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:

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