Riding with the Ents

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Wow! What a day. This was truly a day of the biggest so far. I’m not even sure where to start with this one. I had the steepest ascent today. The longest descent, the most rain, the longest ride, the slowest average speed, and so on and so on. But you know what? It was a great day all told. I think it’s almost safe to say that I’ve gotten over my earlier apprehension, and I’m now ready to get on with this trip. Realistically speaking, it has become clear to me that the body is really an amazing thing. I have had to allow myself a little extra time to adapt to ‘life in the saddle’. Although it’s only been four real days with the weight behind me, I’m definitely feeling more at ease. I hit a top speed of 62km/h today going down a hill, what a thrill. But of course the thought of wiping out at that speed with all the weight is quite scary too. Oh well, taste death to live life, right? Anyway, read on for a little extra detail about what made today pretty cool and special for me.

I started the day with a quick breakfast, then set off as I often do it seems, with no real hard destination in mind. Looking at a map, there seemed to be a few options, one which seemed a bit ambitious (which is where I ended up BTW), and one which seemed more realistic. By the time I had gone to bed, I had decided that when the morning came, I’d decide whether to keep heading north, or cut across to the East to Paihia. Well, it seemed sunny as I woke up, so I opted to go North, and I’m glad that I did. It was really a fantastic biking day.

Leaving Dargaville, I soon came upon a few minor hills, but knew that it was only a prelude for things to come. I had certain goals in mind for getting to certain places, which would help dictate whether to stop or go on. 20km may not sound like a long way, but when you’re going 6km/h up a hill, that can be a long time. Also, food places often close at 6pm, so I have to keep that in mind when making my decisions. Well, progress was going well, and I stopped for my mid-morning snack on time. Sadly, I had to forego an extra breakfast, as the tea house I had hoped to stop at wasn’t open yet. So I just kept rolling on. Before I knew it, I had entered the Waipoua Forest of Kauri Trees.

Kauri Trees are the giants of the NZ landscape as far as trees go. The sad part about them is that they have been forested to all but extinction, and it is only due to the second world war that logging was stopped. This forest is a conservation area which has the greatest remaining number of the trees for us to look at. Think of Cathedral Grove in BC to get an idea. Although, I think the biggest tree here might be bigger than in BC. The King of the Forest is about 2000 years old, and rises 212m. I have a picture of the placard which explains all the details. Perhaps someone would care to compare this tree to the biggies in Cathedral grove. Either way, it was very humbling and impressive.

I biked through several Kiwi areas as well, but didn’t see any. That’s not all that surprising though. I was also blessed with a massive dump of rain. It was intermittent throughout most of the day, until near the end, when the heavens absolutely opened up on me. Didn’t bother me a bit though, as overheating when climbing 400m hills is not a comfy feeling. I’m sure the views would have been better with a bit of sunshine, but I wasn’t complaining. Oh yeah, another decision was made for me in the forest as well. There was a campground I thought about camping at, but when I arrived at the gate, the road was closed, so I had to keep moving, since camping anywhere else in the forest reserve is a big no-no. That meant pushing on for another 35km. It’s quite something else when you spend a solid hour climbing one hill, only to descend the other side in about 5 minutes. That’s what happened on the big hill today for me! It was nuts. Luckily, the views while grinding my way up were pretty impressive, as the massive forest was all around me, alive with the sights and sounds. Traffic was pretty light as well, and seemed to drive more responsibly in the reserve. Thanks for that!

Once out of the forest, I had that long nice descent, then was greeted with a few smaller climbs. However, after almost 6 hours biking already, it was a bit tiring to say the least. Especially the last climb. It was absolutely the steepest climb I’d done to date. I got off and tried to push up at one point, but that was even harder, since I lacked the mechanical advantage, and the trailer kept wanting to roll backwards, so on the saddle I hopped again, gritted my teeth, and kept mashing the pedals. I tell, you cresting that hill in the pouring rain, and looking over into the harbour below where I’d spend the night was one of the sweetest feelings yet.

The drama wasn’t completely over yet though, as the first hostel I tried was fully booked. Luckily, there was a neighbouring town only 2.5-3km away, and they had rooms for 20 NZD available. Sold. The strongest rain yet greeted me as I pedalled the little hills between the two towns, and at one point, my pelican case tried to fall off the back of my trailer again. Luckily, I had the foresight earlier to tie the handle separately, so it couldn’t go anywhere. Sadly, I’ve now put in a few extra tears in the side of the trailer where the tie-downs attach to the trailer. I’ll have to try and find a place to get it repaired in Auckland before I take off again. I’m also determined to re-pack everything so that I can fit the suitcase in the trailer instead of tied hap-hazardly to the top.

Well, that’s about all the energy I have tonight to write out my story, so I hope you’ve enjoyed it. My entire nightly ritual seems to take about 1.5 hours, by the time I upload all my picture, re-title them, create the custom maps, and then finally write my stories. It’s a nice exercise, but I’m not sure I’ll always have the time to do it. Enjoy them while I do 🙂

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