We arrived in Wellington a little ‘green around the gills’; the crossing being somewhat choppy once in the open waters of the Cook Strait. After a good night’s sleep, a 120 mile drive north, at Whanganui our normal countenances were restored.
After depositing Gavin and me five or so miles further up the Whanganui river valley, Keith headed back home to Auckland. Within minutes of setting off, a small shard of glass put paid to my clean sheet as far as punctures were concerned. One each in the 1,200 miles or so covered is not bad going though.
The Whanganui river valley road was yet another delight to cycle; very little traffic, hills of traditional wood forests, spewing waterfalls, birdsong and tumbling water swelled by recent heavy rain. Curiously, the tiny villages we passed through on our way to Pipiriki included, Athens, Corinth, London and Jerusalem!
A short 25 mile ride the next day, virtually all uphill, on yet more quiet twisty roads brought us to Ohakune, the carrot capital of NZ, in the Tongariro National Park, south west of Lake Taupo. The park is dominated by three huge volcanos, with cones permanently sugar coated with snow.
Although reputed to be a buzzing apres ski centre in the winter, we found a quiet little town where gum-booted locals gathered to enjoy an after work pie and pint.
Over the following two days we cycled about 100 miles through the beautiful, crinkly hills of King country. The many sheep, dairy and beef cattle could be heard munching on lush grass, courtesy of recent rain. With the first night spent in the tongue twister town of Taumarunui; at the confluence of the Whanganui and Ongarue rivers, the second was at Te Kuiti, the sheep shearing capital of New Zealand. It was fabulous to catch up with fellow Devonian, Wendy and her Kiwi husband and former many times World shearing champion, David on their farm. An evening of reminiscing and giggling over Young Farmer’s photographs melted the 27 years since I was bridesmaid at their wedding. Thank you both for your wonderful hospitality.
As our time in NZ is fast diminishing and the roads approaching Auckland became increasingly busy, we took a bus the 125 miles from Te Kuiti. With traffic jams and road works extending the journey time, we pedaled back to Keith’s to find him in a state of anxiety worthy of a father who’s teenage daughter had missed the curfew. Whilst it’s good to know he cares so much, we were grateful not to be sent to bed without supper and grounded for the rest of the week!
Our final few days are being spent in Northland …