After a pleasant day off, Carrie and I set our sights on a town along the coast of the Bay of Plenty called Whakatane. It was going to be a long haul (DAY 7) at about 90km, but Carrie and I were well-rested and eager to leave the hustle and bustle of Rotorua.
Rotorua is named after the lake, which was named by the Maori, “roto” meaning lake and “rua” meaning two or second. There’s actually a series of lakes, all of which are craters from past volcanic activity. Aside from rumbling of an occasional semi truck, the first 60km of the ride were pleasurable. We passed by the lakes I mentioned, climbed up mild grades and then descended toward the coast. The descent was particularly fun. The surprisingly smooth road narrowed around tight corners and finished with a long steeper straightaway. Carrie doesn’t like going fast but I love it. My computer said I got up to 76kph.
After the descent, we still had about 36km to go. We ended up merging onto one of the main highways for most of it, which became a real drag. Because of the narrow roads and non-existent shoulders, cars speed by dangerously close. We’ve actually asked a few Kiwis about road conditions before, and when we’ve asked about the shoulders, they’ve just stared at us like we’re from outer space.
We arrived at the hostel in Whakatane tired and hungry. The nice lady running the place showed us to our patch of lawn in the backyard. We pitched our tent, changed out of our icky clothes and headed to the nearest grocery store for dinner essentials.
Actually, I should just stop writing now. The end of every day can be summed up, more or less, in the last paragraph. And for an entire day’s summary: wake up, pack up, eat breakfast, change for cycling, cycle for x number of kilometers, dream about lunch, stop for lunch, cycle for x number of kilometers, dream about not cycling, dream about our next destination, dream about dinner, crave ice cream, stop for above destination, set up tent, shower, change out of icky clothes while dreaming of dinner, grocery shop, eat dinner!, get ready for bed, dream some more.
We eat pretty much the same food day in and day out: yogurt and muesli for breakfast, either a peanut butter and honey or cheese and cucumber sandwich for lunch, and for dinner it’s pasta with bread and butter and sometimes a salad. We’ve also been known to boil some eggs and consume large quantities of granola bars and ice cream. Carrie and I worry we may not get fitter, but fatter. Food is simply amazing when you’ve been cycling all day. And it’s amazing how much food we eat.
After our long trip from Rotorua, we planned to cycle just a half day’s distance (DAY 8) to another coastal town called Opotiki. But before leaving Whakatane, we learned of a nice hike to a vista point overlooking the quaint town and the Bay of Plenty.
The trail ambled up hill through a thick collection of flora the Kiwis just refer to as “bush”. The bush also included cicadas. All the bush in New Zealand seems to include cicadas. You could just as easily say, “We’re going to go tramp in the cicadas.” The cicadas are the bush. The question then becomes, “What came first, the bush or the cicadas?”
The trip to Opotiki, 55km, was nice. We meandered through farmland and at times fought a nasty northsoutheastwesterly wind. It came from all directions and all at once. The semis were also getting rarer. Opotiki is essentially the last town of consequence along the east cape until Gisborne. Between Opotiki and Gisborne are only small hamlets inhabited mainly by Maori. Between Opotiki and Gisborne is also rumored to be some of the finest cycling in the world. We were excited and so, so close.
Once we reached Opotiki, a friendly local cyclist escorted us to the motorcamp. We chatted for the 2km ride. He told us of the great cycling we were about to have and recommended that once we reached Gisborne that we should take a bus for the rest of the way to Wellington because of the logging trucks, narrow roads and gusty winds. So we may not be cycling around ALL of both islands. That’s okay. We can’t cheat because we’re making up the rules as we go.