The Far North

3&4/12/15 May be it’s just our Northern Hemisphere upbringing but the name “Far North” evokes thoughts of cold and bleak countryside – especially in December . Nothing could be further from the truth in the Far North of New Zealand! It’s mid to high 20’s here and there is lush vegetation everywhere. But perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider that we are on a similar latitude to Crete (but on the other side of the Equator obviously!)

Leaving New Zealand’s answer to Wembley Stadium we were immediately faced with a tough climb – 2 km of up to 10% gradients was not a good start to the day. At the top the road levelled out somewhat but was undulating so Christine got plenty of walking done! After about 20 km we descended into Mangonui on Doubtless Bay (apparently Captain Cook said “It is doubtless a bay” when he first saw it!). We stopped to stock up at what looked likely to be the last supermarket of the day and, spying a pub offering fish & chips, lunch as well. One portion of freshly cooked hoki and chips for $6.50 (about £2.75) between two really hit the spot!

The afternoon’s cycle along the south side of the bay before turning inland continued the up and down theme of the morning although thankfully the last 10 or 15 km were much kinder helped as well by a generally following wind. We reached Awanui at the junction of State Highway 10 (which we had been following) and SH1, the main road in NZ, where there is a small but lively and quiet campsite connected to the motel. It was always the plan to have an easy day on Friday following the hilly 50 km the day before so we booked in for two nights.

Saturday saw us taking a gentle 15 km cycle to Waipapakauri Ramp which is at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach (the name is a bit of an exaggeration as it is only 90 km long!). This is a fabulous beach (see the pictures but prepare yourself for the sight of some naked male buttocks. You have been warned!!) that is almost deserted. In about 3 hours there we sae no more than 15 people (hence the skinny dipping!) although one of them was a man who came down from the local hotel with a trailer selling coffee which was very welcome.

The beach is actually a main road with 5 access points to the normal road system. Normal traffic laws apply including speed limits – a police car even stopped at the coffee trailer! Four wheel drive is recommended but not mandatory but often car insurance is not valid – not surprising really as there are warning pictures of cars getting caught by the incoming tides.

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