It is difficult to describe the pungent morning aroma of Rotorua. In the name of discretion then (or at least the hope that others will share our blog), we won’t even try.
Our weary legs would probably have appreciated some time in the healing, high sulfur waters of the motel hot baths. However, if hindsight is 20/20, our vision was decidedly blurry - as we had decided to drink at the pub instead. Now, with limb-shaped timber in the places where our legs should have been, we rolled out for our day’s destination; Thames.
Wrong way, go back
For the first time, on a trip with little real planning, we came up against the inevitability of consequence. In this instance, manifested by a blocked road forcing us to double back.
Cecil Road was, apparently, in a state. Rain had pounded the surface in the preceding days, compounded, in all likelihood, by a troop of petulant 4WDs, and finished with what we were convinced was a covered corpse, all serving as factors for the retreat. Plus, the fact that Esjay’s 30mm tires had almost zero clearance meant that mud was not going to be practical today (or any day for that matter).
Should you ever find yourself in New Zealand, seeking a snack for those road-side times of need, well then Griffin’s Fruitli Golden Fruit has you covered. Part biscuit, part sandwich, and filled with a sticky jam of spiced sultanas (which is not dissimilar in appearance to a host of squashed dead flies). A large helping of carbohydrates, and not much else, that will have you rolling again in no time.
With 40 kms of straight, flat roads between Matamata (bursting at the seams with Tolkien fans) and Te Aroha, we decided to move things along as best we could - with 5km turns each. A moderate headwind had each of us feeling pretty tired by the time we rolled off, but a quick top-up of dead-fly biscwiches, and, before we knew it, we’d arrived in Te Aroha.
With each additional day the quality and variety of food choice decreased, as our appetites, proportionally, went up. A few extra tarts here, a couple of caramel slices there. A table full of snacks gone within the blink of a salt-encrusted eye.
Hauraki Rail Trail
The ride from Te Aroha to Thames was largely built around the Hauraki Rail Trail. A trail that proudly claimed, on its own website, to be ‘the easiest cycle trail in New Zealand’. Perfect.
Unfortunately for us we’d be missing some of the key trail attractions, as our route from Te Aroha to Thames wouldn’t be passing through, for example, the Karangahake Gorge.
L&P and ice cream
The trail passed through Paeroa, home of the famous Kiwi soft drink, L&P. It was also, seemingly, home to another peculiarity; chronic ice cream addiction. We had noticed this strange behaviour before, but had dismissed it as an anomaly at the time. In Paeroa, however, we could no longer hide from the truth - New Zealand men love ice cream. Like, really, really love ice cream.
It was not uncommon to see the most hairy, heavily-tattooed, singlet-wearing, look-at-me-the-wrong-way-and-I’ll-kill-you-type tough bloke walk into the convenience store, sorry, ‘dairy’, for what we could only assume would be a packet of cigarettes and a mild robbery, only to come out eating a double cone with pink and blue flavours, hop back in his giant tractor and drive off beaming with joy. They’re just really good people, those New Zealanders, and for some reason the ice cream thing really summed that up for us.
Our arrival in Thames was met only with bitter disappointment (pun intended). As we made for the local pub, searching for those medicinal stouts that had carried us thus far, we instead found a fridge most bare. Thrust upon these toughest of times, we picked up the next best thing and, begrudgingly, headed back for our last night of pseudo-route planning.
The last leg
Onward then to Auckland, and our final day. Mercifully, we had a flat one ahead of us, barring a few small pinches. Our bodies had long since packed it in.
Shortly afterwards we would lose another vital member of our crew.
Poor little guy, he didn’t see it coming. Moreover, there was no coming back from such a savage attack. Beardy’s trusty 30mm tyre had gone to the big, black rubber tire fire in the sky. RIP little buddy.
In the early 1900s the Hauraki Plains were little more than a large swamp. Now, after extensive drainage works, the area is highly productive as dairy land.
Amongst this we found the beach on the western shores of the Firth of Thames. With over 100 migratory bird species, the beach is home to 20,000 seabirds and waders in peak season. For us, however, it was just a beautiful, flat piece of road, winding leisurely along the coastline. We saw almost no birds at all.
We ended our day, and this adventure, back near Auckland Airport, at Natural High (who had been kind enough to look after our bike bags while we’d been out adventuring). A quick clean - then pack - then exit. We walked to the airport with a couple of hours to relax before our flights home.
More from New Zealand
Choose from any of the three parts in our North Island New Zealand adventure, or the Road Book, for all the maps & information you need to get out and explore the area yourself.
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