10&11/1/16. After our guided tour we headed towards our next destination of Taupo. It was too far to reach in one day, particularly as it was heading towards midday after church and the freebie guide to the hot spots of Rotorua, but there was a DOC (Dept. Of Conservation) campsite on the way, at Lake Okaro, and DOC campsites are very basic and therefore cheap (which appeals to two accountants!).
The road out of Rotorua was Motel Avenue. Our guidebook says that Rotorua has a motel for every day of November. Pah! We’re sure we passed more than 30 on that road alone and we had seen plenty more elsewhere in town. (By the way, why November? It is not clear to us.)
Motel Avenue transformed itself into SH5 once it got away from the motel strip but the lady in the tourist information office had told us about the concrete cycle track alongside which kept us off the “racetrack”. Although this was a long climb it was very manageable even with heavy panniers and Christine’s way was eased by the offer of a peach from another couple of cyclists who were taking a breather. They said that Stephen had gone past them too fast to offer him one although he is sceptical given that he was going all of 8 mph!
The signposted cycle route left SH5 at a junction with a minor road and the climbing became a little more strenuous but that soon ended and we reached the campsite in mid afternoon. It was a lovely setting but there were no facilities other than some public toilets. A notice said that campers should place the fee in one of the envelopes provided and post in the honesty box. We could see the honesty box but no details of the fee expected and there was a sign indicating no tents (in contradiction of something Christine had seen on a website the previous day) – so we decided to blag our way round the problem if anyone turned up asking for the money. (There were already 3 other tents there and the owners were away indicating they had already spent at least one night there.)
Lots of other people turned up, quite a few with tents, and nobody seemed to pay so we were not the only ones who had a free night!
We were both woken in the night by light showers of rain and by a “dawn chorus” of frogs (which had been surprisingly quiet the evening before – obviously amphibians around here are early to bed!). We broke camp quickly (no washing facilities other than hand basins in a smelly public toilet! We know how to live!) and were soon back on SH5, but without the accompanying cycle track – just a hard shoulder with “magic” paint to keep us safe. Thankfully this was only 10 km and mainly downhill (so we could keep up a reasonable speed) before we reached the turnoff we had been told about by the helpful lady.
About halfway along this stretch we stopped for a coffee at a hotel/shop/filling station and had a chat with a couple who had spent time living in both Sarajevo and The Netherlands because of his job. It was very interesting to hear about his time as a War Crimes investigator trying to apprehend Milosevic and Madic.
The side road we joined was lovely – flat and quiet – for quite a way but when we resumed after lunch it seemed to deteriorate quickly. “Deteriorate” in that (a) the traffic seemed to increase in both frequency and speed, (b) it started to climb and (c) the wind started to swing into our faces periodically. All in all, what had been a very pleasant ride became a real chore.
Eventually we passed under the combined SH1 & SH5 (something to be avoided if on a bike we suspect!) and arrived in Taupo. After taking the scenic route (because Stephen was in “head down and go” mode and missed the first sign much to Christine’s disgust!) we arrived at a very smart but expensive ($50 for 2 people = £23) campsite. We were both grateful that the last part of the ride was over and the clean, hot shower was more than welcome after the lack of decent facilities the previous night.