Tour Aotearoa – My Day Three – Waipoua Forest to Helensville

As my big illness-induced rest in the middle of the previous day meant there was no question of a big through-the-night ride to the morning ferry, I had all day to ride the 120-odd kilometres to Pouto Point to get the six o’clock boat. So quite a good restraint to make sure I had an easy day and properly got over the nausea. I slept well & comparatively late, on the bike just after seven o’clock. A brief section on the quiet highway had us climbing a bit, before turning off and fanging it down a rather gnarly gravel road. There were many rough parts of the ride where it was great to have proper mountain-bike tyres – this was definitely one of them and there were no complaints from me about the condition of the road.

A smaller climb out of the valley that had put us in, past more large stands of native forest before a gradual descent to farm land on the flats. Thankfully not much time on the highway and just picking the way through various rural roads. I did hear, later, mention of just how much farmland we went through (particularly in the North Island) – but we were traveling the length of NZ and farming is a large and important part of the country; so of course we were going to see a lot of it. I was having a grand old time and thrilled to be out in the sun seeing so much.

Dargaville was the largest town we’d been to yet, and it was definitely time for second breakfast – after returning to the same supermarket I’d been in but three days prior. With only seventy kilometres to ride in eight available hours, I had plenty of time up my sleeve. The cafe down the side street opposite the supermarket was humming with a large group of teachers and a group of retired. I took my time savouring the food and tea.

Cooked breakfasts quickly became a staple wherever and whenever I could get them. And the favourite of those was always what I could get that was as close as possible to a Full English.

Loaded up with plenty of food and water as it was getting rather hot again, I finally rolled out of town just before noon. For thirty kilometres it was flat through more farms – I’m still annoyed I didn’t pause to take a photo of the large Underground roundel sign that marked a cattle underpass. A pair had passed me as I stopped briefly on the outskirts of town – I eventually caught them as the hills started to get bigger, but consistently returned us to sea level.

It was great riding and chatting with Mike and Richard – a father and son (Richard, I think, about my age and Mike retired) from Wanaka. What a great journey to do together. We were clearly heading for forestry – there were a lot of logging trucks. I was glad I’ve gotten used to riding so close to these behemoths on my commute – I imagine it would have been rather disconcerting otherwise. Good old New Zealand and it’s two degrees of separation – we quickly worked out Mike and I knew a few people in common in the deep south. It rather seemed that the hills wouldn’t end, but eventually we made it to Pouto Point with a couple of hours to spare.

It was said that the boat would only take thirty riders and their bikes, so it was with some relief that I placed my helmet in the queue and found it was twenty-ninth. But I wasn’t too worried as I’d heard rumours that they’d squeezed a few more on earlier sailings. There was ample time to dry out tents, take a swim, sit in the shade, have a beer and wait for the boat to turn up.

A completely normal queuing method, I’m sure.

Looking across the Kaipara towards Auckland. This boat trip is part of the route, one assumes, as otherwise it would be an awful lot of busy and dangerous highway to get into NZ’s biggest city.

Also, it rather adds to the adventure – boarding a boat by walking up & along a long aluminium ladder while wheeling one’s bike along a plank of timber.

The queue stretches – in the end we got about forty-five (reports vary) bikes and riders on. Some of the first of the Wave Three riders just made it on – they’d ridden about 350 km in about twenty-seven hours! Some of them were a bit wrecked, but others were great company.

Looking over to the south head of the entrance to the harbour.

It was a supreme evening for a boat ride across the Kaipara, yet another new NZ experience for me. I was pretty chuffed as Dad had just been telling me that my grandfather use to get a boat across the harbour to Helensville & then get the train into Auckland and boarding school – and here I was doing something very similar just over a hundred years later. Because it was a few hours in a boat across the harbour in the evening, I’d layered up. Unnecessarily as it turned out, it was a warm calm evening and it was also rather cosy aboard – so I was soon removing extra layers.

The service was sublime – cups of tea and large slices of fresh watermelon were brought forth from the cabin. Our orders were taken for dinner from the captain’s favourite fish and chip shop and radioed ashore – brilliant. As the sun set beautifully, we motored up the Kaipara River to Parakai. I’m glad the captain had been sailing these waters for over fifty years – I couldn’t see a lot, but I could see sandbanks seemingly appearing from nowhere.

Safely back on solid ground it was only ten minutes’ ride and we were queuing to get our individual parts of the largest takeaway order I’ve seen in quite some time. The Kaipara Cruising Club had kindly opened their clubrooms (including bar) for us to sleep on the floor for five dollars, so most of us settled there for the night. I was in two minds, but took my (huge) burger (no wonder the captain recommended it) and chips around to eat before deciding whether I would ride into Auckland that night or sleep at the Cruising Club.

As it happened, the burger was so large I could hardly move after finishing it, so had little choice but to try and get some sleep. I was a little disappointed as I was feeling good and absolutely itching to ride (it had been a pretty easy day really), but considering the state I had been in the previous day – a bit of rest would probably be a good idea. It wasn’t a good idea: there were so many people faffing around, it was ages before the lights went off and in the end I slept very little.

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