Sunday, 27 March 2011

Cycle to Taupo

I was sorry to leave Rotorua and the Funky Green Voyager, where I had made friends with some nice people. It was time to go south to Lake Taupo after being delayed by rain on Sunday. People keep telling me horror stories about the bad drivers in NZ. The owner of the backpackers even gave me a high vis shirt to wear! The first thing to say about the ride was the humidity... I was sweating buckets after a couple of kms. The 30 kms was a long drag up through pine forest which pinned in the humidity nicely. After about 15 km I filled up my water bottles from a camper. I was on the busy SH5  but the drivers were okay and gave me space when I needed it. My bike gave me another headache because a nut and bolt had come loosed and fallen out of the pannier rack . This meant the rack rubbed against the back wheel. I took the quiter road through Reporoa which is famous for an Iron Man going through it. A man at the local shop gave me a cable tie which got me to my destination. I met 2 Germans cycling with their 4 year old daughter attached at the back. They were really laden with tents and loads of other stuff. They had been all over the south island and even over one of the mountain passes. This was a long cycle of 85 kms and it felt longer on my mountain bike. I was really glad to get to Rainbow lodge backpackers. Today is lovely, sunny and fresh.
Gerrard, Vera and Loz looking happy but efficient!

Reporoa Iron Man

Thursday, 24 March 2011

1954 De Havellin - Otter

I am a lot happier with my bike. Yesterday I gave it a good going over and sorted the brakes and the gears. I also bought some Viking lube and she went like a baby. Had a really interesting ride down by Lake Rotorua and saw the thermals steaming out of the ground. In the afternoon went mountain biking in the Redwood forest and went hairing down the Turkish Delight trail. This was a single track with lots of jumps and tree roots... it was great and the bike dealt with it no bother.
Thermal at Orakei Korako

In the evening I went on one of those cultural thingys. This was at a Maori village and they took us on a walk through the rain forest and showed us some of their culture including a show of them in their traditional canoes and a re-enactment of a traditional village with singing, dancing and chants. Luckily, they didn´t take themselves too seriously and their were some good jokes. Then it was a éat as much as you can traditional meal.
I have to admit that when I was a kid i was a Biggles fan... still am in fact. So when I saw a float plane sitting on the lake I enquired further. The upshot being a trip from Rotorua lake over the volcanoes and moutains to a river landing and then a ferry to Orakei Korako thermal park with huge areas of steaming thermal vents and water. Also a lot of boiling mud. It is a very active thermal area which has experienced many volcanoes including a huge eruption in 1886 which vaporised a lake and covered three Maori villages! The flight was awesome with the pilot in full view using 1950ś equipment to get there and back.

Orakei Korako
Tomorrow it is back on the road to Lake Tapu.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Arrived in the thermal and hot spar centre of North Island today and thereś a slight niff of sulphur in the air. The original plan was to take the bus north to Brywryden and cycle a loop around to the Bay of Islands with a possible stop off for a jaunt up to Cape Reinga. It had been a bit frustrating up until today, because my bike didn´t arrive until the day after me and then it needed repairs and a good service. All the delays were to my benefit in the end because Northland and Coromandal have experience some heavy rainfall and are flooded. So a quick re-think and I decided to head south and I will keep going in that direction for the next wee while. It is all to the good, because it is Autumn here and the south will be getting colder. So if I do that first, I can come back up north and see the places I meant to see and it will still be warm up there.
I have to admit that Iḿ wondering if bringing the hybrid bike was a good idea. The back wheel is a bit dodgy and the back brake is a bit temperamental.  With the two panniers on and the back pack it is pretty heavy going up some of the big hills... so maybe i will try to avoid those ha ha. The other thing is that the small cog for going up the big hills is a bit ify too, but whose complaining.
Tomorrow should see me taking a dip in the hot muddy pools around here and taking in a bit of Maori culture. Apparently they cook food in a covered pit on top of hot stones... sounds good to me. Here are some photos of Auckland.

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Saturday, 19 March 2011

Mount Eden, Auckland, NZ

Mount Eden is 3km from central Auckland and boasts the biggest volcanic cone in the area. There are 27 or 40 around here, depending on what you read. Went up to the top yesterday and got a great view of Auckland on a hot, sunny day. That was a bit different from when I arrived when there was a down pour!! I am staying at the Oaklands Lodge hostel which is proving  to be very friendly. Last night I was invited to join in with a bbq, so that was a good start.
But to catch up on things - since the last blog it has been a roller coaster of getting ready for the trip.About 2 weeks before the off, I thought it would be a good idea to take my bike with me. After my experiences on the hills of Shetland I decided to get the gears renewed with a granny gear for the hills. I also invested in a bike computer. Colin at Belhaven bikes was really helpful and I got my bike back with new gears... it worked like a dream. Last Sunday, I dismanlted the bike and everything was going great until I tried to take off the handle bars... they wouldn't shift even with my neighbour helping. So I took the bike alon to Colin thingking a bike man would fix it. He broke his rubber mallet on it and didn't get them off. So I was snookered  and started to wonder if the trip really was such a good idea. A day before the off I decided to take a look at my dirty unserviced hybrid bike which i took with me to India. The long and short of the tale is that I now have it with me  in NZ. The bike box arrived a day or so after I did and it now put together again  but I think that before I tackle the hills it needs a service and the gears looking at. So that is todays task.
Oaklands Lodge
Apart from that bit of news the trip is going splendidly. Yesterday I took a walk into Mount Eden village and I was imp[ressed with the number of runners out . I sat at Fraasers Cafe enjoying a really healthy muesili and yog watching them run by. I noticed that there was an Art auction with local artists paintiing Mount Vernon and then the paintings being auctioned... the proceeds go to encouraging local arts. I thought I would go the following day andonly realised It actually was Saturaday when I was standing at the bus stop intending to go down town...  jet lag is really wonderful. Anyway I'm glad i  went to the art  auction . I got to talk to a lot of the artists and sat in the sun listening to a trio belt out some good music. The tip into central Aucklnad is planned to happen today, on my bike this time.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Countdown to New Zealand

Ten days to go and I will be getting on the 'plane labelled NZ. Actually, it is Qantas, but you know what I mean. I didn't get as far as I had hoped in my plan to take my bike with me. I rang up Expedia, who have given me a very good deal on the trip to NZ, Melbourne and back. The helpful lady said she would ring Qantas and ask about me taking my bike as luggage. I have done this before and what it takes is a discarded bike box, a bike suitably dismantled and other luggage stored around the bike so that it all fits neatly into the box. Anything that can't fit into the box can be put into the back pack... simple. The helpful lady got back to me after a few minutes to say that Qantas are  not answering the phone and would I like to call back later? So I took a not of the number but as yet I have not had the official word about taking my bike as luggage. The next phone call was to the bike shop. I had an idea that they are not open on Monday's and I was right, which means I haven't sorted out a discarded bike box yet!
On the bright side... I had a good run in the winter sunshine and tonight I will be goint to the reconvened 'Life Drawing' classes run by Esther Cohen at Pitclay Gallery, near North Berwick :-)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Retirement and more!

I haven’t been too active on my blog recently, but I have been busy in other areas. One thing that I have been up to  is retiring from work :-) This is one of those life events that you know will happen eventually. When it arrives, you think - wow, I’m a free man, I don’t have to go into work anymore and I can follow my dreams. I can also wax lyrical on my blog if I want to. So now that I have got time to paint and write and keep fit I have decided to go to New Zealand and then Australia. Well you would wouldn’t you! The trip starts on 16 March when I head off to Auckland. I will stay in NZ till the end of April and I’m planning to do as much cycling as possible. Although the trip is nearly on me, I haven’t got a very well worked out plan of where I will go and what gear I will need. Don’t get me wrong, I have been reading about NZ and looking up cycling information on the web, but it was only this week end that I thought I would see if it is possible to take my bike with me in a bike box. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, because I took the bike to India a couple of years ago without any problems. This time I got some inspiration from the web-site Barry and Margaret Williamson who cycled a 4,641 mile circuit around NZ in five months a few years ago. Have a look at their web-site, its pretty impressive. http://

I haven’t left everything till the last minute, I have tickets arranged and travel insurance and some NZ dollars ordered. Between now and 16 March, there are quite a few things to do, starting with checking about taking my bike… I will keep you posted!

Painting and drawing has taken a back seat recently, but this is something I hope to put right as I travel around NZ. But I did manage a sketch, when I was waiting for a flight from Belfast International airport at the week end.