27-29/12/15. We had a wonderful, relaxing time with Jay and Tim enjoying their friendship and hospitality but all good things must come to an end. Eleri left on Sunday evening having made arrangements to see some Christmas lights with a friend and it was strange saying goodbye to her at the busstop not knowing when we would see her again. She has accepted another job with Auckland council for 3 months to save more money for gallivanting around the South Pacific and elsewhere. Of course, if we do decide to forego the flights from Christchurch to Sydney that we booked before leaving the UK (we needed to be able to demonstrate that we would be leaving NZ before they would let us in) and instead fly from Auckland, we will see her then (her other social events permitting).
It was our turn to leave on Monday morning and we both confessed to feeling a certain apprehension about getting under way again. Neither of us was clear why this was the case but thankfully it disappeared shortly after we left. This may have been because the hill out of Campbell’s Bay was not as bad as we feared and then the run back to the ferry at Devonport had far fewer climbs than we remembered from the trip the other way before Christmas (when they would have been downhills obviously!)
However, once across the water and back in central Auckland we did have a long haul up towards Mount Eden (one of many extinct volcanoes on which the city is built). We didn’t go to the top thank goodness but did go along Mountain Road which is a name we try to avoid wherever possible!
One possible cause of our earlier apprehension was the fear that Auckland traffic would be as intimidating as we remembered from our bus trip from the airport a month ago. This proved to be misplaced. On reflection we would probably be hard pushed to pick a better day to be leaving (from a traffic perspective at least) than the Monday after a weekend Christmas.
Once past Mount Eden, the road improved (because it was more downhill) but the neighbourhood became less salubrious. We were (sort of) following a cycle route on a map which we had obtained from the tourist information in the centre but were, by now, approaching the edge of the detailed map. The cycle route was not marked on the smaller scale version which showed that we were approaching the Mangere River with only the motorway shown as crossing it without a long detour inland. However, we spied a cycle signpost (the first one!) with the name of somewhere on the other side so, trusting to luck, we headed towards the motorway bridge – and found that Old Mangere Bridge still existed and was open to pedestrians and cyclists! The bridge was very popular with the local angling community which included a surprisingly large proportion of females – far higher than we percieve being the case in the UK.
On the other side of the river, much to Christine’s concern, Stephen voiced the thought that the land looked much flatter. Thankfully Providence was not tempted and the gradients were kind in the afternoon. We passed through a number of residential and commercial areas of South Auckland none of which were particularly inspiring or depressing – just a bit “meh” – until we reached the campsite in Manukau. Although this was on the busy sounding Great South Road and near the motorway and the airport, it was very peaceful and would be an excellent stopover before flying out as there is a frequent bus service from just outside the site.
With Miranda Springs too far to cycle in a day, particularly with a range of hills to cross and only one campsite in between, today (Tuesday) was planned to be a short day. So Christine took the opportunity to sleep in until 8.30 (having gone to bed at 9!!) and it was 10.30 before we were on the road. The Great South Road was not actually that busy and there was the added bonus of a cycle lane, even if was one of those where a line of white paint somehow magically protects cyclists from the traffic, so we took this as it was more direct than the wiggly route Christine had planned the night before.
The route was not particularly inspiring, passing through Auckland suburbia (although we did pass two Sikh temples , the first places of non-Christian worship that we had seen in the country) before finally hitting a little bit of countryside. At least it was flat! But, just to keep us honest, the strong south westerly wind had returned – and we were headed pretty much due south.
After the town of Drury (complete with the Drury Lane Shopping Mall!) a keen amateur cyclist, Matthew, slowed as he went past and we had a very pleasant chat about what we were doing, where we were headed and cycling in general. He waved goodbye when we reached the turn off to the campsite at Ramerama. It was then time for a late lunch and a bit of clothes washing which dried very quickly in the blustery wind.