Ramblin’ man … men
Our adventure ramblin’ around Te Ika-a-Maui was not meticulously planned (one could argue our trips never really are, but this one was totally spontaneous and with route unknown). All we knew for sure was that we had just completed a 170km road race, and were flying out of Auckland 6 days down the line. Routes & accommodation would be a daily consideration, and we were willing to ride big days. Perhaps most importantly, with 30mm rubber on our bikes, we were willing to tackle almost any road New Zealand could throw at us.
Our journey to Tuai was built around a long stretch of gravel road winding high and low alongside Lake Waikaremoana (Maori for ‘sea of rippling waters’). For these early stages, Beardy & I were joined by some mates from the road race we had completed a day prior. Originally headed down another path, their plans for the day had changed when they peered over Beardy’s shoulder as he planned our route the night before.
Just the two of us
After having their fill of gravel (and flats – only being on 23 or 25mm tires), we said farewell to our friends. Unfortunately, for the recently departed, the next few sections of Waikaremoana Road turned out to be among the most picturesque; dropping right down alongside the lake, before climbing back up over the natural dam, and dropping us into Tuai.
Tuai ... and refreshments
Having ridden a shorter route than we’d initially planned, we arrived ahead of schedule at the Big Bush Holiday Park. It was too early for food and so, with time to kill, and an appetite to suppress, we set about soaking up the wilderness cabin vibes ... and the Speights Gold Medal Ale.
Pack light, eat Mexican
Opting for a lightweight setup offers great flexibility when it comes to accommodation choices, in the form of pubs, quirky motels, or even cabins. The catch being that you find yourself doing a bit of laundry – only 1 kit for 6 big days of riding could go rather awry without a little attention daily.
Laundry done, dinner called… “la cena está lista!”
While route planning the night before, we had settled on Gisborne as our destination. It was 140km in the general direction we wanted to head (towards the Motu trail), and looked like it had plenty of gravel.
The chill of the morning was amplified by a steep descent to get things started. We then weaved towards the Wairoa River through picture-perfect rolling hillsides.
Others had been less lucky, seemingly crashing and then abandoning their car the night before. We checked for survivors before rolling on.
For the likes
We made a brief stop in Frasertown for a snack and a bit of obligatory #BAAW, this time against the exterior of a rundown, rustic old shop. With all the climbing for the day yet to come, we filled our pockets with sweets and our backpacks with takeaway sandwiches.
After grinding our way up the biggest climb we’d come across all day, we hit a pub. We certainly weren’t expecting it to be there, but we took the chance to pause for lunch and a pub-quality coffee.
“Yep, you’re pretty much done with the hill, she’s all downhill from here to Gisborne” we were told. Being lied to is never easy, but this one really hurt. Every additional metre of climbing added insult to injury, until we actually did, quite some time later, get ‘pretty much done’ with that hill - and the one after that.
In search of Stout
Arriving in Gisborne to our rather odious accommodation, we quickly freshened up and made tracks to the Pub. It turned out to be an Irish Pub, thus precipitating the first tradition, nay, necessity, of this adventure; the daily recovery stout. Not sufficiently satisfied with those enjoyed at the pub, we hit the local Pak’nSave for more, before heading back to do some route planning for day three.
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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