47 Possums

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Catchy title, isn’t it? That’s the number of squished possums I counted today on my 80km journey. They were in various states of decomp, some looking very fresh indeed. I’m happy to say that I didn’t run over a single one myself. Although I bet I could inflict some pain on the little varmin. It’s easy to understand why they are a target. They all but wiped out Kiwis in New Zealand, and the department of Conservation actually encourages motorists to attempt to hit the possums wherever possible. And it would appear that the overzealous NZ drivers have taken that to heart. Well, regardless of the roadkill, my day was considerably better today than it has been in the last two, in spite of it being my furthest day in the saddle. Read on for a little bit about my happy day cycling in Northern New Zealand.

My last tale, which I wrote up later last night, was rife with dismay and unhappiness. I’d had a pretty rough go of it, and really needed to vent. However, I decided that today was in fact a brand new day, and I should face it with renewed determination. I had the profile of my days ride, and apart from a few steeper hilly sections at the front end, the latter part of the day was actually relatively flat. I got up at 7am this time, and was on the road by 8am, in order to maximize the slightly (very slightly) cooler morning while I tackled hills. Weather was uncertain as well, and I hoped to cover max ground before any rain hit. I also popped an Ibuprofen first thing to take care of my nagging leg pain.

The motel I had stayed at wasn’t open for breakfast, so I opted to bike the first 8km to Bryndyrwyn on an empty stomach. Once there, I stopped at a tea room and had a huge breakfast of two eggs, two “bacons”, two sausages, two toasts, and two hash browns. I couldn’t even finish it all, but that would certainly fuel me for the day, right? I bumped into a kiwi who had also cycle toured with a trailer, and said the hill in front was the worst he’d had. However, that was on the SH1 motorway, and I was branching off to the SH12 at that spot. I’d had enough of the “401” of NZ. I think that also made my day better. Even though drivers were still annoying at times, there were far less of them to contend with on this secondary highway. This made the pedalling more peaceful, which in turn leads to happy thoughts. I said hello to many cows and sheep again, as is customary as I bike past their blank stares.

I faced each hill with purpose, and found they weren’t nearly as bad today. I also vowed not to go more than 2 hours without at least a snack of some description, which helped. That, and more hydration was in order. All those things contributed to a much more positive experience for me. Before I knew it, I was in Ruawai and it was lunch time. Cool. From here on out, it would be a totally flat ride to Dargaville, a mere 28km further. I stopped for a Powerade, a water, a Cookie Time cookie, and a sandwich. As I was enjoying it, I encountered another cyclist touring. A crazy older german, with tons of gear including fishing gear. He was genial enough, but I didn’t really feel like spending days riding with him. He got an ice cream, and wanted to ride together after lunch. I said sure. However, when we started biking, I had the mean satisfaction that he told me to go ahead, because I was too fast. I found this hilarious, because we were only doing between 16 and 18km/hr! But of course, we were both loaded with about 60lbs of gear, me in a trailer, his lashed all around his bike, making it less stable. I bid him goodbye and happy trails, and carried on alone.

The pedalling seemed lighter and easier, and I actually enjoyed myself. That’s not saying it was without the effort, but it was definitely nice to have some flat ground. My mind started thinking about how I could change my trip to make sure I can do everything I want, without killing myself to get everywhere. I’ve come to the conclusion that I should try to bike to basecamps, then take busses to nearby attractions, since NZ isn’t that big. For example, I could get to one town in 2 days from here, and from there take an all inclusive bus tour which would take me to Cape Reinga, Dune boarding, 90 mile beach, etc., all in a day, saving me probably 4 days of biking. I’m gonna have a look at some maps and see if this style will work.

As I approached Dargaville, I had a great vista of all the approaching weather. Earlier in the day, I had spotted rainstorms, but they were limited to one area, and far off to my left, so I was relatively unscathed. However, heading into Dargaville, I could feel the wind pick up, and saw nasty clouds around most of me. It was obviously about to come down, and I was hoping to get to a hostel in time. I had toyed with continuing on to the next BBH, but it wasn’t for another 30km, and I figured that would make me unhappy, not to mention a lot wetter. Best to break the leg into 2 like last time. Also, Dargaville is a relatively large center in the Northland, so I’m hoping to find some Internet to post these stories for you all. I’m sure the pictures won’t make it up, but you can at least read the tales, and maybe see my maps.

I found the Greenhouse Backpackers Hostel, and checked in around 3pm, giving me time to write this, shower, and hopefully get some groceries, all before the time I’ve been finishing my rides. I’ll definitely be getting up early again tomorrow to try and finish early in time to relax. Tomorrow also holds my biggest challenge, a 400m peak, twice any other, with some huge climbs. I suspect my average speed will again be way down 🙁 Oh well, that’s the life of a touring cyclist right? Cheers mates, I’m off for a beer.

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