Wednesday to Friday – 180 km Kaitaia to Dargaville

Beware Kiwis – one of the few places in NZ that still has them in the wild.

Wednesday to Friday of our first full week tandeming the Tour Aotearoa has brought us, slowly, from Kaitaia at the bottom of the Cape Reinga peninsula across VERY hilly bits of northernmost New Zealand to the delightfully-named Dargaville, the country’s sweet potato capital, would you believe, with a colourful history of immigration from Croatia.

After three days of hard slog – up as high as 1300 feet and back down, repeatedly, for what comes down surely goes up again, and very promptly – we’re taking a Saturday break, partly to rest aching muscles and sore bottoms (saddle sores rule OK) and partly because a key and remote fisherman’s ferry that will take us from Potou Point across the bay to Helensville and Auckland beyond only has space on Monday, or possibly even only Tuesday.

What is about to go down is most assuredly then going to go back up the other side… Looks benign, like Bavaria, but very different to cycle.

We’re averaging about 60km a day, a bit short of what we need to make it to the other end of NZ by March 23.

(The fast ones among the 300 riders starting out on the proper, full Tour Aotearoa in a week’s time will be taking one day to complete what takes us a whole, slow week!)

But it’s giving us time to appreciate astonishing landscapes, and especially this week the majestic Kauri tree forests, with trees as old as 2000 years, in that tiny, postage stamp-sized space of Northland that survived clear-cutting of NZ woodland in the late 19th century, and, unbelievably, right through to the 1960s.

Tane Mahuta, New Zealand's largest living Kauri tree and some 2000 years old.
Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest living Kauri tree and some 2000 years old.

We’ll blog later about cows and sheep, of which NZ has rather large numbers and which tell an important tale of what we human settlers have done to this planet.

Let it just be noted here that, in the North Island especially, whenever one lifts one’s head from the view of the steep uphill road ahead, the view away from the coast can be really rather similar.

Hills, grassland, conifers, isolated wooden farmhouses, fences (or finces as they call them here…), sheep, cattle, and, yes, yet more sheep and cattle.

Though not here at magnificent Hokianga Harbour.

Daisy and Mark at entrance to Hokianga Harbour, with more of Northland’s extraordinary sanddunes on the opposite shore.

As before, let the pictures and short captions speak for themselves – and as ever, please note that we are raising money for the wonderful Rory Peck Trust, and still have half way to go to our target of £3000, or £1 for each tandemmed kilometre. Tandamned?

What a backpacker kitchen looks like when Daisy has landed and wet clothing and gear spread out to dry… Thankfully, at Waipoua Campsite, having truly experienced  why they call this stuff rain forest, we had the place to ourselves
The road up into the hills, with two glorious Kauri trees either side of the track at the top.
View down over Hokianga harbour, with Daisy.
When attaching cleats to a new pair of shoes, especially for one’s stoker who’s never used these things before, it’s a good idea to tighten the bolts. Mark forgot to do that final piece having checked the positioning, and result? For a whole day, until a bolt dropped out,  Stoker Jutta could scarcely get her shoes off the pedals, leading to some awkward moments where we both nearly collapsed the tandem into a sideways heap.

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