Tour Aotearoa – My Day Two – Ahipara to Waipoua Forest

With little sleep behind me, it was up & ready to ride before dawn. My appetite had disappeared again, I only managed to get half a muesli bar down. It was a pretty chatty morning as I left the campground with Kevin, a firefighter from Nelson, and we rode at a similar pace to each other as the route got a whole lot hillier than the previous day – that is not to say it was really hilly, rather the beach was obviously lacking in changes in altitude.

It was a beautifully clear morning, there was little traffic on these backroads of Northland and I was really enjoying the riding as it warmed up and the mist eventually burnt off. Stopping for a quick snack and to de-layer at Broadwood (another little town I had no idea existed), I still couldn’t manage to eat much – but was feeling good. Soon after we turned off the sealed road to a graveled forestry road, once again passing pretty close to the same oversized truck that we’d now seen three times.

A lovely misty morning riding through small, but numerous hills.

This road was a late addition to the route – and a much hillier one. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was not resenting the hills over the flatter more-normal route. It was good riding and a whole lot more interesting than eighty kilometres of beach! Looking at the GPS file, I’m surprised to see that in the sixty-odd kilometres to the Hokianga ferry there was over a thousand metres of climbing.

As the day warmed and we had the big downhill finally to sea level, the lack of appetite and food began to catch up with me as I started to feel rather peaky. I vaguely remember the harbour being glasslike and a tranquil scene; but on the short ferry trip waves of nausea cascaded down – somehow I made it off the ferry & into Rawene. I’ve never been particularly good if I don’t/can’t eat (can’t imagine why), and also somewhat susceptible to heat – so this was hardly surprising. I sat in a cafe for a while, wanting desperately to be able to eat something – but just couldn’t bring myself to. Eventually I gathered the strength and was pleased to find a small pharmacy. The pharmacist was very nice and quite helpful.

Heading into Rawene – the first of the five boat rides on the course.

A bit more of the Hokianga.

I faithfully made up the electrolyte solution in the shade. But this was far too much liquid at once for my stomach to handle; thankfully there was little else in there, but that was also the cause of the problem I suppose.

An amusing diversion from my ills was watching these boys and horses playing in the shallows of the harbour. They were all having a much better time than I was; their laughter was pleasing. Note the boy in the water being towed through the water by the horse on the right.

Not much good for anything else (especially the 180 km I had been debating on trying to ride by tomorrow morning to catch the morning ferry to Helensville from Poutu Point), I went and found a nice patch of grass by the harbour shaded by a big tree. I promptly had a big nap; that, and some doctorly and sisterly messaging had me feeling comparatively great in a couple of hours. All of a sudden I had an appetite again and was craving carbs and salt. Salt and vinegar crisps (which became staple Tour Aotearoa food for me), helped a bit – but I was still hungry. What else does one do after vomiting a couple of hours before, but go to the chippie and order their biggest burger and a scoop of chips? They went down a treat as I chatted to a local nan and her grandkids about our ride to Bluff – like most people along the way, she was really interested and supportive.

That unplanned four hour break over, I was sufficiently better to carry on into the afternoon heat a little slower than normal. Mostly it was sea-level road around to the mouth of the Hokianga, but there were a couple of climbs nudging ten percent gradient – but not that tall – to make it a bit of work. I rested and ate a bit more at Opononi before the hills started in earnest.

The steepest climb so far, or so it felt, was out of Omapere – at least it gave a good view of the Hokianga meeting the Tasman.

For a while we followed the Waimamaku River upstream, stopping in its eponymous village for more wonderful food & flavoured milk (long bike rides really do give an excuse to eat & and drink all sorts of things I wouldn’t otherwise) before climbing out of the valley and heading south. Despite it being early evening, the heat of the day had not dissipated and this slow steady climb was the biggest yet by three hundred metres. Some consolation was the road was quiet and the native forest wonderful to be riding through. Nearing the next photo checkpoint, I caught up to Marilyn – because of my big mid-day break I got to meet a few people I would not have otherwise. Still with a thick Newfoundland accent after decades in NZ, she had her whole North Island accommodation planned out and on track to do the event in approximately hundred-kilometre days. A fantastic effort! I was very pleased when she said she’d booked a cabin at the only campground in ages, just a bit down the road, and there were extra bunks. I really needed a good sleep that I knew my tent wouldn’t provide. I was grateful for such generosity to let me take one of those extra bunks.

We stopped and took our photo of the giant Tane Mahuta. It’s hard to get a sense of scale as it is some way from the viewing platform: the trunk is eighteen metres tall, total height about fifty one metres and trunk girth of nearly fourteen metres.

A wonderfully fast descent through light, cooling drizzle took us down to a river and we had to ride a couple of miles off-course downstream to the campground. It was so good not to have to worry about where I’d sleep – I even got a shower, that was two in two nights – luxury! Despite my four hour break in the middle of the day and the horrible nausea, I’d still managed a respectable day of 120 km and a fair few hills (over 2000 m of climbing) in the heat. Not quite as far along as I had wanted to be, but I wasn’t displeased – in fact I was very happy, I could eat again. There was much rejoicing; actually, there was much sleeping.

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