Island and it seems that it will get even more different. On my South island ride, I could count on finding a tea room or dairy or at least a petrol station every 25km or so, so I had a chance to rest and refuel. I think that because it is so much more crowded on the North Island and and there is more traffic, the small spots (yellow dots) that would have had a store have disappeared and people just drive to the bigger towns.

In looking at the map, trying to plan a route that has days that are not to long, but still end with a campground or hostel (none yet), I haven't been able to find short routes. The campgrounds and hostels are completely clustered in tourist areas, where there was always something, even in the smaller towns on the South Island (maybe it is generally more rural touristy).

After I got to the Te Aroha Holiday Park and set up my tent, I had to return to the town, about 3km away, to get some food as there were no shops nearby, not even the most rudimentary camp shop. By the time I got back to town, it was after 4pm. I stopped and got some fruits and veges at the local Fruit & Veg, by-passed the butcher and went to the Woolworths supermarket. I wanted to get more groceries and some meat to make a curry (from a can), but the Woolworths only sold portions that were much to large (my refrigeration is non-existent, so saving any is out). I got my other groceries and headed back to the butcher only to find that the main street in Te Arhoa closes at 5pm (it being 5:05 at that point).

I had an onion, a carrot and a packet of tuna, so dinner was carrot and tuna roganjosh.

Tomorrow it's off to Matamata, a town I don't think we've stopped in before, but it is a much shorter ride.

Here's today's album, not very interesting: