A change of tack

I am sitting in the lounge at Sunflower Lodge YHA in New Plymouth, listening to chillaxing music, eating an apple with peanut butter, and waiting for Ed to make me a cup of tea.  It’s almost like we’re on holiday or something!  The slight snag is that when I try and get up and walk anywhere, I’m currently waddling like a duck.  More on that later.  What on earth have we been up to since I last posted??

We have cycled some beautiful roads, and taken in some spectacular scenery.

Two cyclists on a dirt track
Pretending we’re on mountain bikes in Pirongia Forest Park (on our way to the free campsite – see below)

 

Cyclist on the road in the New Zealand forest
On our way from Marakopa to Te Kuiti.

A man walking onto a black sand beach
Checking out Kawhia’s Ocean Beach

We’ve tried our best to stay on the backroads, with some unfortunate consequences…..

 

Cyclist giving a gravel road the thumbs down
And the road turns to gravel…..for 7 steep, downhill kilometres.  Sense of humour failures all round. I didn’t kick my bike, honest.

We’ve also been scared silly by the occasional close encounters with fast moving trucks.  They are mostly pretty courteous…and give you space when there’s space to give.  If there’s no space, rest assured they’re coming through anyway.  Our new tactic is to jump off the road when they approach – possibly overkill, but it makes us feel better!

We’ve camped in some special places, including one in the pouring rain (where the host took pity on us and gave us free shower tokens!)

Campsite
Camping with a view at Shekinah Farm. The hosts let everyone share their kitchen and living room so no need to sit in the cold wind either!

 

Campsite with a single tent
We enjoyed having Kaniwhaniwha campsite all to ourselves! We did have to swim in the river to wash, and the water filter came in handy….but it was free!

 

We’ve even managed to cook up something of a storm at said campsites.

 

Chick peas with couscous
Green beans, chick peas and tomatoes with couscous

 

Curry and rice
Coconut curry with halloumi

Pasta
Lentil ragu with pasta

 

We’ve also spent two wonderful evenings in the company of Warmshowers hosts….in the lap of luxury in their nice houses with well-stocked beer/wine fridges!!  Not to mention their friendly cats 🙂

 

A couple
Off to a good start – fun times with Ray and Zoe in Papakura

Four people sitting around a dinner table
Another lovely evening thanks to Stephen and Kara – who previously hosted Anna McNuff! Also great to meet fellow cyclist Ev.

And so we find ourselves in New Plymouth!  Not on everyone’s itinerary due to being somewhat stuck out to the West, but I have wanted to come here since my very first visit to New Zealand.  Why I hear you ask??  Because it is home to this beast:

 

Volcano
Mount Taranaki. Who doesn’t love a perfect pointy mountain?

Not only did we cross paths with my parents once again, leading to a bonus evening spent in their company, but we stumbled upon two days of utterly perfect weather, making it more than feasible to FINALLY don our hiking kit, and get up into the hills.  If we’re really honest, so far, cycling in New Zealand hasn’t really hit the spot*….but this certainly did.

*slightly our own fault for being on bikes that don’t deal well with gravel or single track…and thus being forced onto the highways a lot more than we would like.  Not sure any fully-loaded bike would make me feel comfortable on the slippy stuff, however, but I am the sissiest of sissies!  But really, New Zealand, can’t you manage to pave your flipping roads??  Thailand has managed…..  Grumble over!

So, we squeezed our kit and food for 2 days into our ridiculously small backpacks, hopped into a shuttle up to the National Park, and were deposited at the start of the Pouakai Circuit.  Two days of arduous ups and downs, steps and tree roots, a spot of mud…..and wall to wall sunshine illuminating view after stupendous view.

Panorama with a volcano
The track is mostly contained within this photo!

Hiking hut
Home for the night – Pouakai hut 

Hiker is the woods
In the woods

Forested hills
Looking back at the Pouakai ranges – the remains of a volcano much older than Taranaki

It was really wonderful.  Friendly people at the hut in the evening, perfect stars when night fell (is it easier to see the milky way in the southern hemisphere?  I shoud know this!), and a stunning sunrise over New Plymouth the following morning.  Sigh.  If only my legs were still talking to me!  😀

More tramps are to be tramped….this change of tack is not temporary.  Watch this space!

So, onto the usual admin 🙂  Photos from our NZ cycle adventure so far can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/126636200@N07/A4871U

And, of course, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram @unprofessionaladventurers – struggling a bit with lack of wifi here in NZ but my intentions are good!

 

 

 

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