It’s been 18 months since BikesnBeers arrived back in Australia from riding round the world and we still pinch ourselves that we really did it. We sat on the couch like stunned mullets for several months, caught up on sleep, gradually started on house maintenance and totally fell in love with our cold beer fridge all over again! Over the next year we made a lasting memory of our adventure and self-published “We Did It Our Way” which is available here on our website or you can find it at one of these stockists (an ideal gift).
So what do we do next? Before the concept began for the big ride we had wistfully contemplated New Zealand, envisaging our own bikes on all the wonderful roads and taking our time to enjoy the entire country. We have a huge stake in the place as it is not only our roots but our four children were all born there. We knew we had to make it happen sooner rather than later so just like last time, we made a date and a declaration to everyone that we were going and the seed was sown!
Flying in to Auckland was very emotional for me as it really felt like I was finally coming home after almost 30 years of living in Australia. It’s so true that you can take the girl out of “Waipu” but you can’t take “Waipu” out of the girl! Remember that feeling when your Mum draped that blanket over you when you were sick as a child – so familiar, warm and enveloping. We are in Aotearoa which we say is the Land of the Long White Cloud and we’re excited and rearing to ride!
We wake up to masses of fluffy clouds and remember New Zealand always takes a while to burn them off (unlike Queensland where we start every day with a crystal clear blue sky). After a catch-up with Paul’s Mum, we spend Sunday with Paul’s sister touring the local vineyards which are full of interesting local crafts. The scenery is just gorgeous with lots of trees and rolling farmlands but we can’t help looking at the roads and thinking hmm…we’ll be back on these on the bikes!
This is Auckland’s Heritage Wine Region and it’s steeped in history with wineries in the area dating back to the 1930’s and unique cellar door experiences. The local brewery is trendy and pumping and I notice the clothes on the urban patrons have a vibe that is distinctly unique and very Kiwi. A sample paddle of the local craft beers goes down well with the most delectable croquettes filled with a slow braised beef mix and served with an aioli sauce.
Monday is spent retrieving our bikes so beating the morning “stand-still” of traffic over the harbour bridge is our first mission, then it’s down to the port to find our wheels. Paul has handled all the paperwork and the procedure runs like clockwork (a full detailed shipping procedure will be available in the next blog). We are sent to the security gate and have to put on reflective vests, are checked “in” and hop in an old car with an escort who drives us to our bikes. The feeling when you first sight them in another country is one of the best for a biker and it reminds us again of our big RTW ride. They both start without a hitch and we put everything in it’s place while our escort looks on. We have to follow her car to the gate and we are good to go. The weather is very warm as we ride straight into the nearest fuel station, fill our tanks, then head south on the motorway for the VTNZ where we complete some more paperwork and get a Warrant of Fitness.
Next stop is to my Auntie Ann in her retirement village where we have promised to do a presentation on our RTW adventure. We entertain around 50-60 residents – who then ask us to come back again – after we’ve ridden New Zealand!
We head out of Birkenhead past Northcote College – where my Mum and Dad met and fell in love and past the rest home where my Nana spent her final days. As we stop at a set of lights there is a loud noise beside us and a bus full of 7-9 year olds are singing their hearts out…just gorgeous! The motorway on-ramps have traffic signals letting two cars on at a time at timed intervals which seems to work keeping the motorway flowing.
We head onto the back roads towards the Manukau Heads and the countryside is rolling farmland with canna lillies, red hot pokers and hydrangeas beside the distinct coloured N.Z. letterboxes with masses of bright yellow dandelions lining the roads. Where are the gum trees? As we hit the coast, the water is a spectacular light aqua colour with the magnificent pohutukawas all in full bloom (the reason they are known as the N.Z. “Christmas” Tree). We stop in the Awhitu Regional Park and there’s not a soul in sight, it’s just beautiful.
Then up to the Manukau Heads where the views from the road are uplifting and spectacular. The lighthouse sits high on the heads peninsula and is open to the public. The families who manned the station would have lived a remote and isolated existence growing their own vegetables, milk, mutton, bacon and beef. At one point there were 21 children in the local school but eventually it closed down in the 30’s when only three were left. This is the west coast entry to Auckland and can be wild and rugged, but we experience very warm and calm conditions.
We decide to camp at Port Waikato and love camping on the rich green grass with no creatures anywhere! The locals say it’s very dry due to no rain for weeks but we find it lush and inviting. The west coast beaches are all black ironsands which are full of minerals and the huge deposits are mined for local steel production.
We head inland along wonderful twisty back roads through the rich-soiled farmlands of South Auckland where a lot of the city’s produce is grown. There’s very little traffic as we find the coast again and the small seaside town of Raglan. This is a famous surf break and very popular with tourists, a good place to stay a few days and sample the local fish ‘n chips.
Story of the Week
We ride over the Waikato River on the Tuakau Bridge, where the mists shroud the bridge in colder months, and up the steep hill to the tiny village of Onewhero. This is where my dear Uncle Cecil and Auntie Nora once lived and I spent many school holidays as a child.
I recognise the road and we head down to their place where the smells are what hit me first – bringing back all the wonderful childhood memories of milking the house cow, playing in the orchard or the front room full of toys, swimming in the trough – and it was the first place I experienced an earthquake! The kitchen had a coal range and was always a place of warmth, laughter and home-made ice-cream. My Uncle Cecil was sent home from the war with sand on his lungs and couldn’t work so they didn’t have much but they grew their own vegetables and he tinkered and made wonderful gadgets. I still have two of his wooden spoons which he made out of N.Z. kauri. It was a favourite and very special home to visit with very special people, rich in old-fashioned values that left lasting impressions.
We ride into Orua (or-roo-a) Bay and start talking to a couple at their bach which is the word for a holiday house in N.Z. They are interested in our bikes and our journey and she tells me she’s from Onewhero so I ask if she knew my Aunt and Uncle – and of course she did! So typical in N.Z. that everyone knows someone and we are sure this won’t be the last time!
Favourite of the Week
We visit old friends from Auckland days at Karaka and Barb has this “tree” hanging at her front door which is just beautiful. Barb explains that an 80-year-old Coromandel woman makes them from driftwood she collects off the local beaches. There are 100 pieces threaded onto fishing line in each tree which is hung and suspended above ground. Decorated with fairy lights at Christmas would make them a truly delightful spectacle.
In Australia we call them “thongs” but in New Zealand the “jandal” has become an iconic symbol that is widely used in what is known as Kiwiana.
The roads, the scenery, the people, the food – we are loving it all!
Show Me A Sign