Distance Traveled: 180 km (Trip Total: 3393 km)
Sorry for the delay in posting this everyone.
Day 14 takes me north, from the volcanic lakes of Rotorua to the small coastal town of Whangamata. The ride north starts out relatively uneventful. Once I make it beyond Rotorua, the land becomes hilly and farmland-y. The really interesting stuff starts when I reach the day’s halfway point at the touristy town of Tauranga.
Traffic gets kind of thick once I make my way into the city proper, and I park my bike in a lot overlooking the water, and march off in search of some food. Tauranga has a couple of bays and peninsulas to its name, and the railroad crosses over the water here where I parked, just a bit more south than the highway.
There are some benches here too, where a couple people sit quietly reading books. Apparently this activity draws the attention of some chickens, which happen to randomly be standing about the area. They seem to have absolutely no fear of humans or their dark, internal hunger for poultry.
I walk down the street to a falafel place, and eat a chicken and falafel kebab while reading about my route. Apparently just down the way is a popular mountain to climb: Mount Maunganui, or simply “The Mount” as my paperwork refers to it. It’s more of a hill than a true mountain, standing only 250-ish meters tall, but it’s the tallest landmass in the area by far, as it sits at the tip of a peninsula overlooking the waters. I decide to give it a shot.
Wisely, I leave my gear behind at the info desk. Unwisely, my water bottle is among the items abandoned for the sake of lightness. Undaunted, I begin my trek along the hiking paths, working my way up moderately steep grades that remind me of the actual amount of potential energy I’m accumulating. The sun is bright and intense, but the ocean breeze helps keep my body cool.
The path winds its way up the perimeter of the mountain, offering excellent views out onto the waterways and the beaches below. The physical exertion is refreshing and helps stretch my legs that have been a bit cramped over two weeks on the motorcycle. I walk slowly, pacing myself with heavy booted steps.
As I advance along the path I come across a section where the inland side is lined with rocky cliffs rather than steeply sloped hills. Some rock climbers are taking advantage of the terrain.
Just around the next bend, a couple of orange-winged butterflies are darting about ferociously quick, and I spend a good deal of time trying to actually get some pictures of them. They’re the first real butterflies I’ve seen this whole time in NZ! I was beginning to doubt they existed down here.
The look like Monarch butterflies to me, but I thought they lived only in Central and North America. I’m no expert though. What I can tell you is that with their nearly massless bodies and large wing area, they’re nimble little buggers. My camera doesn’t have an optical viewfinder, just a slightly laggy and useless LCD screen in this instance. I have to shoot from the hip for most of the shots I take.
I probably spend more time than I should have trying to take pictures, as the sun happily bakes my tragically white skin. As I continue on towards the summit, I begin to feel the effects. I fantasize about what lies at the summit. Perhaps I’ll reach the peak, and find a bar staffed by beautiful young women who serve free cold craft beer. As my endurance sags, I think of the promised land, and persevere.
At the top, I find all my wildest dreams have come true!
The way back down is less tiring, but still difficult, as the sandy path and the steep-ish incline make balance a challenge. I’m treated to more beautiful views.
There’s also some very pretty flowers and trees growing along this mountain, as well as scattered pockets of sheep that stoically go about their duties as nature’s lawnmowers.
This town has quite a few boats to its name as well. A hulking cruise liner is docked at shore while a small floatilla of sailboats bob on the water.
By the time I reach the bottom, I’m darn near beat. I down a liter of water and get my strength back before firing Olga up for the second leg of the ride. As I’m about to leave, I see a car with greater aspirations driving along the curved boulevard.
No more time for sightseeing. Let’s hit the road! As I approach Whangamata, traffic thins a bit and I descend down entertaining and pretty valley roads.
The North Island isn’t quite as grandly mountainous as the South, but it certainly is magnificently verdant and green. Eventually I make my way all the way down to Whangamata, which sits at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula.
The woman working the reception desk at my hotel is friendly and warm. She says “You must be Geoffrey!” Why, yes I am. I see my legend has grown in these parts. “The Sport of Kings phoned ahead and says you left your cell phone back in Rotorua.”
I’ve been using my US phone for an alarm since my cheap-o international Sony is kind of bad at being an alarm clock. I must have missed it when I was packing everything up. I make arrangements to have it shipped back to my apartment in Lancaster, since with the weekend coming up, it won’t make it up to Auckland in time. I’ll have to live without my Galaxy S 4 for a few days once I get back.
I decide to drown my frustrations with a beer, and some barbecuing. I buy some kebab stuff from the local market, fire up the grill, and get to work!
After all the cooking, I’m exhausted. I don’t have the energy to do all my blogging this night. Procrastination powers, activate!
I relax in bed and watch a little bit of Food TV before dozing off. Tomorrow is my last day on the bike, and my second to last day in this great country. I will miss it, but a part of me is ready to move on. My body is ready to leave the gear, boots and gloves behind for a few days.
Kia Ora everyone!