5&6/1/16. The rail trail continued south from Paeroa to Te Aroha past a very well cared for bowls club and some impressive tennis courts and then through pasture land in the Waihou valley. It was beautifully flat but with steep hills off to the left and we encountered many cyclists out for the day.
As on the section from Thames, every so often there was a place where livestock could cross the trail. At these places there was a locked gate across the trail but with a narrow, one bike wide cattle grid beside it. These slowed Christine’s progress somewhat as she walked over them while Stephen careered through them occasionally giving himself a little “excitement” when a pannier brushed one of the posts on either side!
After 20 km or so the trail came to an end at Te Aroha station where there was a mini rail track but no sign of a mini train. In town we found the Ironique cafe where the “theme” was (you guessed it) iron. This meant that the fittings in the toilets were all made from old iron implements – door handles were one “arm” of a pair of shears, mirror frames were old bow saws, basins were gold miners’ pans. It was all rather quaint. And the muffins were up to the usual high standard!
Te Aroha was a prosperous looking town with a spa/thermal baths and even a croquet club. We didn’t stop for a chukka (or whatever it is you have of croquet!). By now we were on the road which, although very quiet, was dead straight which did mean that what traffic there was had a good opportunity to build up speed. But it was also dead flat for which were very grateful.
Spying a nicely mown grass verge outside a house, Stephen thought it looked a convenient place to wait for Christine and then have lunch. Then a man turned up on a sit-on mower (not sure the grass really needed cutting but hey ho!). He didn’t object to Stephen sitting on the grass while he picked up some fallen branches and twigs but then they got talking. It turned out he was involved in racehorse training and had been to the Derby some years ago (sitting in the Queen’s Stand – very posh!) He was stunned to hear that he had been within a mile of our house!
We moved on for lunch finding another mown verge a mile or so further up the road. Afterwards the road started to undulate a little and soon we passed the Waikere Falls which looked spectacular but were a stiff 2 hour climb from the road accordung to the sign. We decided to admire them from a distance.
Shortly after we took the turning towards Matamata but before we reached the town we stopped at our campsite for the night at Opal Hot Springs. Just as at Miranda and Parakai, campers had access to the thermal pools. Here there were three – the main swimming pool was 30°C but there were smaller ones which were 37° and 39°. This was warm enough to get Christine in the water for the second time in a week!
In the morning we breezed into Matamata which looked to be the NZ equivalent of Epsom or Newmarket with many stables and a racecouse. It is also very close to Hobbiton, one of the sets for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. At $76 (£35+) a head a visit would have blown our budget for the day comprehensively so we gave it a miss this time around – something for when we come to NZ next time. Instead we had coffee, chocolate and muffins and topped up on Wifi!
Leaving Matamata our route followed SH27 which was tolerable and had a shoulder for most of the way. While stopped for lunch at one of the few rest areas we have seen a cyclist came along and stopped for a chat. She was Vic from Cumbria. Impressively she was on her third day out from Auckland! Her first day was from the airport (in the flatlands to the south of the city so she didn’t have to deal with Mount Eden) to Thames. The second day was from Thames to Matamata. (We took five days to do all of that, not including days holed up sheltering from the rain or taking diversions to Waihi !) She was a little surprised that we were only 5 km from our stop for the night in Okoroire while she had about 60 km to go to Rotorua. In our defence she was travelling much lighter than us – she couldn’t lift Christine’s bike (but then nor can Christine!)
Our stop was a little earlier than we would have done given the choice but Okoroire seemed to be the last campsite for at least 40 km, and there are supposed to be some stiff hills on the way, so we were happy to have an afternoon reading and lazing around the campsite in the grounds of a hotel with yet another thermal pool.
(We have just done a Word Count on the copy of this stream of consciousness that is being kept off line. There are over 11,000 words of this rubbish since we arrived in NZ. Congratulations if you have waded through it all!)