Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The North Island Part 1 - the Coromandel and the Unexpected

Apologies for the lack of blogs so far on this trip, but because of some battery problems with my phone, it was out of action for a couple of weeks. This meant I was unable to get into my blogger account, as Google was suspicious of my location. I had similar trouble with my email also.

So, to the trip then and I have a few blogs to catch up on because a lot more happens on the average day than in Australia. New Zealand has definitely been an adventure so far. Things really couldn't be any more different from Australia, in a number of ways.

Obviously the climate and the ascending and descending nature of the roads was always going to be a contrast, but many more unforseen circumstances have cropped up on this trip. I've had to roll with a few punches so far and also just accept that the weather is simply going to win sometimes and not fight the elements too hard.

Mini disasters have definitely plagued me in New Zealand. In Australia, I don't think anything went wrong at all, everything just went perfectly to plan. New Zealand, a slightly different story. Nothing really major, but annoying little inconveniences:

- I forgot my cycling shoes and had to buy a new pair on arrival.

- I broke one of my cycle locks, when the key snapped in the lock on the first day. This meant I had to saw through the cable with my camp knife to avoid my bike being permanently locked to a fence (just as well I have a good quality knife). While sawing through the lock, I was simultaneously stung on the back of the neck by a wasp.

Hunua Falls, a little before the Coromandel and my first stop and where I had to saw off my cycle lock, with some suspicious eyes looking at me.

- Perhaps as an after-effect from the physical stress of the Darwin to Melbourne dash, I developed the biggest mouth ulcer on the inside of my mouth.

I could feel a dull ache deep inside my cheek when I was in Melbourne and after a day or so in New Zealand a big blister developed inside my mouth about the size of my little finger nail. This became extraordinarily painful after a few days and lasted for about a week.

The pain was so intense it was making my whole mouth hurt and giving me headaches, which really made me consider going to the doctor, just in case it was infected. Fortunately, it (very slowly) started improving, although it did make me pretty miserable for a while.

- Just as I was starting to be able to eat again, an unforecast heavy bout of rain in cold weather chilled me to the bone, which I couldn't shake all day, despite finishing early and sitting in front of a log fire with several layers on. This then made feel sick and I ate nothing from 10am until about 2pm the next day. After managing to hold down some Tom Yum soup in Whanganui, though, I was back to normal.

- As previously mentioned, after a couple of days, the battery on my phone decided to pack-in. I had to order one online and then have it sent to Wellington for pick up. This meant I couldn't contact anyone and also that Yahoo and Google were suspicious of my location and locked me out of my e-mail and Google accounts when I tried to access them on library and hostel computers. Other than Facebook, I had no means of communication.

- In Wellington, I was locked in my hostel room for several hours because of a broken door. Luckily they managed to forcibly open the door before my boat over to the South Island the next morning, though not before I lost a few hours of precious beauty sleep.

Anyway, I came through it all and there were some spectacular places to visit, which, lucky enough, I managed to get some good weather for, despite quite a bit of dodgy weather being present. I started with the Coromandel peninsula.

Some stunning coastal scenery cycling through the Coromandel and beautiful weather. 

In my original plans, I hadn't intended on going to the Coromandel, but I extended my trip by about 20 days to make things less of a rush, so I felt like I could fit it in.

I'm ready glad I did make time for the Coromandel. I was rewarded with wonderful weather and beautiful coastal scenery. 

In my experience, scenic beauty does tend to come at a physical cost, if you are getting there under your own volition. The roads in the Coromandel were the steepest I have ever cycled. The mountains were small, but the roads wound up and down them in a very unforgiving manner. 

For once, I was defeated, I had to get off and push in a couple of sections, and even that was very hard. Pushing over 40 kilos up a steep incline is never going to be easy.

I met a Swedish girl going through the same pain as me, in fact she had made almost identical journeys up until that point. She had completed the same ride in Australia, Darwin to Melbourne, via a different route, starting a month before me and was now in New Zealand cycling from the tip of the North Island to Queenstown in the South.

I bumped into her again at Cathedral Cove a day later also, but she is the only other cycle tourer I have met so far, which surprises me a little.  Maybe it is still a bit too cold for most people. 

Cathedral Cove

On top of the scenic beauty of the Coromandel, it was interesting to have my first experience of volcanic activity in New Zealand, and it was rather unique. 

In Hahei, there is a part of the beach where underground water is heated by a now extinct lava tube. It still has the ability to heat the underground water to over 100°C, which then heats the sand and the water near the surface above to about 60°C. 

When you walk over the sand in certain areas, it feels like underfloor heating, and if you dig a hole, you can have a nice hot bath on the beach. A unique experience, for sure.

Well, I finally published this first blog, and there will be more to come.  I am currently in the South Island and just beginning to spend more time in certain places and do less cycling.  There is an awful lot more distraction here in New Zealand though and why it has been so difficult to get these blogs out.  I should be able to churn a few more fairly soon.

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