Tour Aotearoa continued
The morning of day 2 of the Tour Aotearoa had us riding from Opononi to Auckland. Man, we were stressed. Tim was uber stressed. We had a ferry to catch at Pouto across to Helensville. Once this crossing was made we could relax. The ferry was at 3:30, so we left Opononi at 6am.
The first 40km are all up and down. The climb out of Omapere is murder. With very little warm up, fully loaded, it’s one tough warmup. From there it’s pretty easy. A photo stop at Tane Mahuta is required. But when leaving at 6am, the access to the God of the forest is not open. So we just elected to take selfies at the gates.
A beautiful descent down and through the Waipoa forest is worth every ounce of sweat going up. The sweeping bends, clean, warm, and smooth surface makes for a fun ride. Making sure that you don’t pass the left turning is key.
Arriving at Donnelly’s Crossing is a true highlight. The folks that man the kiosks, bbq, and cake stall are amazing. They’re pillars of the community. All of the proceeds go straight back into their small village of 40 residents. The make great food, and conversation. So, if you ever get the pleasure and privilege of riding the TA, make sure you stop and buy some of their food and coffee.
The rest of the day was spent chasing our tails. The rush and pressure of making the ferry was incredible. We were then faced with 20km of fresh gravel. Why the fuck does a council think it’s a good idea freshly grading a gravel road when hundreds of cyclists are going to be passing through, is beyond incompetent and stupid. It’s darn right dangerous. Morons.
The gravel road, coupled with logging truck and trailers was an absolute shit show. Between walking, slipping, sliding, and feeling the heat, it was awful. There’s also no water stops between Dargaville and Pouto. But I was glad to be at Pouto with plenty of time.
The departure from Pouto is something to behold. The ferry literally drives up onto the rocks. A gangway is then laid down. A few volunteers are required to then lift all of the bikes, 80 or so, onto the boat, and away it goes. Absolutely crazy, but bloody good fun. The journey is long, but distance short.
Once in Helenesville it was a quick dash into Auckland, courtesy of some great Grey Lynn Cycle Club (GLCC) riders assisting us back into town. We were knackered. With a brief goodbye, it was a comfy bed at home for the night. Like a 1950s housewife, my dinner was on the table.
The very next morning I was up at 5:30 and on the road again. The next photo point was atop of Mount Eden. From there I was to meet Neil at Cornwall Park. We were soon joined by Craig. The Sad news was that Tim’s back was so sore he was unable to continue. A real downer, as we’d been planning this for a while. My heart went out to him.
From Auckland to Kopu, it’s really a dull part of the TA. Sure it was necessary, but the Hauraki Rail Trail is just dull. The only excitement came when we discovered that Te Aroha, where we planned to stop for the night, had no accommodation left at 7pm. Fortunately the folks at the pub gave me a number to call. Which I duly did.
The owner of the Convent B&B said she would put us up. I stayed in her bed, and Neil in her living room. And she stayed at a friends. A true life saver. I have no idea why people want to stay in Te Aroha, but they obviously do!!
We started relatively early at 7am. The ride was from Te Aroha to Whakamaru. A short 145km day, as it’s all about finding appropriate accommodation at the right point. Oh, and food!
Our first port of call was Matamata, home of the Hobbit.
Riding the Waikato River Trails is pretty enough, but not outstanding. There are, however, some pretty steep sections, but rewarded by a long downhill section finally reaching Mangakino. Make sure you refuel here, as there’s bugger all between here and Taumarunui. Other than the Timber Trail Lodge.
For me, this is where the TA got interesting. This is where the real off-road starts. Leaving the Whakamaru lodge, and after a modest breakfast, we were heading for the Timber Trail. We grabbed a shit coffee at the local café, and I mean shit. Living in Auckland makes you a coffee wanker, or snob as some may say. But, shit coffee is shit coffee.
Cruising up to Arataki was amazing. The sun was just lifting its weary head. The weather warm. No traffic. And then finally we took the small 4 wheel drive track to one flicking insane bridge. Apparently, the bridge this year is luxurious compared to last. It all adds to the story quiver of the TA.
To be continued….