Written Saturday night, Feb 12:
Day 1 Friday, Feb 11: We left our dear friend Rob in Auckland yesterday morning with our bike boxes, Clif bars, and a new pint glass (they’re pretty rare in nz, but rob really likes them). He guided us to the edge of Auckland city limits to the road to papakuru. David, donning his neon coors light bike jersey and I, donning my USA bike jersey were on the road again! The sun was shining, the humidity moderate but not overbearing, and our morale was high. We stopped in a town called papatoetoe at a fruit stand and bought our first nz fruit… rock melon. We asked the young lady if the one we chose was right and she nonchalantly knocked on it and grunted. I guess that meant yes. It looks like a football shaped melon on the outside and underripe cantelope on the inside. but it tastes BLAND. like wow, I thought cucumbers were bland, but this was just negative flavor with no juicyness. But it was slightly chilled and food so I ate it all, including Davids half that he generously offered me. We were energized, recharged and riding again, chanting “USA! USA! USA!” not stopping until we reached a beautiful park across from the train station in papakuru. We relaxes under a shady tree, checked our map, to get directions to our next destination… the hunua falls where there supposedly was camping. Once we were out of the town papakuru, we were off of the main road where there were tons of cars, and in the midst of a hilly, windy, 2 lane road. The hills, though nothing more hilly than big sur, were brutal. Day 1 back on the bikes after a week in Manhattan beach was a rude reminder of how difficult fully loaded bike touring is.
We stopped along the side of the road and Davids moral was low… he contemplated ditching his beloved boombox on the side of the road to lessen his load… if I could only put into words the trouble and great lengths David went through to get this perfect boombox (3 failed attempts because other boomboxes were too big, not loud enough, or didn’t use batteries), the turmoil it caused because I hated it and thought it was so unnecessary, and the amount of wear and tear the boombox had been through on our ride down the coast… I couldn’t believe that on day 1 it had come to this… ditching the boombox. And the most bizarre part of the situation is that I couldn’t believe how much I wanted him to keep it. I asked him if he would regret it later and he said no. And then I told him to imagine us lounging at the beach with the boombox… how sweet that would be. He looked away wistfully and said, ok ill keep it. And with that we were off again, through pastures of farmland and sheep and cows and horses, through mountains of the most luscious, diverse, alive forests I’ve ever seen, to a little store near the turnoff to go to the hunua waterfalls. And in there were the most succulent plums. SO SATISFYING. It was starting to get late so we hi tailed it to the falls. And it was huuuuge!! The waterfall was so massive, and filled up a pool of water that continued down a stream. Looking up at it, I felt like I was an ant in the bottom of a huge cereal bowl getting milk poured into it. We wanted to go swimming but decided we shouldn’t because we needed to find a place to camp. Unfortunately no camping at the falls… we figured 2 hrs left until dark gave us just enough time to backtrack up the steeep hill we had just come down from the main road. We went a little further to the next turnoff, cruising, and yelling This is THE Liiife!!
Just then, our luck took a turn for the worse… in fact, the worst. The paved road turned into a gravel road with a steep incline that we had to walk our bikes up. We didn’t know how far the campsite was, so we trudged. And trudged. And trudged. With every step we took we were one step further towards never going back… to fully committing. We finally made it to the top of the hill where we were advised by some mountain bikers that the campsite was 2 km all the way down the backside of the hill. We would have to walk our bikes down because our tires just wouldn’t hold up and had yet another moment of truth. We could have pitched a tent where we were at the top,
but decided to go to the campsite for water and to hopefully hitch a ride back the next morning… we continued trudging, the sun went down, it was pitch black, and finally we arrived at the campgrounds aka fenced off meadow… exhausted and starving. Unlike campgrounds in USA, there are no designated spots, no tables and really nothing much at all except a bench, a bbq pit and a bathroom. David set up the tent, and i made dinner of easy mac n cheese, we grabbed and crashed. Right we laid down it started raining and it continued to rain throughout the night. The rain fly was on the tent, but water managed to collect on the bottom of the tarp and seep through the bottom of the tent overnight…
Day 2, Saturday Feb 13: we awoke, ate some oatmeal, as David turned on the boombox and put his I pod on shuffle, the first song we heard was Born in the USA by good ol Bruce Springstein. Things were looking up. We packed up and a couple pulled up in an off roaring car with their mountain bikes. They were super friendly, Bob and Di, and offered to give us a ride back up the hill after we helplessly told them our predicament. We are forever grateful to them and to show them this, we gifted them 5 Clif bars! (A win win since it lightened the load a little bit).
We wanted to take it easy today since the night before had been so traumatic, so we biked just 30 miles to the hotsprings at Miranda. A commercialized geothermal spot that was our oasis. Nz radio was blasting the best of the 90s tunes, and we loooved it. In fact, we might spend the next five weeks there! Jk. On our way out of the hot springs we began chatting with a family, who then offered us our choice of their 100 acre lawn to camp on just 5 km down the road! They have 200 dairy cows! So here we are, blessed to be in a country where the people are so generous and kind. There’s no other place I’d rather be.