Thursday, January 19th, 2023

Distance travelled 344 kilometres

In the morning, when we woke up, thanks to the continuing cyclone, rain was absolutely pouring down. We were in no particular hurry to head out into it. Our plan for the morning had been to ride up to the Gisborn Falls but, looking at the water streaming dramatically off of the roof and past our widows, we both agreed that we were unlikely to see a more impressive cascade of falling water fifty kilometres up a wet and winding road. In mutual accord, we crossed the falls off of our list. Checkout time was at ten o’clock and sadly, the conditions had not improved by that time.

A quick check, by Lucie, of the weather App informed us that we were unlikely to be out of the rain before we reached Napier and turned inland and away from the coast. It did look though as if, in the afternoon, the cyclone should be starting to break up, but we could not wait that long.

My favourite type of waterproof clothing is the kind you never have to get out of its bag – but we had no option this time. Without breakfast, dressed in our luminous waterproof clothes, we set off along the coast towards the south.

Just as the forecast had predicted, it rained and it rained and it rained.

We came again to more long sections where there were road works, but these were mainly maintenance as opposed to emergency repairs.

Apart from the odd piece of suspect resurfacing, where recently applied stones had escaped into dangerous little piles and ridges, it was nowhere as concerning as the day before. In truth, in sunshine, I might not have even noticed at all. I am sure the surrounding countryside was beautiful, but I cannot swear to it. In those conditions I simply had to focus one hundred percent on the tarmac directly in front of me – and Lucie usually had the camera tucked away somewhere dry !

Almost at the exact moment we crossed the last, very stormy bay before Napier, the sun came out and it looked like the rain might be over. We had a lunch of sandwiches in the Wild Bean café (BP should really start paying us for advertising) and Lucie suggested that we take off our rain suits. We were starting to get a bit hot and there were other people there walking around us in t-shirts and shorts. I looked at the still dark sky and said it might be a bit premature. Sadly, I was right and it was not long before the heavens reopened.

Although we were on a main road, the SH5, many more kilometres passed without us really seeing anything of interest because of the sheeting rain and gusty wind. The road, as so many are in New Zealand, was twisty and undulating. It was also beset, at intervals, with small trenches worn into the inside lane which needed great care on such a greasy surface and, occasionally, deeper holes into which I definitely would not have wanted to put the front wheel. It was a bit trying. About 30 kilometres after leaving Napier, as we slowly ascended from the coast into the hills, the rain stopped as if someone had turned off the tap.

As we finally breasted the edge of what turned out to be quite an extensive plateau, despite the overall greyness, the sun came out. In front of us lay a practically empty and gently curving road, stretching as far as we could see. For the first time in nearly two days I was able to ride the Harley AND enjoy the scenery.

The rises and falls in the terrain were less pronounced, but we were still climbing steadily. At the very top of one climb, a deviation to a “scenic lookout” gave us a lovely view of ….. a waterfall. These were the Waipunga Falls (Waipunga 3379) and were quite a dramatic sight after all the recent rain. We had seen a waterfall after all !

The way continued, seemingly arrow straight, for kilometre after kilometre. In the improving weather, it was a lovely ride through what was some very beautiful, but also very lonely, countryside.

For most of the way across the plateau, the 1200 metre high cone of the, now extinct, volcano, Mount Pureora, was clearly visible ahead.

We finally descended from the western edge of the plateau and down into the town of Lake Taupo, which appeared to be a mecca for tourists. Because it was still the children’s “Summer” holiday period, the town was absolutely thronged with people. We located our accommodation, the Dunrovin’ Motel (140 Te Heuheu Street, Taupo), which was a short walk from the town centre and Lake Taupo beach. Despite the slow speeds at which we had been forced to travel for most of the day, not making the trip up to the waterfalls in Gisborn had given us a little bit of a time bonus. We used this to take time picking a few restaurants from Trip Advisor recommendations and places mentioned in the motel brochure. Based upon the numbers of people we had seen when we drove in, it was clear to us that many restaurants would be full, which they were. Luckily, our second choice was a couple of streets back from the beach and we were able to secure a table. This was in The Plateau restaurant (64 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo) which, after the afternoon ride, seemed strangely apposite.

The food was very good. We shared a tuna ceviche as an appetizer, then Lucie had a very good salmon, nicely red inside, cooked just perfectly and I had a very tasty lamb ragout.

Because we were on foot, I was able to enjoy a more than passable local lager, from the Monteith brewery and Lucie had a Mojito “mocktail” that was, at least, what it was supposed to be.

We rounded off our meal by sharing a caramel cheesecake and a warm, chocolate fondant for our desserts.

It was not a cheap meal, by any standards, but it was good food, good, friendly “Kiwi” style service and nicely done. Well worth the money.

On our holidays, it is usually ME that makes the mistakes. Lucie mixes up the ointment and the only fly in it is usually me – or one of my unforeseeable blunders. However, as soon as we sat down to plan the next phase of our next trip, we found out that Lucie had made a fundamental mistake, regarding glow worms, while we were still at home in Prague.

The most famous caves with glowing worms in New Zealand are in Waitomo (which we had passed right by on the way to Hobbiton). We had intended to go there but, by some mistake, Lucie marked a completely different cave on the map. This would not have been a problem, there are glow worms there also, but we would first have had to drive to them along a gravel road and then walk through the forest – and all of this at night. With my “record” that was not ever going to happen.

In case you care, here is the low down on glow worms.

First of all, they are not worms, but the larvae of the flying insect Arachnocampa luminosa, which after pupation looks a bit like a small mosquito and lives for only a few days. The larva feeds on smaller insects that it traps in the webs it creates. Prey is attracted to its doom by the phosphorescence, which is caused by the enzyme luciferase cleaving the protein luciferin (I am, do not forget, married to a scientist !). It probably goes without saying that the light produced can only be seen in the dark.

The larvae need moisture and an enclosed space, so they are mainly found in caves and in the forest. There are a lot of these places in New Zealand, but for the average tourist it is easiest to see them in a cave, where there is a large concentration of them, during the day – than to run around in the forest at night with an uncertain result.

Because of my propensity for accidental self-harm, Lucie had been keen for us to view the worms like regular tourists, but it looked like that would not work out. Most of the easily (safely) accessible locations were near to where we had already been. However, she did not give up and ended up finding two more places in the South Island. One seemed to be easy to find, even in the dark and she has added it to our planned route. Worms, it appeared, awaited us in a place called Hokitika !