16 – 28 January, 2014 – We arrived early in the morning at Auckland airport, assembled our bikes at a nearby bike shop after a huge fight with the Indian taxi driver over the rate (he charged twice as much as was shown on his meter and got upset when Johan friendly asked for an explanation!). In the early afternoon we cycled about 25km to our hosts Leanne, Dave and their five kids where we would spend three nights to rest, repack and plan our trip through New Zealand. They were wonderful hosts and we are glad we’ll see them again at the end of our trip (photo will follow then as well).
On the day we left Auckland we met a nice couple from Tauranga at a petrol station who invited us to stay at their home once we would arrive there. How lucky we were once again! From then on we would almost every day meet a nice person who would do something for us: offer us a place to stay, share food with us or check out camping possibilities. So far, so very hospitable, this country number 19!
But before we got to Tauranga we had to cope with hurricane June. We were at the small town Paeroa, world famous in New Zealand for its L&P lemonade, which we got to try at our first hosts, and it has been raining and storming almost all afternoon. Luckily the campsite rented campervans for just 20 Dollars and we thought ourselves lucky once again. Until June hit at night. It was one of our scariest experiences we’ve had on this trip as the cabin would move heavily in the storm and we expected any minute to just roll over with it. At one point the power went off with huge lightning from the nearby power cables and for the next hours the power went on and off, each time accompanied by lightning and scary noises. We hardly slept that night and stayed another night to rest as we didn’t think we could cope so tired with the difficult road ahead. We had to take one of the busiest highways of the north island, also dubbed the suicide highway. We obviously survived it but it wasn’t fun at all as traffic was heavy, fast and at the most dangerous parts of the road there was no shoulder. At lunchtime we met a German couple with their two children cycling three months in New Zealand, on this very same road. We hope they made it safely as well!
In Tauranga we stayed two nights with Joy and Peter, who invited us earlier in Auckland. We also visited the town and its famous mount, and cycled along beautiful beaches. The next day we would leave the coast to get to the volcanic area in the center of the island. Before we reached Rotorua, the stinky city, we stayed with ex-colleague Frederik and his family who contacted us when he heard we would be travelling through New Zealand. We spent a nice evening with them – eating Belgian French fries amongst other things 🙂 – and continued to Rotorua the following morning.
The town itself isn’t really nice, it is more the Maori culture, that is attracting tourists, as the town has one of the highest Maori populations in the country. And of course the thermal activity that comes with the smell. That is really something amazing. You can see the steam from far away and it stinks everywhere like rotten eggs, it’s the hydrogen sulphide and not some other’s wind, as one might think first.
We also visited Wai-O-Tapu, dubbed the Thermal Wonderland. The area is literally covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. The area with many lakes is very colourful, the colours given by different minerals. It’s been a very fascinating experience for both of us, as we’ve never seen anything like this before. It is really amazing what mother nature is able to produce!
Before our highlight of the north island, the Tongariro crossing, we stopped for two nights in Taupo, where we stayed with Toni and Llewyn. They both cycled from the UK to Malaysia a few years ago and Toni is Joy’s niece, that’s how we happened to meet this lovely couple!
16 January, Auckland airport – Auckland: 29km
17/18 January, Auckland, rest days
19 January, Auckland – Orere Point, 87km
20 January, Orere Point – Paeroa, 86km
21 January, Paeroa, restday
22 January, Paeroa – Tauranga, 84km
23 January, Tauranga, 35km
24 January, Tauranga – Hamurana, 53km
25 January, Hamurana – Rotorua, 36km
26 January, Rotorua – Wairakei, 86km
27 January, Wairakei – Taupo, 16km
28 January, Taupo, restday
Total distances cycled: 20,727km of which 553km in New Zealand