New Zealand – North Island 2/2

New Zealand – North Island 2nd part

2.9. 2018 – 21.9. 2018   1176km

Less than half a year ago, we took off our panniers from the bikes and cycled around Hawke’s Bay (to and from work) unloaded. But after such a long time we started to miss our freedom, we put the panniers out of the chamber, cleaned them and put on the bikes again. The morning of D day was raining little bit, but we were full of determination. We loaded our bikes, started to cycle and immediately found out that our strong legs are gone. When we left the Czech Republic, people often asked us if we had any physically training and we had answered with a smile that it was not necessary. Maybe it’s not when you cycle hundreds of kilometres on a flat and your body have time to get used to that. But to start with 150km long crossing of the mountains? That was a stupid idea! We made a couple of hills, but after a short time, we were completly exhausted . Those lazy legs just resigned. We tried to push the bikes, but it also didn‘t work well. There were nothing in the mountains except a few farms and two campsites. Next days the weather got worse. It started to rain and there were no shelters and we run out of the water. There were rivers but we could take a water only in one moment and unfortunately in that moment there were wild horses and they didn’t want let us go there. We were desperate, we had only 2dcl of water together.

We were still cycling up. After several hours of suffering one car stopped at us and we thought maybe they wanted to help us. They didn’t. The lady in the car only warned us that it would be worse, because it was snowing overnight and the road was hardly driveable. What to do now? We didn‘t have enough stock or power to go back so we decided to risk and continue. Before we got into the dreaded snow calamities, the snow seemed to faded away, and there were only remnants on the road. Along the way, there was little bit more of the snow, which actually saved us from dehydration. The surrounding countryside had covered in white fog and the rain was even heavier. We found the only unfenced spot and put up the tent there. We supposed to be only one night in the mountains and this was our third. The next day we finnaly arrived to the town.  There were no campsites so we went to the cheapest hostel, which actually wasn’t cheap cheap, but as soon as the owner saw us, he ligted a fire the fireplace and we were in heaven.

The weather forecast was still against us, we were considering cycling directly the south of the island. But our friend Jeimily was working west of us, and there is also the beautiful Taranaki mountain. And the miracle happened. The heavy rain turned into acceptable drizzling and we could ride west . Jeimily worked in Ohakune, a town close to ski resort, luckily there was no snow in the town, but the cold was in the air. We let our tent one more night packed and found another hostel. In the evening, we could go without worries about our stuff with Jeimily for a beer and a chat. Ohakune lies on the edge of the national park Tongariro, where the mountain of the same name lies, the mountain of fate of Lord of the Rings. There are two more volcanoes in the park, and according to the Maori legend, Mt. Taranaki used to be there too. But then he fought with Mt. Tongariro for the heart of the beautiful Mt. Pihanga and lost. Therefore, he has moved to the west of the island. Even though the track Mt. Tongariro crossing is one of the most popular activities, we have missed this experience and we were heading for the lonely Mt. Taranaki. Local people recommended us to cycle the Forgotten highway, becouse there is almost no traffic and it is very scenic. It is 150 km long road and there is only one campsite and no cell coverage. It was incredibly hilly, everywhere just the farms and nothing else. But the sun was shining, so it was pleasant. At least until the asphalt dissapeared and was replaced by a rough and deep gravel. It was a hell, the bikes were sinking into gravel and did what they wanted. On the third turn, we lost a  hope that the asphalt would come. But it came, after 15 km of bad words it really did. With the sunset, we reached the camp.

We were approaching the west coast, and from afar we were looking for the expected mountain. Its beauty was breathtaking, and it only strengthened our desire to hike there. We stayed at American Nelle, who has been living for several years in the NZ. She cared for us, she cooked delicious meal, but even brought us the next day by car to the beginning of the track to the reflection pond under Mt. Taranaki. It wasn’t path as much as the stairs, exactly 2500 stairs. Initially, we went through the thick, dark, mossy forest, later through the sunny plains with a magnificent view. We had the pond for ourselves, perhaps because the season is just beginning, and we waited for a moment when the wind calmed down so that the reflection of the mountain was as perfect as possible. We were really lucky for the weather, Nelle told us that many people who come here are able to see Taranaki only in the pictures. The mountain attracts rain clouds from the sea, which cover its beauty most of the time.

The next few days were not much to look at, we passed one large farm after another. Everywhere were only cows, no surprise, there is more than one cow per person in NewZealand. Even so, dairy products are incredibly expensive. The landscape changed a short distance from the town of Levin, behind which we saw the ridge of the mountains. We left a busy state highway and set out to cross the ridge. It was fairytale, slender, with a minimum of cars, lined by a forest. We finished the beautiful day at the camp, where we found another place where Lord of the Rings was filming. It was the Elven village of Rivendall.

Next day we had to choose either another state highway or gravel again. We risked it and chose the gravel and this time it was a great choice.  We cycled a beautiful forest trail in the middle of hills full of short tunnels. Even if we got a little bit wet, we were enjoying each kilometer and the final downhill excited us … and then we saw the pastures again. This time mostly full of sheep and lambs. We wanted to caress them, but the fences under the fire prevented us from that. In a small family camp where we stayed, our wish was heard. The land lady had five small orphaned lambs who needed to feed. We couldn‘t refuse. Near the camp there was another beautiful track – Putangirua Pinnacles. We cycled here for one more reason and it is the colony of fur seals.

Our time on the North Island was running out, Wellington, the capital was already close. In order to avoid dense traffic, we chose Rimutaka trail, which followed the coastline. At first, we were again among the farms, but soon we had a view of the sea and forests. Civilization was dwindling, as well as asphalt, and we found ourselves in a rough gravel. We crossed some streams, later we had to cross real ford where the water was up to the knees. Shoes, socks, and at least front panniers were removed. Although it was warm, the water was really cold. The gravel was replaced by sand, the bikes were sinking into it, we had to push them. Wonderful views made it worthwhile, and we could even see the snowy peaks of the South Island mountains. At the end of the trail we were surprised by huge colony of the fur seals. A literary seal as far as the eye could see. They just lazily basked on the stones. In order to force a little action, we went closer to them. They tolerated it for a while, but then one of them got angry, opened his mouth, bared his teeth and yelled. We immediately started run away. Next time, we won‘t be provoking them, just let them lie if they enjoy it.

In Wellington, we had arranged accommodation at Hugh and his family, because there is no camp in Wellington. Wellington is a very interesting city, the center stretches along the narrow coast and behind this there are hills where people have houses. After pleasant evening full of meal and nice talk we boarded the ferry and hurray to South Island next morning.

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