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.

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