New Zealand -North Island 1/2

New Zealand - North Island - Part One

28. 2. 2018 - 20. 3. 2018   652,5km

Flight to New Zealand was incredibly long, the only luck was that it was overnight. After landing in Auckland we were waiting for immigration, we were curious how thoroughly they would check the cleanliness of our equipment. The custom officer was kind and everything went smoothly, he only took our tent to quick laboratory examination. The tent passed and we could continue. There was a pleasant surprise in the arrival hall - a laughing blonde girl with welcoming banners in her hand. She is Paja‘s sister Lena, who came to NZ on working holiday visa almost a year ago. This was the most comfortable day in the new country we have ever had. We didn’t worry about where to sleep or build the bikes. We were in clover. We reached a nearby hostel by bus and the rest of the day we chatted with a bottle of wine until the late evening hours. The next day Lena left for Napier to work and we slowly cycled to her.

We immediately noticed a huge difference after Asia. Everything was perfectly groomed, lawns was mawn, there was almost no garbage, true pedestrian walkways and no ugly smells. It looked steril and we were little bit confused. Another shock for us were pretty steep hills. Of course, we knew that New Zealand isn‘t flat, but we didn’t expect such steep hills . Even worse after uphill was a downhill  and right after uphill and downhill again and so over and over again. We prefer to cycle up the hill all day and enjoy the views, and then cycle downhill as a reward. But this made us feel very exhausted, and our feet suffered enough.

The Maori are the original inhabitants of New Zealand. They are well integrated into the "white" society. You usually meet them on the streets, they are dark-skinned, more robust and occasionally have a tattoo on their faces. However, if you want to look into their traditional culture, you have to pay for it. We saw something unusual right after the first few kilometers. We went through the cemetery, and suddenly we were in the middle of group of tatoo faces in traditional straw skirts. Unknowingly, we were in the Maori funeral. We slowed down to keep this image in our memory, take a picture was out of topic. After the cultural experience and leaving Auckland, we finally found the landscape we saw from the plane. We were surrounded by picturesque green lands with lambs, crystal clear water was flowing in the the streams, and we enjoyed breaks in the grass without having to worry about dangerous animals. Cycling on local roads isn’t the best. The surface is very coarse, so we were slower than usualy and there are lot of reces of broken glass on the roads. It didn‘t take long time and we had the first flat tyre.

From infinite green we moved to the Pacific ocean. The ocean is very stormy, in some places the water splashed down the road. In one of the seaside village we decided to buy water and food because the distance between the shops in NZ is really long. Sometimes we came across a single store a day, sometimes not even one.

Since 2011 is wild camping prohibited under a high fine in New Zealand, it means for us sleeping in camps . As in Japan the free camps can be found here. We tried to use them as much us possible, but unfortunately we couldn‘t reach them every day. After much consideration, we came to the fact that here on the North Island, which is more populated, we would rather pay for the night. On the South Island, where the distance between the campsites is even bigger, we will already solve the situation by ourselves. We headed for the first Zealand attraction, the glow worms, into the McLaren Falls Nature Park. Road traffic had grown, so we were grateful for each bike path we found. There was also a camp in the park, where we put up the tent and were waiting for a dark. Glow worms are basically something like our fireflies. These are the two-winged insect larvae that live on silk threads that attract victim to their light. You can find them in caves, tunnels, tree roots or overgrown slopes. When it was dark we felt like in a magical forest. Unfortunately, taking picture of them isn‘t easy.

Because we still didn’t feel comfortable on the roads with a dense traffic, the other day we wanted to try some side roads. We had a perfect plan and as you may have noticed, our perfect plans always fail. First we had to get over the locked gate. Then the asphalt on the road disappeared and we cycled on a gravel road with a ruts. But it was still better than cycling in a dense traffic. We cycled along farm, we met only cows and there was a suspicious but pleasant silence everywhere. We saw a sign with a warning that every visit must be reported in the office. We didn‘t see office anywhere and  we went on. There was steep downhill followed by a steep uphill. We suddenly got a strange feeling, but we were too far to go back. After another five kilometers, there was a rope stretched over the path and the cows were lined up behind it. I reassured Paja that the cows were waiting for milking and somebody would come and let us go. And he really came and told us to return. Twenty kilometers, or even forty, was completely useless. We didn‘t want to camp at the same place, it was only midday, the next nearest camp was on one farm. There was nothing to discuss about. Along kiwi orchards we cycled to the town where we bought the food and we were looking forward to the farm, which was really close at that time. But after hard climbing we saw a sign „Road work ahead“. It is hard to describe our feelings, because look road was really long. In the late afternoon, we finally reached the farm, but only the sheep welcomed us, the entrance gate was closed. At that moment, Paja remembered that some camps should be booked in advance. We tried to call the number posted on the gate. After a longer ringtone, when we were slowly losing hope that the owner answer. Eventually she answered, she wasn’t at home, but she told us the code to the gate, and we could finally put up the tent. For the next time no perfect plans.

We rode to the Taupo volcanic zone where the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal park is located, with mud ponds, craters, geysers, mating fumarols and various large water areas. It started to rain and we were worry about visiting the park in the rain. We arrived to the Tavern where we could camp about two o'clock, we quickly put up the tent and waited if the weather change. In an hour the sky was clear. Although we have visited similar areas in other countries, it can still surprise us with something new and it doesn‘t stop fascinating us. The local area is really extensive, and besides the surface thermal activity you can see its manifestation on the surrounding vegetation. The dense vegetation of the shrubs is variously stained with sulfur. Hot springs and volcanic gases bring to the surroundings watercourse a number of minerals, which is incompatible with life of fish.

In the morning, the sky was cloudy again. Soon it started to rain, the temperature dropped, and after a long time we were cold. We moved to Lake Taupo, where was also a free camp. We cooked the soup to keep ourselves warm and before ate it, the weather was nice. It was playing  into our hands, because there was another interesting spectacle near the camp - Huka Falls. Waikato River is up to 100 m wide flows from Lake Taupo. It abruptly narrows to a 15-meter wide canon and thanks to this a huge volume water collides and formes beautiful rapids and powerfull waterfalls. The water has a turquoise color, which only magnifies a beautiful spectacle.

Only mountain range was between us and Napier. This meant a two-day crossing through a desolate landscape. We bought a lot of food, and with this added load we cycled uphill. This time it was a slight slope so normally it would be a good but unfortunately we faced a strong headwind. At first, we were reassuring ourselves that it was still better than Iceland. Later our speed was barely 7km an hour, the wind was waving with us all the way and it started to rain. We were desperate! If we bought the food for three days, we could stop and stay anywhere. But we didn’t. We had to continue. After another hour of misery, something unexpected happened. A large white car stopped at the side. First in 10 months of our journey somebody wanted to help us in this weather condition. Our knight was happy to load our bikes to his car and we were happy too. On the way he showed us what the rain caused last night. Due to the landslides and the huge amounts of water, the road was closed on the previous day.

We stayed at Napier in the hostel together with Lena for a whole week. We used the time for bank account facilities and other paperworks we needed. We also visited the local aquarium, played minigolf and the billiard and walked around the beach and the surrounding area.

After a week Lena had to go back to the Czech Republic. We found a shared house in nearby Hastings and work in a family business with onions and potatoes. Now we will work for some time to earn money to our journey back to home.

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