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.

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