Around the Mountains (Day 1)

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I have conflicting feeling about starting tours. I’m excited to get going, I’m worried that I’ve forgotten something vital and I’m sad to be leaving Coo behind. On this occasion I was also stressed because the scrambled eggs wouldn’t cook and I had a ferry to catch. You see…

We were staying with Machete & Bec in Queenstown. The four of us, plus four more of The Pirate City Rollers finest roller derby players had just completed the Routeburn Track the day before. And now I was setting off by myself, to ride Around the Mountains. I was catching The Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu so I abandoned the eggs to Coo and scampered out the door. Bec told me it was best to ride in to town on the trails rather than the road. So I did, until I lost them around the airport and rode the rest of the way on the proper road. I had a couple of things to do in town – first, I bought some food. And second, pick up my camera (that I had somehow left behind) from the post office. I didn’t have much time before the ferry left, so I was anxiously waiting in the queue when an older couple came in. They had the air of people who were unfamiliar with the place and they sounded European, so I tried to stay in front of them, assuming they might be awkward customers. I succeeded, and as I scampered out, tearing the bubble-wrap off my camera, I could hear a man yelling in what might have been a Belgian accent “IS THIS BONK?”. I got to the ferry just in time to line up behind a million tourists waiting to board.

I made it safely on, stowed my bike and fought my way to the refreshments bar to buy a cup of tea and a muffin. The ferry was crammed with people and the only seat I could find was downstairs on a pleasantly warm bench, facing the water. I was just finishing my tea when I was forced to accept that the the formerly pleasant bench was now in fact burning my arse (damn steam-powered vessels) and I spent the rest of the journey standing upstairs leaning against a banister

I got off the ferry Walter Peak, left the tourists in the gift shop, said hello to a couple of sheep out the back, and got on the road. The scenery was beautiful, the sky was bluer than the National Party logo, and the mountains were more spectacular than Mike Hosking’s ego. My plan was to ride 60km to the Mavora Lakes, camp for the night, ride 120km the next day to Kingston and camp again, then ride the 40km back to Queenstown the following day. Where I would stay in relative luxury (something with a roof and walls perhaps?) before flying back to Auckland.PB220009.jpgI was trying not to make the same mistake I made last time I visited this part of NZ, which was to have an overly ambitious but inflexible plan. But it was starting to look like I might have done exactly the same thing this time. The first day should be fine, but tomorrow looked hard. And riding along (up?) the ominously named ‘Devils Staircase’ amongst tour buses and tourists sounded scary.PB220010.jpgIt was a great start to the ride though – I had the road almost to myself, as it led me down the side of Lake Wakatipu. There was quite a headwind which slowed me down, but I was in no big hurry. According to the Kennetts, there was only one significant hill I needed to get over, but it wasn’t until the road turned away from the lake. I saw a few other cyclists going in the opposite direction but they didn’t appear to be traveling far.PB220014.jpgAfter a while the road indeed turned left and started to climb and I wondered if that was the ‘significant hill’. It wasn’t too steep, although I did have to slow down when I was surrounded by hundreds of sheep who were all on their way somewhere. I didn’t see any people (or dogs) around so I didn’t know what prompted this expedition. One of them was limping a bit so I tried avoid her. But sheep have a way of always going where you want to go, and you would rather they didn’t go.PB220019.jpgOver the hill and past the sheep I rode through a beautiful valley. There was a river on my right and cows on my left. The wind had gone to bother some other cyclists or ruffle a cat’s fur, or maybe give a hawk that extra bit of lift it’s looking for, so I made better progress. Then the road started to go up quite steeply and I eventually realised that this was the ‘significant climb’. I knew it was a ‘significant climb’ when I had to stop for a little rest. At the crest of the hill I could see the road stretching for miles in to the distance between mountain ranges. It looked amazing and the wind had finished it’s business elsewhere and returned, this time to give me a push and I flew down the road.PB220026.jpgIt was brilliant riding all the way to the Mavora Lakes turnoff where I was suddenly cycling through a forest next to a lake.PB230029.jpgAs I put up my tent, it became apparent that this area’s reputation for being popular with sandflies is well deserved. So I hid in my tent and ate noodles. Pretty soon I was lying down. Not long after that I was reading, and drifting off to sleep.

Route here.

More pictures here.

The Worst Shortcut

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Generally speaking, I like a shortcut. I enjoy the little surge of smug pleasure I get when riding along a little path between two city streets that people driving cars can’t use. Or riding down a backstreet that means I can avoid a nasty intersection or a steep hill. Like using Sarawia Street in Parnell to avoid cycling down Broadway, or that path between Sylvan Avenue East and Sylvan Avenue West in Eden Terrace. But some shortcuts turn out to be slippery slopes that begin with overconfident foolishness and end in misery. Let me tell you about one of those.
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Back in November of last year, I thought it would be interesting to see if I could find a better route through the Hunuas. I had tried Hunua Rd (ok but a bit busy) and the Tour Aotearoa Route (scenic but hilly) but recently I had been in the area and made a typical navigational error, which took me some way up Ponga Rd. Which was both scenic and quiet. When I looked at a map later, it turned out that Ponga Rd joined Hunua Rd further up and looked worth exploring. So on a drizzly Saturday morning I trundled my newly resurrected old Bridgestone MB4 off the train in Papakura and set off South West. Ponga Rd was indeed a nice way to go and I was nearly at the top when I got a phone call from Guy, saying he was keen to come for a ride and would meet me at the Upper Mangatawhiri Dam. So I kept riding while he drove down with his bike in the back of his car. We duly met up and pedaled to the top of the dam and then up Lilburn Road.
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It was a nice gravel road that led up a hill along the side of the reservoir. When we got to Piggots Hut, there were some trampers having lunch. We wandered around a bit and looked inside the hut. There were a couple of bunks, a tiny christmas tree and bugger all else. The ultimate destination I had in mind when I set off in the morning was the far end of Mine Road. I had been part way down there before (walking) but I wanted to go all the way to where I hoped the ‘mine’ would be. But to get there, we would have to ride all the way back down to the dam, and then up the northern side of the reservoir. I had a look at the map painted on a sign outside the hut, and it showed a track that would take us from where we were, to Mine Rd. Aha! A shortcut! So I walked over and had a look at the entrance to the track. Unfortunately it was just a walking track and not suitable for cycling. So that was disappointing. But Guy had the same idea and he was not daunted by what was clearly just a walking track.

“Lets give it a try.” he said.
“Umm…” I replied.
“There might be a bit of pushing.” he suggested.
“Uh… Okay.” I mumbled tentatively.
“So this is a joint decision?” said Guy.
“Sure.” I replied, thinking that we might be making a huge mistake and I was just accepting half the responsibility.

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And that was it, we were off down the track and had to get off immediately and carry our bikes up some steps. At the top of the steps we could ride briefly before getting off to push for a bit. We passed the first hour or so that way – cheerfully pushing our bikes, riding occasionally and carrying them up various steps.
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Then we came upon a seat in a small clearing at the top of a hill. It had a nice view across the reservoir so we stopped to drink some water and consult my topo map. Which gave me a somewhat different perspective to the map on the sign outside Piggots Hut. That map, it seemed, was more symbolic than accurate. My map was also (as the name would suggest) more topographic, and showed several hills on our route. I started to feel the first twinges of concern, but Guy and I said things to each other like “Well we’ve come this far” and “It’s probably not much further” and then kept going. And the path deteriorated and we were doing more carrying and less pushing and no riding. We passed some more trampers going in the opposite direction who were (understandably) surprised to see bicycles. By this time I was no longer enjoying myself and was treating this as a part of the journey that I would just have to put up with to get where we wanted to go. Then it go a lot worse. The track had pretty much disappeared and now there was just bush with triangles on trees every now & then and the hills got really steep. So steep that just walking would have been hard work, but dragging bikes along was just awful.
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It’s something that I hadn’t really appreciated before, how your friendly and docile bicycle, your useful assistant in daily travel, changes when the terrain no longer suits it. Your bike becomes an awkward, pointy, scratchy, worse-than-deadweight that seems to be actively trying to hurt you. All the time. The pedals are constantly scraping your legs, the handlebars keep swinging around to poke you in the chest or crush your fingers. Getting a rabid cat in to a bath would be more fun. The hills were so steep going down that at times I could just lay my bike (that I now kind of hated) on it’s side and let it slide down through the dirt and leaves until it would get caught on a tree root or something, and then I’d slither down after it and try and untangle it. At one point, Guy said to me from up ahead “I think I’m getting the rhythm of this” and immediately fell over. I was too tired to laugh so I just thought sarcastic things like “Oh, and falling down is part of the rhythm?”. And so it went on for actual hours, hills, valleys, falling over, bikes scratching and biting us. It was truly horrible.
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Eventually I started to worry that we would have to spend the night in the bush, or abandon our bikes. We had started ‘The Shortcut of Horror’ (as I now thought of it) at about 1pm and six hours later we were still in the bush. After a a particularly steep climb, where I had to carry my the MB4 on my shoulder & stop every few meters to rest, Guy (who was coping better than me) said he’d go on ahead and see if we were near the road. I reluctantly agreed, worrying about being left alone in the bush. He came back within 20min or so with the glorious news that it wasn’t much further ahead. With Guy carrying some of my stuff, I struggled along the last bit of “track” and emerged thankfully on to Mine Road.
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By this time it was dusk. The ‘shortcut’ had taken us seven and a half hours to traverse (I checked later and the distance we had covered in that time was about 7km). We still had 10km left to ride, to get back to where Guy’s car was parked and I expected this to be really hard after our ordeal in the bush. But the gravel roads transformed our bikes back in to efficient vehicles, carrying us quickly and pleasantly along through the gathering dark. We had such a great ride that it almost overtook the certainty that this had been The Worst Ride Ever.
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Ride here.

Bike Camping in Miranda

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Some time ago, I started a bicycle club. It was an offshoot from Tumeke Cycle Space, an opportunity I thought, for us volunteers to get together and go for some rides. Either around Auckland or further afield. So far the club has no rules, no official positions, no logo and no regular meetings. What generally happens is that someone has an idea for a ride, they talk to some others via a Loomio group or in person. And then those who want to go, go. It was Alex R’s idea to go for a camping overnight in August. I suggested taking the train to Papakura and then cycling down to Miranda, staying at the campground and riding back the next day. Others said they were keen. Then an astute member pointed out that they were no trains going to Papakura that weekend. Let’s ride all the way(!) I suggested. Thinking quietly to myself that 100km each way might be quite hard. Alex R and Josca both expressed their enthusiasm and we met in Onehunga on Saturday morning, ready to go.
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I didn’t know what would be the best route to the Hunuas, so I copied the one taken by riders in the Tour Aotearoa. This passes through Onehunga, past the airport, down Puhunui Rd, up a hill in Pakuranga and through Totara Park. I wasn’t familiar with Totara park at all, but actually, it’s pretty nice. We did have a little incident when we came upon a dog running about, barking at some some cows. So I leaned over the fence and yelled really loudly and angrily at it to “GETOUTATTHERE”. And the dog ran away.
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Soon after that we started to leave suburbia behind and roll in to ‘The Country’. This part of ‘The Country’ has quite a lot of traffic in it though, and it wasn’t until we turned off the Papakura-Clevedon Road and on to Ardmore Quarry Rd that things quietened down. There were no cars, lovely scenery, creepy abandoned houses in the bush – now this was more like it. There were also some steep hills and a bit of getting lost, before arriving in Hunua, where Josca purchased a cup of coffee.
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From there we rode down the Paparimu Valley and out to the coast, pausing fairly briefly to fix a puncture on Josca’s rear tyre while Alex disappeared off in to the distance. Alex was in more of a hurry to get to our destination, mostly I think due to his unwise decision to use this trip to ‘break in’ a new Brooks saddle. When we caught up with him a few kms from the campground, he complained about us being slow so I told him about Josca’s puncture and tried to make him feel bad for not coming back to see if we were ok.
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The campground in Miranda was nice, although quite big and busy. There were lots of campervans, and buses full of a children’s softball team (we got to know them a little better later on when they stole our table in the kitchen and their parents had a really loud birthday party). On the up side, you could buy beer from the camp office and children aren’t allowed in the hot pool after 8pm. The hot pool by the way, is really nice, particularly after a long day on a bicycle. Josca, Alex and I floated around for quite some time talking a lot of boring shit about bikes for an hour or two before retiring to our respective tents.
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The next morning we scoffed a First Breakfast in the campground kitchen, before heading back to Auckland. We paused for a little while on the way at the Miranda Farm Stop, where we had Second Breakfast (tea & scones) and again at the garage opposite that weird, tacky (and now closed) ice-cream place that looks a bit like a castle. We were a bit slower, and a bit more chatty riding back. The weather was pleasant and the road was quiet all the way up to Hunua, where we stopped for more food (a nice cheese & onion pastie for me). It was even quieter through the back roads down to Ardmore, the only significant event being Josca getting another puncture.
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From Ardmore to Pakuranga wasn’t very pleasant – too much traffic going too fast. Alex & Josca were ahead of me as we entered Totara Park and they went the wrong way. So while I retraced our route through the lovely park, taking a little detour to the top of the hill, they were climbing fences and struggling across fields. I met up with them again at the park gate and didn’t gloat at all. The stretch from Pakuranga, past the airport to Onehunga felt like a slog, and as we rode up the hill through the Onehunga Mall, Alex said goodbye and turned left to make his way home. Then Josca turned off too, while I continued up to Cornwall Park & back to my house.
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Route here.

More pictures here.

The Road to Trollville

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I was at Tumeke Cycle Space the other day (either selflessly helping someone or standing uselessly around) when I mentioned something about “cycling through the Hunuas”. Guy pointed out that I hadn’t really cycled through the Hunuas – I had cycled around them. Ok, I thought, fine I thought, I’ll show you who can ride through them. So on a rainy Saturday morning, I packed a couple of peanut butter & cheese sandwiches in to my bag, filled 3 waterbottles and got on the train. I disembarked in Papakura and rode off up the hill to Hunua, and then down towards the dams. I hung a left in to Moumoukai Rd and visited the Wairoa Dam.
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After basking in the morning sunshine for a bit, I followed the gravel road to the scenic Upper Mangatawhiri Reservoir.
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At the western end of the dam, I rode along the unexpectedly beautiful Waterline Rd.
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As I puffed my way to the top of the hill, it started to rain. So I had a little break. I ate a sandwich, put my jacket on and then remounted my bike & turned right on to Keeney Rd, which was a much less pleasant grade of gravel.
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If the rocks are the size of cricket balls, is it still gravel? I’m not sure if bicycles are really welcome on that road – I saw some signs with bikes on, some signs with bikes with lines through them. Also the native bush had turned in to pine plantation, so I suspect that some logging goes on here sometimes.
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Eventually the road improved and I emerged from the forest in the artisanal Ness Valley. I could tell it was the Ness Valley because I saw some artisanal water buffalo. I also rode through a monkey’s wedding, and set a record for slowest ever Strava ride through the area (hurrah!).
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Cycling from there to Papakura seemed like hard work, maybe there was a headwind, maybe I was just tired. But when I actually got to Papakura it felt too early to get on the train, so I thought I’d ride home. I’m not very familiar with that part of Auckland so I took the simplest route north – the Great South Rd. Which started off ok with some cycle lanes, but they disappeared around Te Mahia, and the local car drivers started to get a little too aggressive. So I ducked off to the Te Mahia railway station, which I think might be the horriblest railway station in Auckland.
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After about 20 minutes a train arrived and took me safely north to Puhuniu, where I got off to go looking for a shortcut between McLaughlins Rd and Prices Rd. I had tried to find this before, searching from Puhunui Reserve, but without success. After circling the area for some time, going in all sorts of wrong directions, I finally found the entrance to a reserve off Aerovista Place.
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My joy at finding it was somewhat tempered by the fact that it’s not a very nice reserve. There was a bundle of clothes in the bushes that I at first assumed was a dead body, then there was a scary bridge (that could easily have trolls living under) leading to a dead end.
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I eventually got on the right path, that turned out to be signposted as part of the Te Araroa Trail(!). But after a few minutes the trail ended and the place where the shortcut should have been, turned out to be a big muddy field with sheep in that I had to push my bike across. At the other side of the field, I lifted my bike over a fence, climbed over myself and found a sign telling me I had just crossed some private property. So I give up, there’s no shortcut.
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Prices Road was nice enough though, with it’s alpacas, horses and aeroplanes. And then I just had to ride the back way through the airport, and through Mangere & Onehunga back to town.
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So I think that a) there’s definitely more exploring to be done in the Hunuas, and b) I really need to find a better route from Papakura in to town.

Route here.

The Cheese Run

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It was sunny in Pukekohe when we got off the train. Sunny and cold. Cold enough to put a layer of ice crystals on the handrails at the station, and for puddles to have frozen over. As Emilio and I rode off in the direction of Tuakau, I could hear him shivering behind me and cursing his own foolishness in not bringing any gloves. I wasn’t quite so cold inside my Buffalo jacket, but still keen to get moving and warm up a bit.

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The road to Tuakau is a little too busy on a Saturday morning, but as soon as we got over the bridge, things were quieter. And mistier, and more mysterious and beautiful.
There was no wind and mist was sitting like polyester fill over the countryside.
We rode up the hill and then down another hill and across the river to Mercer. To the cheese shop. While we coasted down, the fog condensed in to droplets on my eyelashes.
The Mercer cheese shop is my favourite cheese shop. I like the modest signage, the obscure location, the honest staff (sample conversation – me: “Is the wasabi cheese nice?”, staff member: “Not really.”) and of course, the excellent cheese. As the character Della says in the TV series ‘Raised By Wolves’ – “In my book, if you can’t handle cheese, you can’t handle life.”
With the cheese purchased and stuffed in to my front bag, we went for a little ride down the road next to the river. I love the way the landscape looks in fog – things in the distance disappear, and things close up look like they’ve been clear cut. We saw some horses.
Some toilets made from concrete watertanks, marked “Wahine” and “Tane” looked beautiful.
So did this hill with a tall flagpole/cross on it.Then we rode up and over the highway toward Maramarua. The road rose taking us out of the mist, and the sun first pushed through gaps in the trees and then came out completely.It was a lovely day for riding up the Paparimu valley, through the Hunuas and on to Papakura. Where we caught the train back to town.And what kind of cheese did I buy? Mature Gouda, Nettle, and Goat Supreme. All of which were brilliant.Route here.
More pictures here.

Coromandel, the Hard Way

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It was early on the Sunday afternoon of Queen’s Birthday weekend, and Guy & I were chatting with the local park ranger at Fletcher Bay. We were lying on the grass congratulating ourselves on completing a ridiculously difficult section of our weekend tour and feeding bits of apple to some ducks.
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Ranger – So where have you ridden from?
Us – Stony Bay.
Ranger – Yeah that track’s pretty hard.
Us – Well it’s a big hill.
Ranger – Hill? You took the walking track didn’t you?
Us – No, the the mountain bike track.
Ranger – The mountain bike track? What, over the hill?
Us – Yes.
Ranger – Really? You rode over the hill?
Us – Yes.
Ranger – Oh, um, we always tell people not to go up there. It’s too hard. We tell them to take the walking track.
Us – It is quite hard. You should tell the people who look after the Stony Bay campground, they’ve got a sign up telling people on bikes that they have to take the mountain bike track.
Ranger – Oh… Ok… I’ll have a word with them.
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This whole thing had started when I was talking to Guy at a Sunday afternoon shift at Tumeke Cycle Space. He asked if I was keen to go for a ride around the Coromandel Peninsula. I said I was keen. He said that it would probably be quite hard, because there would be several thousand meters of climbing. I said that would be fine. So I bought a sleeping bag, borrowed a tent, packed my stuff on to the Space Horse and cycled over to Guy’s house early on Saturday morning. The drive down to Coromandel Township was beautiful. I’m always reluctant to get up early, but it’s always worth it. There was plenty of mist covering parts of Auckland, the sun came out as we sped over the Bombay Hills, and the mist returned as we descended toward the Hauraki Plains. It was freezing, even the cows looked cold.
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After getting our bikes loaded up, our first challenge was to get over the Coromandel ranges between Coromandel Township and Kennedy Bay. This wasn’t too hard, despite our bikes being fairly heavy. But we established as we coasted down to Kennedy Bay that I’m a much more timid descender than Guy. I could blame the narrower tyres on my bike, but I don’t think I will.
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Kennedy Bay was very quiet – a few houses, one dog, no people and nice marae. There was very little traffic around as we headed North toward Stony Bay. Not surprising really as the quality of the ‘road’ deteriorated significantly. Sometimes we would pass through a bay with some houses and tar-seal, but then the gravel would return and the size of the rocks making up the gravel would increase.
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The hills were pretty steep too. So it was a relief to arrive in Stony Bay  at about 5 in the afternoon. It’s a beautiful place with a big campground. I pitched my tent, Guy set up his hammock, and we ate our dinner on the stone & driftwood covered beach.
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I woke up just before dawn on Sunday morning and wandered down to the beach. It was nice. Then Guy fell down a bank and met me on the beach for breakfast. It was pretty cold, but not cold enough to deter some backpackers from going swimming and taking pictures of each other. I wonder what the hashtags were? #nothypothermia? #shivveringissexy?
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It was about 10am by the time we packed up and got on our bikes. There is a walking track that goes from Stony Bay to Fletcher Bay via a fairly flat route around the coast. There is also a designated mountain bike track that takes a different route (over the top of a 500m hill). There’s a DOC sign at the start of the walking track saying that people on bikes should take the MTB track. So we did.
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The track started somewhat inauspiciously with a couple of rivers to ford. Then it went uphill a bit. Then it went uphill a lot. In fact it wasn’t long before the track was stretching ahead of us like a big clay ski jump.
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Parts of it were as rideable as a ski jump too. So we walked. And rode, and walked. It was all very difficult. Finally we made it to the top, and stopped for something to eat. When we continued riding, it became clear that we were still some distance from the top. Which was very disappointing.
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Finally we got to the real summit. Helluva view.
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Descending to Fletcher Bay wasn’t quite as fun for me as it was for Guy. He immediately tore off downhill, brakes squeaking loudly enough for me to keep track of him (and frighten the sheep). While I went much more carefully, even (ahem) walking at times.
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After a rest and (the previously related) conversation with the ranger in Fletcher Bay, we rode the remaining 60km to Coromandel Township.
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The road along the coastline to Colville was lovely, one of the most spectacular rides I’ve ever been on.
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The last 25km or so was hard – we were tired, it was cold, it was dark. Guy actually whooped when we arrived in Coromandel at about 7:30pm. Fair enough I thought.
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Would I recommend this ride to other people? Not really. The section from Coromandel to Stony Bay was nice but hilly, the section from Fletcher Bay back to Coromandel was lovely. The mountain bike track from Stony Bay to Fletcher Bay? No, I wouldn’t do that again. Not with a bike. I reckon it would be nice to ride up the Western coast, camp at Fletcher Bay, walk over to Stony Bay and back. And then cycle back the same way. I might do that one day.

Route here

More pictures here

Papakura to Miranda

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As I may have mentioned before, I’m not really a summer person. Hot weather makes me whiny and listless. Occasionally I venture out on my bike, but such outings often end in humiliation thanks to my tendency to sweat a lot. Witness a recent ride out to The Trusts Stadium in Henderson on a sunny afternoon – upon my arrival an acquaintance asked if it was raining outside (because I was all wet). It wasn’t. But when autumn was rumored to have begun, it seemed like a good time to go for a long ride. Somewhere new perhaps – how about Papakura to Miranda & back?
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I duly caught the train to Papakura early on a Saturday morning and rode off in the direction of the Hunua Ranges. It was a beautiful morning. The sun slowly rising in to a clear blue sky, mist nestling in the valley, magpies were quardle oodle ardle wardle doodling all around. All this peace was regularly shattered by trucks bellowing their way up to the Hunua Quarry. Once I got past the quarry the road was quieter, and it was a pleasant ride up to the top of the Hunuas and down though the Paparimu valley.
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There was some confusion and riding in circles when I reached Lyons Rd, because the route I had planned on Ride with GPS told me to go straight ahead. But in the real world there’s no actual road there. It wasn’t a huge deal, but although I’ve heard of theses GPS-type issues, I’d never come across one before.
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The old highway from Mangatawhiri had more traffic on, but it also had a wider shoulder. From Rawiri to Miranda the road was fairly quiet, although at least half the cars I saw were on some kind of rally. I think it was a rally for cars from the 70s & 80s that had been fitted loud exhausts and lots of stickers. I finally made it to the coast and the Shore Bird Centre about 11:30am. I spent a few minutes wandering around looking at stuffed birds (those Caspian Terns are big aren’t they?) before embarking on the return journey.
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By this stage I had realised that all this had been a huge mistake. This wasn’t autumn, it was still summer and I was like a snowball in hell. Or like a person who was too hot and far from home in the midday sun. Also I was quite tired. So I pulled in to the Miranda Farm Stop for a rest and some things to eat & drink. It seemed like a good strategy would be to take the return journey in stages – ride for a bit, sit down in the shade drinking for a bit. Repeat. I discovered that schools are handy places when you’re out on the road. They have shade, shelter and drinking fountains.
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In this way I rode back to Mangatawhiri and up the Paparimu valley, all the way to the top of the Hunuas. I stopped there to drink ginger beer and talk to the woman who runs the shop, who told me that she also breeds goats. I also chatted to a woman from Kaiaua outside the shop. She corrected me when I said I had cycled out to the Miranda Shore Bird Centre – “It’s now called The Pokorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre” she said. And so it is. She also the listed the attractions that Kaiaua has to offer the passing cyclist. A campground, dairy, garage, and a fish & chip shop. I remembered visiting that fish & chip shop about 25 years ago. The food was good, but parked outside was a ute loaded with a couple of dead and bloody wild pigs.
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Coasting down the Papakura side of the Hunuas in the late afternoon was a pleasant relief from all the uphill, and I had a little rest at the railway station before catching the 6pm train home. On the whole, I thought the roads were ok – not too much traffic and with some nice scenery. The only unpleasant incident on the ride was when a white cabbage butterfly smacked me right in the face on the ride back. Fortunately I was wearing a proctective beard which saved me from serious injury. Imagine if it had been monarch (butterfly)!

Route here.

The Twin Streams to Hendo

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Recently, my fellow cyclist Emilio and I went for a Thursday evening ride along the Twin Streams Shared Path. I can’t really handle hot weather so I suggested that we go after the 5:30-7pm Tumeke shift, hoping it would be cooler then. When we met at the workshop, there was an ominously dark cloud bank looming out west, and light showers were wandering through Newton. It was still pretty warm though, and much too humid.
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First, we rode along the Western Cycleway out to the Te Atatu interchange, then along Royal View Road to the Eastern end of the Twin Streams Trail. The WS is looking pretty good these days apart from the detour around Western Springs that’s been there so long it’s a Strava segment (called ‘Leightons Annoyance’, for some reason).
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We were chatting the whole way, the kind of things men usually talk about when they get together – the Argentinian economy, awful bosses, how yoga classes in Auckland are way too expensive, Emilio’s father-in-law and his infuriating search for a flowering Pohutakawa tree, how I learned to really like birds,  and my friend’s dodgy Peruvian ex-boyfriend. For this reason we were riding pretty slowly and by the time we got to Henderson it was dark, and we missed a turn off. We ended up off the Twin Streams and halfway up Henderson Valley Road. So we gave up and rode back (getting lost several times on the way).
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I rode back out there the next evening by myself, and made it all the way to  the end of the trail at Palm Heights while it was still light, and took some pictures. I thought it was a very nice ride – pleasant scenery, very flat, not too busy (at least in the evening). Would definitely ride again, perhaps with more people and a picnic.
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More pictures here.

Route here.

Monsieur Peugeot

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Do you wish your bikes could talk? I don’t. I’m pretty sure that if they could, mine would just complain. About the parts I’ve taken off them, the bits I’ve put on that they weren’t designed for and the fact that I hardly ever wash them. Take M. Peugeot for instance… I bought him a few years ago from a woman in Hamilton who I suspect had never ridden him, but perhaps found him in a shed. I think I paid about $150 after being the only bidder on TradeMe. He looked like this.
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Despite his sad state, he had clearly been owned by an enthusiast at some point. The Brooks saddle did not accompany him out of the Peugeot factory in the mid seventies and nor, I suspect, did the nice SunTour VX front & rear deraileurs or the Sugino Super Maxy crankset. When I first fixed him up, I just put on some new tyres, cables, moustache handlebars and brake levers. Compared to my other bikes he was fast, smooth and long-legged. A bit of a tourer. We rode around the city, and he was my assistant for my first Velociteer performance. Then I came across some genuine Peugeot mudguards, put those on, attached a dynamo to power the  beautiful front light, and changed the shifters to bar-ends.
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These modifications made him more practical, but he was a bit awkaward to ride – mostly thanks to that crankset with it’s stupid huge 53T outer ring. After converting the Roadrat in to a semi-offroad touring thing, I needed a bicycle that was better suited to riding to work. So I bought a bunch of parts and made M. Peugeot in to an ancient-looking but with some actually-very-modern components, commuting/general purpose bike.
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He was fitted with a dynamo front hub, powering front & rear LED lights, a nice 48/34 PlanetX crankset, Tektro Dual Pivot caliper brakes and Grand Bois handlebars. In this guise we took a trip down to Raglan, as well as hundreds of trips to & from work.
The latest change was from carrying stuff on the back to, to carrying stuff on the front. I bought a Soma Porteur rack, changed the handlebars to a pair of Salsa Cowbells, and put a Chrome Front Rack Duffel on.
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This weird combination of an old frame, with a bunch of mismatched new parts, has worked really well for the last year or so. The mudguards mean that wet roads don’t bother me, I prefer the front loading, the dynamo lighting system is lovely, and the whole deal has been very reliable. There’s just one little problem. The frame is too big. Bicycle sizing has never been my strong point, but when I first got the Spacehorse, it felt too small. After lots of riding I have come to realise that it’s the right size and the Peugeot is too big. Every time I ride him now, I feel like I’m climbing up on to this huge machine. So there’s a change a-coming…

More pictures here.

Conversations with Auckland Motorists #2

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The scene: 3:30pm on a warm Thursday afternoon, I’m cycling down Carlton Gore Rd towards Newmarket. I’m approaching the intersection with Davis Crescent and I intend to turn right. I look behind, there’s a car but it’s some distance away, so I indicate by putting my right arm out to the side and start to move to the right. The car fails to slow down and breezes past me, very close. I look up, and through the back window I can see that the driver is looking down and to the left. When the motorist stops at the intersection I ride up next to him and look in the window, he’s doing something with his cellphone. I knock on the window, he rolls it down.

Me: You might want to look at the road instead of at your phone.

The Motorist: What’s it to you?

Me: You nearly ran me over back there.

The Motorist: Well… were you indicating?

Me (while riding away): Yes, which you would have seen if you WEREN’T LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE.