Monday, January 16th, 2023
Distance travelled 632 kilometres
As ever we woke up early. Sun was streaming through the windows and another fine day was in prospect. We had a full agenda, carefully planned by Lucie, so we were keen to be off. We ate a quick breakfast, in the little kitchen, from the food provided by Sarah and we set off. Sarah and Neil were just leaving the house as we were packing the bike, so we said goodbye and left just before eight.
As they say, we had all of our ducks in a row. The first thing we did was to drive to Shipwreck Bay, in Te Kohanga, on the west coast. This is the very bottom edge of a strip of sand, called the Ninety-Mile beach, which stretches in an unbroken line, almost all the way up to Cape Reina.
The tide was out and it was quite a long walk to the water line where we both dipped our boots in the sea.
As ever, like a child, I wrote Lucie in the sand with a piece of driftwood – it is yet another of our little traditions which we have done all over the world.
The lonely windswept beauty of the beach was very captivating, but we had another long journey of at least 560 kilometres ahead of us again – so we could not hang about. We walked back across the sand to where we had parked the Harley and set off back towards Kaitaia and the Highway SH1 south.
Did I mention the ducks earlier ? At that point those ducks became pigeons – and a cat was lobbed neatly amongst them. Just south of Kaitaia, the highway south was totally closed for repair and we had no option but to trek back north again (to the fateful T-junction in Awanui) and take a detour back around the the loop past the Bay of Islands. I tried not to look at the BP garage as we passed it. It was a nice morning and it was a pleasant ride through rural countryside, but we had already seen it.
Pausing only to have a very nice brunch of eggs Benedict for me and French toast for Lucie at, of all places, a garden centre, we rode towards Kawakawa again. We made our way almost the whole distance back there before we could locate the SH1 again and turn back towards the west coast. The detour added about 50 kilometres to what was already going to be a long day.
Because of the delay, we briefly considered whether to shorten the trip and head directly south to Auckland – but in the end, we decided that we could do it the pretty way, as planned. Travelling via Kaikohe, we reached the beautiful west coast near Omapere.
The landscape was again beautiful, but in a completely different way from that of the previous day and we were soon glad that we had not cut anything out. We drove most of the way on empty and relatively flat roads. After leaving Omapere, we came across the top of the hills and descended through the Waipoua Forest. This was a scenic bonus for us both and a botanical bonus for Lucie. The twisting road, for aesthetic reasons mostly devoid of the bright yellow signs that preceded most bends elsewhere, wound its serpentine way through a tight tangled mass of trees. It was like being in the jungle. Many of the trees were of the Kauri type. This tree, which has a strange life-cycle, is native to New Zealand and, whilst still abundant, suffers from what is called “die-back” which has hit the population hard. Signs everywhere urged people only to enter the forest with clean boots to help prevent the further spread of the die-back disease. We passed a place where we could have gone to see Tane Mahuta, the largest known living Kauri tree in New Zealand, but as ever, time was pressing. We rode on without stopping, but the route through the forest was a most pleasant experience.
By that time we were already hoping for a café, but that part of New Zealand was sparsely populated and there was nothing anywhere.
Eventually, we stopped for petrol in Waimamaku, hoping the lady would make us a coffee. She could not, but she did direct us to a lovely place, only about a kilometre further on, (first turn after the bridge if heading west), the Wisteria Way Café (7108 State Highway 12, Waimamaku, Corner of Wekaweka Road and State Highway 12, Waimamaku). Set in a truly lovely garden we found a cozy outdoor café. It is run by an elderly couple who had moved there to retire and they spend their spare time making the little garden simply gorgeous to see. Plants of scores of species are carefully co-mingled and the sight and the scents were splendid. Despite our pressing schedule we could not resist sitting for a while whilst enjoying some excellent coffee, complemented by some really great carrot cake. We moved on with a sigh.
Our course again brought us back to the SH1 at Wellsford. We again had to decide whether to just ride south on the highway and go straight through Auckland to Hamilton, or to turn westwards again towards Helensville and drive a little further along the coast. Of course we turned west, justifying it by the fact that there would be what passes for an afternoon rush hour on the highway anyway and it probably take no more time to go the longer route.
Soon after turning we saw a large piece of art on a hill in the distance. Then another appeared and then another. Lucie quickly clicked the camera a few times, but we did not know what she was actually taking pictures of. On the winding country road, there was nowhere to stop and, beyond the next hill, nothing at all could be seen. In case this is your thing, we looked it up and the art was works from the Gibbs Farm Art Park (https://gibbsfarm.org.nz).
Then we came to the western suburbs of Auckland and had no real option but to ride on the SH1 Highway for the last part of the way to Hamilton.
Despite the newness of some of the route confusing the SatNav a bit (it showed us riding in fields when we were, quite definitely, on the road) we easily found our lodgings for the night, the Stadium Motel (37 Willoughby Street, Whitiora, Hamilton). This should not be confused with the Motel Stadium, which is just up the road. It was, indeed, right next to the stadium where rugby tournaments are regularly played. The proprietress was super obliging and allowed us to park the Harley in the locked yard, reserved for her cars, overnight.
Before that, aided by the SatNav, we found the street where all the restaurants seemed to be although, almost as if it is some obscure Kiwi tradition, many were already closed or closing at 20:00. We ate at a nice Indian restaurant, The Naughty Naan (250 Victoria Street, Hamilton CBD, Hamilton) where Lucie had a fish curry and I had Rogan Josh (lamb with spiced sauce). The naan bread was fresh and light, but just how naughty it was, I cannot say.
We returned to the motel, locked the bike safely inside the yard and were soon fast asleep. Another long day.