Cycling in Waikato, New Zealand

We wanted try something different in our travels, we came up with an idea to cycle in New Zealand. Just for short time. We weren’t sure if it’s going to work for us, but we wanted to have a go. The plan was easy, buy two bicycles and a trailer in Auckland, cycle around the North Island and then sell the bikes.

First difficult task was to find the bicycles and one trailer. We looked on the Internet for places that sell new or used bikes and planned our visit in town to include those places. At the end of very long and tiring day of going from one place to another, from one end of town to the other, we managed to find what we thought will be good for us. Unfortunately we couldn’t take bikes same day, as they required some service and few changes. We arranged to pick them up in two days’ time, which for us meant one more night in Auckland. Fortunately our couchsurfing host let us stay for additional night.

[quote]Full of mixed feelings, not sure how it’s going to work, but excited about new challenge we prepared for our cycling trip[/quote]

At the arranged time we waited outside the bike shop. The boss turned up and we got our bikes. We were given time to check them properly, adjust seats and prepare the trailer. While doing this, we spotted damage on the tyre that was installed on one of the bikes. As the boss was busy, we had to change the tyre on our own. In the end it turned good for us, as we got could practice changing tyres, and we got two extra inner tubes as gratification for the troubles.

We had long way out of Auckland city, so we started slowly, navigating through the numerous streets while getting used to the bikes. It proved to be quite difficult task, especially with the trailer, but we managed to get out of the city. We started to look for any camping grounds, but we did not have any luck as the best spots had “no camping” signs. Just before it got dark we managed to find a place under trees at the end of meadow, away from houses.

Our bottoms and legs hurt, but we were kind of expecting it. We started going towards the coast. The winding roads were mix of downhill and uphill stretches. It started to rain at some point, so we stopped under the tree for a while. There, we met Jordy from Netherland also cycling in New Zealand. We met him later on, on few occasions. Towing the trailer uphill proved to be almost impossible. It was just too heavy load; even pushing it was quite difficult, we were making our turns in pushing the bike with the trailer up the hill. The reward, going downhill, which was just pure joy. At the end of the day, although there were many places with “no camping” signs, we found one campground which allowed tents and was free! With hot water and power we had it only for ourselves. How nice!

Further on the road led along the coast, and was quite flat, so the kilometres passed quite quickly. The problem was scorching sun which burned us quickly. We couldn’t find place to stop in the shade for break, so we just keep cycling making sure we applied a lot of sun cream on us. We tried to get on to the cycle path, but because it was gravel path, it made it even worse to tow the trailer. So we just kept to the roads. We arrived at crossroads in Kopu and had decision to make about which way to go, to the east or south. We wanted to do some trekking on the Coromandel Forest Park, but we had to leave the bikes somewhere for few days. However, first we had to find accommodation for the night. We weren’t decided which way to go, and the sun was giving us hard time. We stopped at the Garden Centre and asked for direction to any campground place or caravan park. The closest one was few kilometres to the north and there we went. To our surprise Jordy from Netherland was also staying there. We exchanged our impressions and plans for next days, it was nice evening.

Next day we stopped by the information centre asking for any place we could store our bicycles. We had almost arranged it, but as our idea of hiking in the area came out, the lady said, that will be impossible as all the tracks were closed after heavy winter flooding, and wouldn’t open till mid of December. So that was answer to our question, there was no point in staying; we had to move to the south. After a lengthy discussion we decided to go towards Tauranga, where we decide our further plans. Again we chose the road instead of gravel cycle trail and in the early afternoon we got to Paeroa, where we found public campground in the town just for 5 NZD per night. We stayed there and enjoyed nice evening while resting in the shade.

In the morning while we were packing, Jordy from Netherland was passing by. He stopped, and we had quick chat before our paths diverged, as he was heading south, and we were turning east. Who knows maybe we will meet at some point again:) We decided to go along the Hauraki Rail Trail, and it was the best decision we made. The path although gravel one, was beaten so towing the trailer wasn’t that bad. We’ve read that part of the trail between Paeroa and Waihi, which we wanted to go, was really nice with many attractions on the way. As soon we started we could see why. The path is following historic railway line and is passing thorough lush farmland, away from the busy road, in the quiet countryside. There were many trees which gave plenty of shade, so it was a pleasant ride. We passed through 1.2 km long railway tunnel, then bridge over the Karangahake Gorge and continued along the Ohinemuri River to Waihi, enjoying the ride all the way. In Waihi we got back on the road and managed to arrive in Katikati in the early evening. There were many of so called Freedom Camping sites, but they don’t allow tents. We were walking around the city looking for a place to stay. When the darkness came we decided to stop in the big park, under the trees, away from houses.

The last stretch to Tauranga, was just riding along main road. It was long and tiring ride in full sun, up and down the numerous hills. Marcin especially had hard time as his muscles hurt badly after few days of cycling. The road was very busy which didn’t help, but we managed to get to town in early afternoon. At the information centre we booked our accommodation. It was really nice, quiet and small place, called Fernland Spa, with hot pools. We decided to stay for two nights to properly rest, have some nice time and make some plans.