The Denver Boot was created by John Denver in 1982 as an act of revenge against Billy Ray Cyrus, who stole his achy breaky heart. Soon after the vehicle disabling device swept American cities by storm. Meter maids across the country finally had the last laugh. It became such an institution in America that President Ronald Reagan named Denver a national monument, the only country singer (and man) to receive such an honor.
Quick to copy American popular culture but not keen on fussing with the details, the New Zealand government adopted a similar device one year later known as Dunedin Boat, whereby Kiwi motorists who have yet to pay three consecutive parking tickets are forced to tow a 10-meter motorboat. Their penalty therefore is the need to stop more frequently for petrol because of the extra burden. The rash plan was hailed as a failure by Kiwi legislators, but due to the speed of bureaucracy, the law is still in enforcement 27 years later. About every third car is towing a boat in this country. The Kiwis must be real rebels.
These are the thoughts that ran through my head as Carrie and I spent kilometer after kilometer on Sunday (DAY 3) riding from Miranda to Te Aroha, a small town along the edge of the Hauraki Plains. The plains were once a swamp that sometime in the 20th century the government decided to drain in order to create farmland. There’s little else in the plains but cows, crops, canals, and cars. It was a long day with headwinds and little escape from the sun.
On Monday (DAY 4) we escaped the plains by cycling on rural roads along the foothills through wonderful landscape that brought to mind Lord of the Rings. Our destination was a small village half way between Te Aroha and Rotorua. We arrived in Okoreire (don’t ask me to pronounce it) in high spirits due to such a wonderful ride. The countryside was a brilliant green, dotted with small farm houses and, most likely, hobbit villages. Although we intended to stay at a motorcamp in town, we passed a hotel that had campsites and decided to try our luck. The hotel doubled as a club house for golfing. We later found out that the hotel was booked for the filming of Lord of the Rings.
We set up camp all alone that evening. It was great to have some privacy again.
After having so much luck taking the rural roads that paralleled the logging truck-infested highways, we decided to spend Tuesday (DAY 5) taking similar roads most of the way to the tourist town of Rotorua. We thought we’d figured out a system to avoid the major traffic. We were so smart. We were so wrong.
On our map* Leslie Road paralleled Highway 5 for about two-thirds of the 60 or so kilometers to Rotorua. There was a small patch of off-road that linked Leslie with an alternate highway that would help us reach our destination. As we started down Leslie Road we were pleased with our choice. The road rolled through more serene farmland that eventually turned into thick sub-tropical forest alive with screeching cicadas. It felt like being electrocuted at times. A steady climb led us to, our surprise, a dirt road. We weren’t expecting unsealed road for kilometers but proceeded anyway because turning back then would have meant a 40km detour.
The dirt road undulated for eternity. Our little wheels struggled through the hard pack and gravel and our butts and arms struggled from the bumpy ride. After too many kilometers, we passed a sign warning us that we were entering private logging roads and that we needed a permit. What? Is this still Leslie Road? We were getting a bit nervous about our water supply and about our sun exposure because the endless hills we were cycling over were completely void of shade.
For as far as our eyes could see, the hills had been deforested. It was a real wasteland, as if a huge bomb had wiped out every living thing for miles. The loggers had done their job and then some.
We plodded through kilometers of this landscape until we finally reached a signless crossroads. This is the place where I sell my soul for Lance Armstrong’s legs. This is where Carrie and I will be found, weeks later, by some logger, our bodies shriveling in the sun, my new legs a total rip off. Carrie and I didn’t want to die out here. We both agreed which direction to take and carted off. About five km later we had found the highway, about 20km from Rotorua. Yeah, we were saved. We waved at the logging trucks as they ambled by, shaking the earth in their wake. When we arrived in Rotorua we were exhausted. We checked into a hostel and vowed to take the next day off.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Today is our day off. We spent the day as certified tourists in the touristy city of Rotorua. After breakfast and morning chores we took a shuttle to a real wonder of nature called Waiotapu.
New Zealand is covered with volcanoes, dead and alive. At Waiotapu, tourists get to see all sorts of spectacles of volcanic activity, including boiling mud pits and lakes of sulfuric water ranging in colors of champagne yellow to glacial blue to neon green. It was amazing. The place also reeked of rotten eggs. In fact most of Rotorua reeks of rotten eggs. What a wonderful way to spend a romantic day with a loved one.
*We purchased road maps at the New Zealand Automobile Association, which is directly related to the AAA and several other western auto associations. If Carrie had brought her AAA card, we would have got the maps for free. These maps cover regions in New Zealand at a scale of 1:300,000 and include symbols for motorcamps, hot pools, hiking trails, etc. We have four that will direct us through the north island and will pick up more in Wellington to cover the south island. They’re great for motorists and cyclists alike.