30/11/15 Thankfully we were able to get on the bus with the bikes although we were slightly worried while waiting for the driver as there were considerably more people than 13 also hanging around. But all was well.
We viewed the countryside from the bus with a certain amount of trepidation as it confirmed what someone at church had said to Christine – “It’s hilly in the north”. They may not be particularly long but some of them looked to be really steep. However, as compensation it did look really pretty.
After 4.5 hours we arrived at out destination of Kerikeri and, following a 5 minute discussion about directions (Stephen was having a momentary “brain fart”!), we rode to the nearest campsite. It was a little strange getting back into the swing of putting up the tent and getting sleeping stuff sorted after 5 months of living in a more civilised manner but we coped. Stephen wandered into town for fish and chips as Christine had a slightly upset stomach.
1/12/15 With the start of a new month on Tuesday it seemed only fitting to start cycling again! As Christine had not been on the bike since she fell off outside Belgrade more than 5 months ago we decided to take it easy with a short ride without the big loads and away from main roads. We headed off towards the Bay of Islands (Kerikeri is a little inland) and found ourselves at Aroha Island, an ecological centre and campsite connected to the mainland by a causeway, which has two resident kiwis (the birds – not the nickname for the human residents of the country). We didn’t see one as they are nocturnal but the warden gave us an interesting “lecture” on the national bird. (Did you know there are 5 species of kiwi? Or that they have almost no sternum which makes them very vulnerable to attacks by domestic dogs?) After that we had lunch on the beach overlooking the bay and some of its islands, before taking the 25 minute walk round the island seeing lots of different trees and plants including the NZ Christmas Tree (which looks nothing like a “normal” one!)
The route had lived up to expectations on the hills front so at this point Christine decided that she wanted to head back. Stephen continued for another 5 km to Opito Bay for a quick look so he could say that he had been there. We arranged to meet at a cafe near Kerikeri that was next to the oldest building in New Zealand (Kemp House from 1822) for cold drinks – needed because it was the hottest day of our stay so far at 28°.
2/12/15 As Christine’s initial ride had been a success, on Wednesday we made the decision to move on, bags and all, northwards –albeit nothing too ambitious. The intention was to head for Kaeo only about 30 km away, hoping to find a campsite. The route from Kerikeri seemed to be one continuous hill (up of course!) for the first 25 km before reaching a much steeper downhill into Kaeo. A quick look round the village revealed no campsites and someone in the local supermarket confirmed that the nearest one was 6 km down the “wrong” road. We decided to press on to a hostel further along the “right” road. The next stretch of the road was much flatter than previously thank goodness as, by now, Christine was getting quite tired (and grumpy!). The hostel turned out to be more upmarket than the word would suggest being an old farmhouse dating back to the 19th century. It is run by a lady who was born in the house (built by her great grandfather) and her husband who is an Italian called Stefano. Unlike our friend Stefano who works for Intertek, this one is not keen on cycling but is a football fanatic organising the first match anywhere in the world each year – at just after midnight on 1 January. This match is a 4 a side barefoot affair at the Kahoe Stadium – otherwise known as their front garden.