Winding down…

This morning I rode through Whangarei to a little town in the north of Auckland to return the bike to the rental company. The ride was mostly over the motorway and pretty dull. I started off feeling pretty gloomy that the dream was finally over. I filled the gas tank up before I dropped it off. My suitcase had been sent over from Christchurch, so I quickly packed up.

They gave me a ride back to Auckland where I had booked a spot at Base Backpackers where I splurged and booked a private room for the next two nights. I spent the next evening and day exploring downtown Auckland. It was so much livelier on a normal weekday. There were lots of cute stores where I could buy some presents to bring back home. I also found some great cafes and Asian restaurants which were a welcome refuge from the days spent on the road subsisting on deli food and homemade sandwiches.

And that’s it. It’s done! I will post a summary of the entire ride soon.

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All done!

 

Russell Road and Whangarei

This morning, I headed out of Paihia to Opua and caught a ferry with Fiona – a local rider – and crossed over to Russell. We got some coffee and hung out and then rode Russell Road – a beautiful twisty road winding through farmlands that you could just throw the bike around. It was a brilliant couple of hours!!

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The ferry from Opua to Russell.

 

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The bay off of Russell.

We rode to her place and got some lunch, then rode back out to another friend’s place near Whangarei.

Tomorrow would be the last day of my ride. :(

Cape Reinga and the Bay of Islands

Today I rode to the northernmost tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. The ride was pretty but not remarkable. I made good time and reached Cape Reinga before noon. From there it was a short walk to the lighthouse. A ton of tour buses must have made it there before me because the place was swarming with tourists – an odd sight since the ride itself had been so remote and unpopulated.

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The tip of New Zealand where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

 

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The lighthouse at Cape Reinga.

 

From there I rode south to Paihia in the Bay of Islands. I was going to spend an extra night there to make up for doing an uber long ride. Paihia also turned out to be so touristy though that I scrapped that plan and stayed just one night.

 

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The Kauri Road

Auckland to Kaitaia today! It was going to be a long day, made a bit more stressful by the fact that I had no idea if Kaitaia would be my final destination or whether I’d need to hunt around to find lodging. Bad planning FTW!

The ride from Auckland on the motorway was full of cars and borrrrrrrrrring. It finally got better after the road forked off onto Highway 12. One of the highlights was going through the Waipoua Forest with its endless tight turns surrounded by beautiful trees.

Towards the end, there was a ten minute ferry crossing from Rawene to Kohukohu. The final stretch took me back on Highway 1 but it was nice and twisty this time.

I managed to find a really overpriced room in Kaitaia but it was the last one they had and I was grateful to get it.

Coromandel to Auckland

Today I rode from Whitianga to Auckland in one shot. The latter half of the Coromandel Loop was as fantastic as the rest of it with lots of tight corners and beautiful views. The rest of it, from Thames to Auckland was dull and passable. The line of cars backed up going towards the Coromandels on the other side of the road for the long weekend was a little horrifying and I was glad to have missed it.

I reached Auckland mid-day and stayed at the YHA downtown. The place was a ghost town with all the shops and malls closed and lots of confused tourists hanging out, not quite knowing what to do with themselves.

The Coromandel Peninsula

This morning I left Matamata to ride the Coromandel Loop. I wanted to do the entire loop in a day but it was a bit tricky to do all of it and still get to an interesting place to stay the night without doing a ton of kms. Also, it was going to be the Easter weekend soon, which meant that finding a place to stay would be a big hassle, if not impossible. I ended up finding a place in Whitianga for that night, and the next day I would ride all the way to Auckland, where spending a night would not be difficult because everyone would get out of the city for the long weekend.

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Leaving Matamata

 

The ride to Whitianga was gorgeous and it wasn’t difficult to see why this was the go-to ride for Auckland motorcyclists. It’s fun, twisty, gorgeous with fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean, and the entire loop is do-able as a day ride.

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Stunning ride all the way.

 

This time I was determined to do more things than just ride so I marked a couple of hikes to do on the way. The first hike – if you can call it that – was going up to Mount Paku to see a 360 degree view of the surrounding bay. I rode pretty high up, parked in a parking lot, and walked the remaining 15 minutes to the viewpoint. It was a bit steep going up but nothing too bad.

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Mount Paku summit.

 

My second hike was to see Cathedral Cove, a natural rock formation in the form of an arch right on the ocean. The hike was 45 minutes one way and had some gorgeous scenery. I’m so glad I did it!

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When the beginning of the hike looks like this, it looks promising. :)

 

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Cathedral Cove

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Visiting the Shire

Visiting the Shire was a real dream come true. I’ve been a Hobbit and Lord of the Rings fan ever since I first read the books. I didn’t care very much for the Hobbit movie (okay I loathed it with a fiery passion) but the idea of seeing the Shire brought to life was brilliant for a Tolkien geek like me.

You cannot just go park and wander around Hobbiton by yourself (because how else would they make money on it?). You need to sign up for a tour at the Matamata Visitor Center, get taken there by a tour bus, where a guide walks you around and talks you through the making of the set. It was interesting but not a $75 value. They know they can charge that much because which Tolkein fan who has spent a bunch of money flying to New Zealand would not pay that to see the Shire?

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The Shire!

It was a great day for it and the Shire looked lovely. I’m really glad they didn’t tear down this movie set. It would have been extra cool if the hobbit holes were actually furnished, even if they just did Bilbo’s house. The only furnished place was the Green Dragon Inn where we got a complimentary drink at the end.

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Bilbo’s house is right at the top.

 

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Rotorua – geothermal wonderland!

Rotorua was incredible!! I had almost decided to skip it because I’d heard that it was a tourist trap. In the end I’m glad I decided to go because it was easy to avoid the tourists. I spent most of the day walking around town to see all the geysers and hot pools. I saw a boiling lake!! It had milky looking water on account of the sulphur in it.

This was yet another day of seeing sights that I had never seen or imagined before! I really wish that I had more time to go around and explore more of the geothermal pools in the area.

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My first geothermal pool!

 

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This place was simply stunning!

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White Island – visiting an active volcano

At the best of times, I would have really enjoyed this trip. I mean how often do you get to walk around on an active volcano? Unfortunately the boat ride from Whakatane was really rough, with waves reaching heights of a meter. Apparently they can get up to 10 meters but 1 meter was bad enough. I was violently sea sick throughout the ride and super queasy even after we disembarked. The island was stunning. We wore masks to protect us from the strong sulphuric acid smell. Looking into the volcano itself was a little bit disappointing because it didn’t contain lava, but also exciting because active volcano!!

The boat ride back wasn’t a whole lot better but I managed to sleep through most of it. It took me the rest of the day to recover. I was supposed to go to Rotorua that evening but unfortunately I had to extend my stay in the shitty hostel to recover from the dehydration.

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Looking down into boiling pools of sulphuric acid inside the volcano


 

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Riding the East Cape

If I had to pick the one ride which was the highlight of my entire trip, I would probably pick the East Cape ride. Oddly enough, it was the one that I was a little apprehensive about because it was a lot of kms to cover in one day and was also reputed to be one of the most remote with very little civilization on the way. In the end, this turned out to be the most appealing part of the trip. My route went from Gisborne to Whakatane via Te Araroa. This meant I would have to bypass the direct route via the gorge which is also supposed to be a good ride. It would have been a perfect loop if I’d had more time.

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Gorgeous remote route the entire way.

The route that I did pick was lovely, quiet and serene, and full of twisties! I was probably the only person on the road going north, which meant that I could just stop the bike in the middle of the road and take photos for once. I made a couple of stops in Tolaga Bay to see the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere, at Tokomaru bay to get lunch, and Te Araroa for some coffee.

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Tolaga Bay – the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere.

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Tons more amazing roads to ride!

In Te Araroa, the heavens burst open and it poured down rain. I stood outside the café until the downpour subsided, unsure of how long it was going to last. It wasn’t the most exciting place to stop at for the night so I decided to push through the rain and keep going. Luckily, the rain stopped in a few minutes and the sun peeked out again! Good decision made! The rest of the ride was fantastic too. Waihau Bay was stunning and a sweet place to stop and fuel up. Then all the way to Opotiki which had mostly shut down by then. Whakatane for the night in a bit of a shitty hostel. I booked a spot on the crossing the next morning to White Island – an active volcano off the coast.
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