The ferry across Cook Strait is calm and picturesque with the autumn light casting it’s glory on the last glimpses of the sounds as we leave the South Island. Who would have known that a huge storm had made over six metre swells two days before, cancelling all services!
The ride out of Wellington is cool but fine with the ride over the Rimutaka Ranges fast-paced and spectacular. We are heading for Cape Palliser and the southernmost point of the North Island – a promontory considerably further south than Nelson or Blenheim in the South Island. We ride through a farming valley with high ranges flanking us instead of mountains so we know we’re in the North Island again. It’s a great road and the scenery is unexpected and quite different.
As it winds round the coast we ride through little settlements and you sense it would be quite a wild drive in rough weather!
We ride north through the southern Wairarapa, crossing the mighty Rangitikei River and the scenery and riding are blissful, quite different now than the south. There seems to be more people around and more traffic in places and it makes you wonder what the tourists think when they land in Christchurch and head west as the South Island is so sparsely populated.
Then it’s up the coast to Havelock, where we can just see the top of Mt. Taranaki, although by morning it’s gone. The summit gets around seven metres of rain a year so more often than not the volcano is shrouded in cloud.
The near-perfect cone has a vast half-circle of land around it due to a cartographer who put his compass point on the mountain’s paper peak, drew a circle with a six-mile radius (9.6km) and bingo, Egmont National Park was born. Now, 134 years later, intensely farmed and brilliantly green dairy pasture butts up to the mostly circular park boundary and, on the other side of the fence, magnificent old-growth forest looms.
We ride through New Plymouth and take a look through the Len Lye Gallery, a striking building in the centre of the city which is home to art that interests some…and not others.
A local rider tells us we must ride the “Para-Para’s” so we do a large loop heading up this road and suddenly we have Mt. Ruapehu right in front of us with no clouds obscuring this mountain – what an amazing vista.
The Whanganui River is the longest in New Zealand and the unique river road twists and turns through farmland, Maori marae’s and reminders of the past.
Nearly nine out of ten Maori people live in the North Island and this is evident in the frequency of marae as we head north. The “marae” is a communal, sacred meeting ground which provides a place for eating, sleeping, religious and educational facilities. There is no comparison or equivalent in the Western world, which is why the marae is so important.
The North Island involves a lot of visiting for us with friends and family and the opportunity to attend my godmother’s funeral is very special. It would be easy to hang around but we are on a mission as time is running out…the Far North beckons and BikesnBeers have a few more roads to ride!
Favourite of the Week
These little cupboards can be found outside cafe’s or supermarkets in small towns and I think the concept is just brilliant. They are insulated and the range of books inside was an absolute treat for this little bunny…
Show Me A Sign
Story of the Week
We have a perfect day for riding in the central North Island, although they tell us there’s been a lot of rain in these parts in the last week. As we journey down the Whanganui River Road we can see evidence of the storms by the water marks on the river banks and the river itself is a soft-brown.
The narrow back-road has been completely sealed in recent years but it’s rough, challenging and prone to “slips”. We take it easy and love the bush, the river views and the remoteness. There are lots of roadworks and it’s wet and slippery so when I lead over a small bridge flanking a high part of the road, the patch of slimy mud is deceiving and before you can blink I am off! There is no lead-up to it as it happens in a nano-second and I hit my head on the side of the bridge on the way down. It’s easy to crawl out from under the bike, Paul lifts it up and we are able to have a chuckle. Other than the right indicator requiring some gaffer-tape and a wounded pride, we are able to move on. There’s a major mud-slide further on and llamas grazing on the roadside so I wonder if we have been “transported” back to Peru…or maybe it’s that knock on the head…