Wednesday, January 18th, 2023
Distance travelled 488 kilometres
Because we were a bit weary and had planned a fairly short day’s riding, we got up a little bit later. Outside there was a blue sky and it seemed it would be another hot day. In addition to carefully wrapping my toaster burns again, Lucie smeared sun cream on all of the red places I had from the previous days hike in the sun. We made a small breakfast of toast (Lucie made it !), cheese and honey which we found in the kitchen and we did not leave the Lodge until about half past seven.
We more or less counted on a swift start on the first part of the journey to make a time reserve. Of course, the end of our road was totally closed by roadworks that had begun overnight. We had to make quite a long detour before we had gone the first kilometre, but we were soon back on track. Our plan was to head first towards Opotiki and then further on and along the coast.
After about one hundred kilometres, it began to get a bit cloudy, but the coastal views of the beautiful bays were simply stunning.
As we progressed further east and then north, there did seem to be quite a lot of water around. Much of the road lay close to the sea and the low lying ground often had what appeared to be “fresh” lagoons of water between us and the sea.
The scenery was still very picturesque, though.
At what was the apex of our route, in the small town of Te Kha, Lucie had found a decent café on her map program. Perched above a blue, but turbulent, bay far below, we enjoyed refreshing drinks and, unbeknown to us at that moment, the last minutes of the sunny weather.
There is a saying “into every life, a little rain must fall” and, somewhere around Hick’s Bay, a little rain began to fall into ours. That did not concern us very much, we had already enjoyed quite a number of brief showers during our perambulations. They had usually stopped almost as soon as they had begun. That was not so this time. It started to rain a little, then it stopped. It started again, slightly more heavily and stopped just as we got used to it. It was raining a little more than we used to, but even though it made us slightly nervous, we were quite calm.
But then, as we pulled into another bay, at Te Aroroa, for our second coffee (which we did not get anyway because the promised café there was closed) three unpleasant things happened at once. Firstly, it started to rain very heavily. Secondly, the SatNav simply stopped working and thirdly, as we left again to continue our journey by the old-fashioned method of reading signposts, we entered an area of considerable devastation.
The next destination on our list was the the town of Tikitiki. It was actually on our itinerary because it contains a memorial to 87 Maori troops who heard the call to participate in the First World War and paid for it with their lives. One in five of those who joined from Tikitiki were killed a long and probably unimaginable distance from those quiet bays. Under normal circumstances, I would certainly have wanted to at least look at the memorial, but we did not really have a chance.
The wind was simply terrible and its fierce, unpredictable gusting, coupled with the rain and the harsh terrain made riding very difficult. In the deluge, Lucie was more concerned with keeping the camera dry, but the odd picture she did take in no way encapsulates the windy conditions.
The road across the headland was steep, poorly surfaced and, worst of all, in many places almost completely washed away. I have a tendency to over-dramatise, but I think I can fairly say that we have only seen something such as we now encountered on television or in “Disaster” movies. We know in retospect, that a recent cyclone had dropped so much water onto the district that the rivers had turned into raging seas of mud. This, like volcanic lava, had taken trees, enclosures, pieces of the shore and pieces of the road away with them when the rivers had overflowed their banks. In countless places along the road there were warning signs that, as soon as we learned to read them correctly, warned quite well against what was to follow. In many spots there were ongoing emergency repairs and, in many other places parts of the road had either been washed away totally or stripped of its surface to leave stretches of slippery and very treacherous gravel.
In some, low lying areas, the passing waters had deposited a layer of slimy mud, sometimes several centimetres deep, onto the carriageway. The swirling rivers we passed over were brown with silt.
Even in sunshine, this would not have been any fun, but in driving rain, it was a total punishment. Of course, we had, by then, passed the theoretical mid-point of that stretch. This made going forward, by that token, the only thing to do.
There was nowhere to hide, no café was open, so we just went on. In the end, we did finally encounter a café, which was marked as a shop and gas station, in Te Puia Springs. The lady on the till gave us some coffee and told us that what we were experiencing “only” the tail end of a cyclone that had been ravaging the area for some days – and that we would be in it as far as our ultimate destination, Gisborn. While we waited for the monsoon to abate to a mere deluge, Lucie opened her local weather App and stared in horror at the blue, green and orange snail of the cyclone, which lay exactly above our route. She remembered the cheery young guide in Hobbiton and said to me “This is the cyclone and we are right in it !“
In the end, despite the wind and the pouring rain, we had to go on.
As we descended back to sea level, the weather did calm a tiny bit. All along the shore line, however, the winds and tides had accumulated flotsam in huge piles.
Somehow, we survived it and finally arrived at our lodgings, the Waikanae Beach Motel (19, Salisbury Road, Gisborn). Needless to say, it was by then, bright sunshine again. Only the filthy state of the Softail attested to what we had just ridden through.
The cheery lady on reception immediately won my heart by giving me a small bottle of milk so that I could have a cup of tea and blithely ignored the water dripping out of our clothes and onto her carpet.
The reception lady also recommended the local Irish pub, The Rivers Restaurant and Bar (1 Gladstone Road, Gisborn) as a place to eat. We rode there in the sunshine. I ate a good steak and Lucie had breaded scallops. Both were delicious.
While waiting for food, we discussed our impressions of the day’s journey and I said that most people would consider it quite an adventure.
Of course, when we left, the cyclone had come to town, probably looking for us, so we got wet yet again. Luckily, the room had a hairdryer which, on our travels, we have always found is equally good for drying socks and boots.