Thursday, January 16, 2014

Days 4,5 &6 - Manukau to Dargaville

Our first days in the saddle with a loaded bike - going well so far we think (apart from the fact my panniers weigh a tonne and Gabe’s weigh double!).

Our first day went smoothly riding out of Auckland thanks to google maps which actually knows about all of Aucklands cycle paths.  Not quite so convenient after my phone battery went flat though! 

There were a few things I was thinking up some of the hills – like do I really need my touchpad?  Do I really need my ultra lightweight backpack? Why do I have so many cans of tuna in my panniers???  Maybe we can adjust the packing slightly and make a second trip to the post office.  There’s a few ways of thinking about it – I like to think that the more I carry, the stronger I’ll get.  At the moment our paces are quite well matched – but I have done more cycling recently than Gabe so I expect it won’t take long and he’ll be zooming ahead of me up all the hills!  Instead of shedding the 500gs of touchpad I’m typing this on I would rather shed 500g off from under my cycling jersey anyway!!!  Touchpad is staying for now!!

We cycled to Parakai Springs and pitched our tents – our friend Lynda came and visited us for a dinner of curried veggies and couscous.  She also made us some awesome scones and some awesome focaccia!  It was a great night!

We jumped on a fishing charter – it was actually a family fishing day that the guy that was running the fishing charter but Rod and Cheryl welcomed us on board, and they lent us a rod and while the journey across to Pouto Point was an enjoyable 5 hours.   First time for me fishing with a fishing rod and I while a lot of bait got eaten by the fishies without actually catching them, I did manage to hook a 76cm kingfish.  The guys on the boat were pretty jealous as it’s rare to catch a kingfish let alone one that’s legal.  Legal size for a kingfish is 75cm so mine was ok to eat for dinner!  Gabe did an awesome job cooking it up and there’s something kind of cool about eating a fish you caught yourself straight out of the harbour! 


The boat dropped us off at Pouto Point and we decided to pitch out tent right there – there’s a cute as little camp spot just above where the boat dropped us off, with facilities kind of like a cute little backpackers.  Beautiful spot. 

The Kennett Brothers give two options of riding from Pouto Point to Dargaville – along the beach or on the road.  The beach is only possible 2.5 hours either side of low tide because otherwise the sand is too soft further up the beach.  We both were keen to take the beach road but unfortunately the headwind and sand meant that we were only able to ride at about 12km/hr and after riding 7km to the lighthouse we decided that we hadn’t allowed ourselves enough time to make it to Glinks Gully before losing the beach.  So we stop to explore the lighthouse, and decide to ride back again and take the road.

The road to Dargaville from Pouto Point is only about 50% paved and it’s days like this I am very glad I’m riding with fat knobbly tyres!  We both had our first falls off our bikes and I’m thankful that my touchpad still works!  I will continue wrapping my thermarest around it for extra padding!!! 

Tomorrow we will begin the next leg to Rawena – we expect to get there in 2 days. 

Days 2 & 3 - Planning and preparation in Manukau

People keep asking us “so where are you going” and it wasn’t until yesterday evening that we decided on some kind of rough plan!!!  It involves riding north to Cape Reinga.  Turning around and riding south again to Thames to meet up with Erin and Ted the Tread Routes team – we’ll ride with them from Thames to Wanganui, and then continue on to Wellington, head off to the South Island and hopefully make it to Bluff one day…

There’s a few last minute to sort out – some idiot bumped my bike over after I had it set up and leaning against a wall at the airport. Unfortunately my helmet was hooked onto my handlebars and the fully loaded bike fell right on top of it and cracked it so it was time for a new helmet!!!  Thankfully helmets at the bike shop were on sale and my replacement cost me $50 instead of $110!  The plus side on all of this is that this guy is the most comfy helmet I have ever owned - it’s a Limar Superlight 525 -  funky colour too – white and black with green scribble.


Day 1 - Auckland Airport to Manukau

Today is the day the big journey has begun.  Only right now I’m still not 100% sure where we’re going, and what we’re going to achieve.  Tomorrow’s job will involve figuring out all of that kind of stuff. 

Flew into Auckland safe and sound, and met up with my good friend Gabe who I hadn’t seen in 2.5 years.  Ultra enthusiastic as always we decide that since there is a bike assembly area specifically for cycle tourists right at Auckland international airport we may as well make good use of it and put our bikes together right there and then. Gabe was concerned as his box had come undone somehow on it’s way from Florida.  No dramas there – the beautiful black Bart the Troll and Clive the LHT arrive undamaged.  It takes a good few hours for us to get our bikes organised.  Both of us left in a bit of a hurry so there was a bit to be done as far as pannier adjustments etc etc.  Neither of us have done any significant amount of cycle touring – I have never carried my camping gear on my bike or cycled longer than 5 days. 

Pedals on, saddle up, handlebars reattached, racks on, panniers packed relatively evenly and on.  I try and lift Clive with his bags on.  FAR OUT he is heavy!!! Before I left I had all my stuff spread out on the floor.  Looked at it, halved it, halved it again.  I swear I need absolutely everything inside these panniers!!! 

Still without a plan for where we are going we decide to ride to the nearest caravan park we can find and pitch our tents there.  It’s been too long since I’ve been in my tent! 

We spread out our stuff – show each other what we brought and try and justify to eachother and ourselves what we’re taking with us and what we’re going to send back home.  I cull my spare chain, 1 cycling jersey, my spoke tool, my swimmers.  I’ll probably reassess this again while I’m crawling up some of the NZ hills!!! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Round the Mountain

Day 0 – Whakapapa Info Centre to Whakapapaiti Hut

Track &Terrain: Easy uphill, lots of track work. Walked last bit in the dark without any worries – track markers have reflectors easily picked up by torchlight so finding the track is easy. Whakapapaiti River can be unsafe to cross if its raining but no problems today.
Estimated walking time from DOC: 2-3 hours
My walking time: 3 hours
Weather: Clear skies, sunny until the sun went down, then full moon!

Journal: Today wasn’t really part of the plan, but I started walking anyway leaving the Whakapapa info centre at 7pm with the plan to suss out the track with the knowledge that I’d be soon walking in the dark by full moon and headlamp.

The first section of the track was really good and I was feeling like I was on a real tourist route the track work was so good (especially after the amount of untracked walks I’ve been on in SEQ!). I didn’t lose the sun until 9pm so only an hours walk in the dark. Trusty head torch on my head and even whent the track quality deteriorated a little, theres heaps of reflective markers so it didn’t feel too crazy at all. Full moon shining, some sections I didn’t even need the torch! Boots and feet got wet crossing the Whakapapaiti River – not quite sure if there was a better place to cross somewhere further up/down stream which might’ve been easier to find if it wasn’t dark. Whakapapaiti Hut is a cute and cozy little place. The hut warden and another walker are still up with the fire going. Feeling fit and strong after last weeks walks in Egmont NP and to Zekes Hut.

Day 1 – Whakapapaiti Hut to Mangaturuturu Hut

Track and Terrain: Not much track work. Lots of up and down all day. More difficult than yesterday.
Estimated walking time from DOC: 6 hours
My walking time: 8 hours (lots of stops and photos)
Weather: Sunny – clear skies. Hat, sunnies, sunscreen essential.

Journal: My day starts with a sleep in. I don’t crawl out of my sleeping bag until 9am after my late night the previous night. This means that I’m not walking until 1030am. I’m not sorried though. Lovely day, sun is shining and there’s plenty of daylight to play about with! I’m in no particular hurry. That’s the thing about going solo. No one has to wait for me, I don’t need to wait for anyone.

The track undulates and I stop multiple times, gazing u at the mountain admiring it as the angle changes as I start to move my way around it. I take lots of photos. I talk to the grasshoppers. I don’t see another human all day. I don’t get to my destination until 6pm. Once I get there I decide to make some rules. Shower before dinner.

I jump in the Mangaturturu River and splash about. The water comes off the mountain so it’s FREEZING and I don’t get the top half washed too well because it’s too cold. I’m such a pansy!

Now it’s time to sleep. I’m here by myself and can’t get the fire to start. I’ve used a third of my roll of toilet paper and a fifth of my bottle of cooking fuel. I think the wood is wet. I’m tired.

Day 2: Mangaturuturu Hut to Mangahuehu Hut

Track and Terrain: Awesome section of track straight up a waterfall (easy scramble), down the Ohakune Mtn Rd, then good track work all the way to Mangahuehu Hut = easy walk day.
Estimated walking time from DOC: 5hours 30mins
My walking time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Weather: Sunny

Journal: Oh my gosh – WOW! The route up to Wanganui corner is phenomenal. An awesome walk straight up a waterfall – an easy scramble. Amazing views all the way out to Taranaki! Todays hike is easier than yesterdays. I wake at 7:15, have coffee and orridge for breakfast. All set to go with my rucksack on my back at 9:15 and arrive at the next hut at 1530 – not a bad effort considering the number of photos, and multiple stops admiring the views, and the fact that my left Achilles tendon hurts. Ouchie!!!

Unlike yesterday – today I wee multiple people as I hike. First I see some friends I made last weekend heading up the hill for some skinning time and I’m frustrated at myself for not organising myself better so I can join them! I see some day walkers checking out Waitonga falls. I see the park ranger who has been out doing some track work on this section of the mountain and repairing one of the bridges – we have quite a long chat. I think he must’ve been feeling lonely too!

I see a couple of day hikers (oldies) speeding along to the mangahuehu hut and back on a day trip. I love speedy oldies and hope that when I’m that old I’ll have the same level of health and fitness to be like that too! When I get to the hut I meet a girl, Karen, from Guatemala. Also walking around the mountain but it’s her day 1. She hurt her knee on our side of the mountain skiing. I apparently processed her knee brace refund!

Another couple of oldies turn up for a night at the hut too. Plenty of friends and company tonight. Nettie and Donna who are on a photographic mission. I make a fire with no worries tonight!!

Day 3 – Mangahuehu Hut to Rangipo Hut

Track & Terrain: Comparatively difficult. Not much in the way of track work. Just marker poles across rocky, sandy dessert. More uphill than downhill.    One quite steep gorge to get across – more difficult going down than going up.
Estimated walking time from DOC: 5 hours 30 minutes
My walking time: 8 hours
Weather: Sunny

Journal: Clean socks!

Early rise this morning. I cook my porridge and make a coffee. Donna and Nettie are already up after having a sunrise photographic mission. Karen leaves before me. There’s a big difference in track condition from yesterday. The forest disappears & before long I am standing in the desert. A desert full of rocks. The lanscape is so different I fell like I’m almost back in Namibia again! I only see one other walker today. A man from Auckland. He’s walking the same trail in the opposite direction. The air is warm and dry and it really seems like this side of the mountain gets much less rainfall. I cross the gorge Nettie had warned me about – the slopes made with loose scree but it’s not as bad as it looks at a distance. I wish I had more grip left on my hiking boots!

I stop to tape duct tape on to my sore Achilles trying to give it some support. That tendon feels like it’s full of sand! Weird. I’m a big believer in duct tape and paracetamol. I’m able to fix most things with this stuff.

Rangipo Hut is 1556m above sea level – nearly the same as base elevation at Turoa. Not surprising it’s a little colder up here.

My knees feel like they are an arthritic 80 and while I walk I think about the possibility of hiking with poles… I’d always thought that they were only for oldies or otherwise something extra to carry. I’ve been told by some incredibly experienced trampers otherwise though – they help the knees, make you go faster, and are particularly useful crossing rivers! Something to think about anyway… Could probably get away with using my ski poles!

Anyhow, dinner time – salami and soup mix split peas and pearl barley! Tastey.

Day 4 – Rangipo Hut to Waihohonu Hut

Track and Terrain: Similar to yesterday but much more down than up means a much easier day.
Estimated tramping time from DOC: 4hours 30minutes
My time: 4 hours 30minutes.
Weather: SUNNY!!!

Journal: A comparatively easy day. My knees are feeling like they’re 50 (which is better than yesterday’s 80!) and there’s nothing like duct tape to fix a sore Achilles! The landscape is much the same as the previous day but not nearly as much down and up. Karen and I wake early to watch the sun come up and are rewarded with a beautiful sunrise! I get walking early and I walk up over a ridge and I’m greeted by my friend Ngaruhoe!!

I walk along and I can see the back side of the Pinnacles. Mother Nature has given me another day of fine weather. The track today is mostly loose gravel and sand – nothing too steep. Despite a long lunch stop and lots of photos, and a side trip to the Ohinepango springs – I make it to the hut by 1315. And whoa – this place is FANCY! Solar panels, big spacious areas, gas stoves, picnic tables… I meet Kayla the hut warden from back at the Whakapapaiti Hut again aswell which is nice. Turns out I left my iPhone charger back in the other hut and she figured out I’d be here tonight and brought it back!!! So now I have power in my phone again from my portable solar panel and only no mobile reception!

There’s a weather report inside the hut and I think I might be getting wet tomorrow. The hut is so fancy that it feels really out of place to be in the middle of nowhere. I kind of want to leave. I think about keeping on walking back to the car but the sign says 5hours and my knees and Achilles are saying enough walking for one day!! And it costs $32 to stay here at this time of year and I’ve already paid so I decide to stay. Instead I go and have my routine shower in the river and visit the nearby historic hut then settle down for my afternoon nap. I’m normally not really into mistorical thing but this place is cool - it used to be used by Ruapehu Ski Club back in the days before RAL… there’s a photo of women skiing in their skirts from back in 1905! So cool to see women skiing even back then (even if they are wearing skirts!)

Day 5 - Waihohonu Hut to Whakapapa Information Centre

Track &Terrain: Highway! Steady uphill, then lots of downhill
Estimated track walking time from DOC: 5hours 30 minutes
My time: 3hours 30 minutes
Weather: Rainy, drizzly, cold!!

Journal: Early rise, clean socks, clean shirt - Early getaway – the sun is hiding today somewhere behind the clouds. I can’t see my friends Ngaruhoe or Ruapehu today. They are playing hide and seek under the clouds.

I try to take some photos but I’m out of battery on my camera. Outside is cold and wet and rainy. I eat, pack and go. Walking a little faster today. It takes 2 hours to get to the Tama Lakes turn off. The lower one is only 10 minutes from the track. I think about going for it but I’m cold and wet and it’s raining. I regret walking in my cotton trousers rather than my “waterproof” ones which aren’t actually waterproof but at least quite a bit warmer when I do get wet! I keep walking. With no views or functioning camera there’s nothing to take photos of, nothing really worth stopping to take photos of so I put my head down and walk. Lots of people about on a Saturday on day trips starting from the village. I make pass Taranaki Falls which are pretty cool – and with the rain probably even cooler than on a sunny day!

I walk back to the car and I’m freezing cold, and thankful to have all my stuff in my car (which includes dry warm clothes!!) I think all this sunny weather I’d been having is making me get soft!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cape Agulhas

Today my ride took me from Gansbaai to Cape Aglhas One of things I love about self supported bike touring is the flexibility to choose how far I feel like riding, how long I feel like sleeping in... Probably that's why it's taken me 4 days to ride 280km!! Today was the first morning I had set an alarm and my day had stated while the sun was still coming up. I chose to hot the dirt a little earlier than I needed to in order to have the chance at an extra coke stop in Elim. When I got there though the shop was closed so I was thankful I had my bag of rusks hidden in my backpack to munch on!!! I made it to the Cape by midday - plenty of time to go for a ride down to the southern most tip and explore town. Cape agulhus/Struis Bay is yet another beautiful place on this continent... I could spend days here but tomorrow I press on with the aim to get to Witsand.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cape Town to Gansbaai

Whoopsies - I just realized I haven't written anything here since I was on holidays in Malawi! THese riders must've been keeping me busy!! TDA has finished for another year and now I have 3 more weeks until my next job starts (which involves nursing on Mt Ruapehu - right on the ski field in nz- lifes not bad eh!). There's plenty to do in that time though! First I have to ride my bike to Knysna! 10 days to unwind and explore South Africa after 4 months of hard work! There's no better way than on the bike! Bit of excercise, bit of chilling, bit of exploring, bit of Wimpy! So far I have made it to Gansbaai which is only 170km over 3 days! Nothing too difficult. The riding is beautiful- lovely coastline, beaches and mountains! It doesn't take much of a hill for me to feel it with the extra weight of the pannier bags though and because I haven't been doing so much riding lately I'm feeling a lite tired!! After that I sell my bike fly to Perth, visit Janey, fly to Brissie visit Mum and Dad, study for my ALS exam the following week, sell Hamish Corolla if that's possible in only a week, fly to NZ, buy another car.... Tomorrows plan is to get to Cape Agulhas - the southern most tip of the country! Backpacking here is a little lonely this time of year- there's been only me in my room for 3 nights in a row now!! I don't really mind though- it's nice to have a little space sometimes!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Malawian Minibus

It's easy to take holidays. All you need to do is pack your bags and jump on a bus. Catching up to the group again is a different story though!

After 4 full days relaxing and chilling out in Nkhata Bay I decide it's time to move, time to start slowly making my way towards Lilongwe, with the plan to take the road via the Lake (not the way we go with the bikes) and spend a couple of nights first at Senga Bay.

On the map and from talking to the locals it sounds easy enough. If I want to get up early, there's a bus that stops in Salima (near Senga Bay) which goes usually around 6am. The problem with this is that I would have to get up before the sun which kind of makes me feel like I'm not on holidays anymore, so I decide to take option B - Minibus from Nkhata Bay to Dwangwa, minibus Dwangwa to Nkhotakhota, minibus from Nkhotakhota to Salima, then minibus from Salima to Senga Bay.

I'm at the Nkhata Bay bus stop by 8am, and find the right bus to Dwangwa pretty easily. The driver is in no particular hurry even after the bus has enough people onboard for it to start moving. Then the minibus starts beeping and carrying on... eventually we make it to Chincheche, a town not really very far from Nkhata Bay and I get told to jump on a different bus because the one I was on is having problems!!! So I sit and wait at the bus stop and eventually another bus rocks up. A guy comes up and introduces himself to me. He tells me his name is John Howard even before I tell him where I come from. He's of course yet another Artist wanting to sell me some paintings. Because I don't want to be rude I look at his paintings - some of them are quite good but I don't need paintings. So then he tries to sell me some small wooden elephants instead. I also don't need elephants so I don't buy them either.

Another bus pulls up and I jump on board and eventually we're on the road again This one gets halfway to Dwangwa before it runs out of fuel. Time to jump on the next bus that comes by...

Eventually there's another bus, and we're back on the move... this time moving at a good pace and we make it to Dwangwa by 2pm and I begin to think that perhaps Senga Bay is too far for a day and perhaps Nkhotakhota is far enough.

The bus from Dwangwa to Nkhotakhota goes pretty smoothly and I get to Nkhotakhota by 4pm. I think I can make it to Salima before the sun goes down...

I also meet back up with a guy called Issa who I first met earlier that day in Chincheche. He managed to get a lift with someone else from Chincheche to Nkhotakhota and he's surprised that I've caught back up to him!!! He's a friendly guy, well educated and with a good sense of humour.

I get to sit right up the front of the minibus next to another young Malawian man. This guy asks me if I can help to get him sponsorship so that he can go to university to study social studies. He tells me that he's very keen to get a good education because he wants to be the next prime minister of Malawi because he doesn't think much of the current one and he thinks he could do a better job. He knows it will be easier for him to become prime minister if he has a good education. I apologise for not being able to help.

The bus is moving very slowly and I glance at the fuel gauge and notice that it is nearly empty... (that's actually an understatement - I'm wondering if the fuel gauge is working becuase it looks like it's completely empty and the light is on!).

I really prefer when I'm going somewhere I've never been before to get there while it's still light if it's at all possible and I begin to regret not calling it quits for the day back at Nkhotakhota...

Sure enough, the bus coughs and the engine stops. No fuel left. The driver sends the guy that collects the money on a bicycle down the road with a jerry can to get some fuel. It's starting to get dark.

We hang out in the bus for quite some time wondering how long it will take for the guy to come back with the petrol. Meanwhile the driver periodically tries to start the bus up again and move it forward 5 metres or so...

Then the driver gets out and goes walking down the road. Eventually another minibus pulls up behind us and we all pile on. This time I am sitting back next to my friend Issa. Issa comes from Salima and he was just in Chincheche for business. I ask him if he knows a cheapish place for me to spend the night in Salima when we get there because I have had enough for the day!

At 9pm just 200m from the bus station, the bus runs out of fuel (again!). Thankfully we're as good as there.

Issa tells me that all the hotels near the Salima bus station are quite expensive and he tells me he knows a cheaper one just up the road. He finds some bicycle taxis for us and someone else pedals me up the road. I feel bad because it must be heavy with me and my big bag on the back of the bike! I hoped that the guy pedalling me knows where he is going becuase it's dark and I am tired, alone and if he doesn't then I know this could get really dodgy! Issa doesn't strike me as a dodgy guy though (and I think I am getting pretty good at picking them!). Anyhow, I get to this really nice little basic hotel. 500 kwacha per night (about $2.50) and I get my own clean room, bed, mosquito net. Shared bathroom with no running water but that's no big deal. The people are friendly and they make me some goat and nsima (maize meal) for dinner. Yum yum.

Today I was going to make it the rest of the way to Senga Bay but it was raining like crazy outside and I decided that I quite like Salima. It's not a tourist town which means that no one hastles me like I would expect once I got to Senga Bay!!!

I am enjoying my last day of holidays today. Feet up, read some book, bit of internet... Tomorrow morning I will get another minibus to Lilongwe. Fingers crossed it will only take one and it won't run out of fuel!!! I'm feeling really excited about going back to work and seeing everyone again!!