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:

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