Sandy Beaches to Kauri Trees to Sheep – Powered by Meatpies – The Northland

  • Day 1 – Cape Reinga – Hukatere Lodge 75 kms 180 m
  • Day 2 Hukatere Lodge – Ahipara Bay 36 kms 25 m
  • Day 3 Ahipara Bay – Rawene 68 kms 1178 m
  • Day 4 Rawene – Omapere 25 km 156 m
  • Day 5 Omapere – Trounson Park 54 km 1070 m
  • Day 6 Trounson Park – Dargaville 37 km 86 m
  • Day 7 Dargaville – Pararoa 52 km 407 m
  • Day 8 Pararoa – Glorit 78 km 1260 m
  • Day 9 Glorit – Waimauku 39 km 632 m
  • Day 10 Waimauku – South of Auckland 65km 517 m
  • TOTAL TO DATE: 529 KM (length in kms) 5511 M (cumulative vertical meters climbed)

New Zealand is a ways from home – 27 hours – 3 flights. We arrived uneventfully in Auckland – with all our luggage intact! Jay slept 10 hours on the plane with the help of Nyquil and The Hobbit. He seems to be mostly recovered from the covid. No one asked us about the covid. Customs Agent was more interested in the cleanliness of our bikes and camping equipment and was especially curious why we brought tea. Jay commented that Red Rose was only available in Canada and what a pity that is. The Agent waved us through. Not even the Customs Beagle was the slightest bit interested in Jay’s Red Rose tea.

We assembled the bikes in an airport hotel, rented a car and searched for a post office that would ship our bike bags to Invercargville via Post Restante – a New Zealand postal service where they will hold parcels for pick up for a fee. Great concept, but no-one at 3 post offices seemed to have heard of it. We shipped them anyways.

Ignoring the locals talk about the wettest winter on record and national news alerts about snow on the South Island, we met our shuttle driver and headed north on a spectacularly beautiful seven hour drive to Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand. Where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean clash. Reinga is the Māori word for underworld – refering to the Māori belief that the cape is the point where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld. Definitely not a family swim spot. If it looks cold and windy. It is.

We loaded our bikes and started south to Te Paki Stream “Road” – a tourist name for Te Paki “Stream”. Definitely an inside joke Kiwis chuckle about over a pint during rainy season.

Te Paki Stream “Road”

We did eventually reach 90 Mile Beach – another Kiwi joke – it’s really only 55 miles. Spectacularly beautiful and spectacularly slow – top cruising speed was 12 kms/hour – we learned not to stop and chat with trampers too long, or our tires quickly sank into a cement like trap of sand.

We have yet to meet fellow bike packers, but we met many trampers on the beach – there is a different route for trampers, but we start off together. The Te Arotearoa walk will take most 5 1/2 months. We met a diverse assortment of people hiking: families, singles, old, young, Europeans, Canadians – but they all had blisters in common. We did feel slightly bad as we passed them on bikes and we did not discuss one Kiwi’s ominous comment: “yeees, I thought about biking, but it’s too darn hilly heeeres.” We overnighted at the off grid Hukatere Lodge just off the beach – and the wonderful owner Gabi miraculously stuck a cold beer in our hands and some New Zealand chow for dinner. That sounds simple. But a lot had to go right for us to make that lodge. Otherwise, we would have been in a tent. Gear Guy was betting on the tent. He underestimates me. My record of no tenting remains unblemished.

We basically had the beach all to ourselves, but occasionally a vehicle looking for the perfect fishing spot would whoosh by. But the beach is huge. And at low tide there is heaps of room for all. No traffic signs needed.

Loved riding on the beach for 2 days, but once you hit a paved road, you realize how strenuous it is! On to farmland and into Kauri forests. Kauri trees are only found in the north of New Zealand, and unfortunately many are dying from the scientifically creative name of Kauri Die Off disease. We stood in awe of the 2000 year old Tane Mahuta, the oldest living Kauri. Trunk girth of 13.8 meters! We waited for the only other tourist to finish videoing the tree growing so we could get our requisite photo. We’re among the first cylists. Locals seem glad to see us. Or anyone for that matter. It is apparent that the lockdown in New Zealand (especially the Auckland one) was very nasty for all and there are some lingering hard feelings about that. We ran into a number of locals quite anxious so share their, shall we say, rather assertive views on government, Covid and lockdowns etc…. We just played the “Canadian Card”. Hey, we’re just here to ride our bikes, see your Country and eat some meat pies! We have nothing to do with Justin and Jacinda being besties.

We visited New Zealand with our kids in 2003 during a 6 month sabatical – I had forgotten how upside down things are to what we are used to. Light switches are reverse, south means colder, Christmas is summer, the north is tropical vegetation and traffic drives on the left. Surprisingly, I quickly became accustomed to cycling on the left with my helmet mirror on the right. Until I stop to take a photo and panic that the cars barrelling towards me are on my side of the road. Then I am fine until I need to turn right and I have no idea where to look. Then I get back in the swing of things until I ride up to a round about – that just does me in. I walk.

Kaipara Harbour is the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. As recommended for the route, we had cleverly booked a 3 hour boat shuttle along the length of it to avoid 3 days of less desirable bike miles with Auckland bound traffic. The day we were to head down the peninsula to meet our ride, the boat owner Terry advised us he was covid positive. No one else drives his boat. No one else shuttles people. No fishing charters will take you. “There are no other alternatives.” So we stoically biked around the long way. There were marvelous perks of this route – The “World Famous in New Zealand” Kauri museum; Deb at the Old Post Office Guest House and Sharon and Shane at the Kaipara Views Eco Lodge almost made the Auckland bound traffic bearable. Oh, and the glow worms and shrieking eels. Everyone knows “the shrieking eels grow louder when they are about to feed on human flesh.”

We’re not sure, are Kiwis known for their cuisine? Seems to us If it is not deep fried, then it is enclosed in pastry and called a pie. Our record is 3 pies in one day. In the North Country we struggled to find grocery stores with much more than our 7-11 selection of vegetables. Fish and chips is readily available, but we have tested it and it is not the best fuel for biking…. And we’re trying to keep our emissions down so as not to get taxed. But will continue to search out fish and chips as good as the Digit’s Fabulous Walleye (Jay’s Brother’s World Famous in Canada recipe). And the meat pies. Did we mention the meat pies? They vary in quality. Steak can mean bologna.

Speed limits – more Kiwi humour

Our initial perception of riding here in New Zealand is there are no free miles. Every kilometre is earned – up and down with no flat in between. Looks like an unhealthy EKG chart rather than an elevation graph.

We are standing (peddling) many of the steeper hills in first gear and then braking on the way down due to traffic or gravel. We had 10 days in 9000 kms of riding Canada that were near or over 1000m of elevation and we have already done 3 here. And we’re only on day 10. 500 kms in 10 days and feeling a wee beat up. Leaving Northland and heading for a beach for a day or two off.