Looking vs. Seeing

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Hi folks. I see you’re all back to read the next installment in my ongoing saga in New Zealand. Thanks. I’m happy to provide everyone with glimpses into my psyche and what I’m doing, why, and what it all means to me. This installment sees me biking from the Little Earth Hostel in Whangarei to the coastal town of Mangawhai Heads and the Coastal Cows Hostel. First thing I did before leaving this morning was to check whether or not the hostel would have room, so that I’d know whether or not I’d have to keep moving. Huzzah, they had room, so now I didn’t have to rush to get there early, but could just roll in when I rolled in. That makes a big difference to me, and came in handy today. Actually, the owner even said if he wasn’t here, just to let myself in. Well, as I write this, I’ve been here alone listening to tunes on the stereo, and working away, after having eaten. No owner has shown, but I showed two other couples around the place. Too funny. Anyway, on with my story of the day, and don’t forget to check the map 🙂

So just how did I get up this morning? Well, not very nicely. I awoke very early to the moanful sounds of cows, which were making some pretty interesting sounds for 5am. I tried to keep sleeping, but that got difficult when the heavens openes up and started pouring on me in my little tent. So much for the good weather I had been told to expect. Luckily, the tent was very good at staying waterproof, so at least I stayed nice and dry. Of course, that meant I’d have to pack up a wet tent, which is never an exciting thing. As a result, I stayed in my sleeping bag a little later, waiting for the rain to abate. It did actually stop, which was nice. So I set about putting all my things in the dry bags, and transferring them into the garage where I had stashed my bike and trailer. I also solved another little problem by convincing someone to drive my bag up to the top of the driveway. Now, that might sound strange to you, but it was the right thing to do. I could barely bike up the hill with no weight, that’s how steep it was!

I was all set to go now. I said goodbye to the Little Earth hostel, and started making my way back to the town of Whangarei, which I had to pass back through in order to get back on the main road. I stopped at a grocery store for some muffins and fruit for breakfast, and grabbed a little extra food for the road. After that, I unfortunately had to get back on the main road, the dreaded SH1, for most of the day. This is not so much fun. Oh well, soon enough I’ll be in the less-travelled roads, and can forget all about the rushy Auckland drivers! Hee hee.

As the map shows, there was very little on interest for the first while. That was until I hit my lunch-time destination of Waipu, which was also where I got to get off the main road again. Yay! The first funny thing I noticed was the sign that said One Hundred Thousand Welcomes. The next funny thing I saw was that I was on Nova Scotia Drive. The next funny thing I noticed were signs for the Highland Games in January. How very odd… I put it in the back of my head, and found a bakery. I love these places, they always have displays full of things for bikers to eat. I had a great chicken and mushroom pie, along with a peppermint chocolate square for lunch. As I sat outside eating it, I had the standard gawkers checking out my ride and trailer, and smiles crossing faces as they realized what I was doing. It’s funny, on the road, they always seem to hate you, but once they stop and say hello, I think they realize that I’m a nice guy 🙂 At one point, a fellow stopped and chatted quite a while with me, so I asked about Waipu and the connection to NS.

As it turns out, Waipu was settled by Scots which had first gone to Nova Scotia, and wintered there until February, when they decided it was too cold, so seven ships were loaded up from Cape Breton, and they set sail for New Zealand, and Waipu is where they ended up settling. As a result, they still have ties to Scotland and Nova Scotia. There were even NS flags flying in some places. It was pretty surreal, and warmed my heart a bit. I stopped into a museum and chatted with someone for a bit there as well. Once back on the road, that’s when the title of this blog post came to me. The man I had been speaking to was waxing about tourists in their campervans with A/C on, and their favourite music playing. He said that what I’m doing is far better, because I’m really getting to smell, taste and touch the land and the people. I sit outside cafes and strike up conversations with curious locals. He’s completely right of course. So, I thought of it slightly differently. Those tourists are looking at NZ through their windows. However, I’m actually SEEING it. Does that make sense? Well, on the bike, it felt pretty deep.

Once out of Waipu, I kept on trucking, even though the tug of the Scots was begging me to stick around longer. I’m glad I kept going though, as there were some great coastal views on my way. Of course, it meant more hills and valleys to get to the vantage points, but it was neat. There was one memorable beach, Lang’s Beach, where there were bona-fide surfers playing in the water, in the glorious sunshine. I had high hopes for the next hostel, imagining it might be on a surf beach. To save the suspense. It isn’t, although it is walking distance to a surf beach. You just can’t see it from here. I guess that sort of real estate is reserved for the rich and well-to-do.

Before I made it to Mangawhai though, I had my first bit of mechanical failure. It’s funny, as I’d just been wondering if I’d be able to get myself out of any jams I got in. I was grinding up yet another hill, and tried to drop into the smallest chainring. The chain dropped and my cranks just spun free. I tried to get it back on by back-pedalling and front pedalling, but with no luck. So I reached down and put it back on, hoping to roll on. Well, I noticed that the gears seemed to be skipping a lot. I stopped and had a look, and saw that my chain was totally wrecked. There was a link that was at about 45 degrees to the next one (twisted). That’s a problem, I don’t carry a spare chain. What to do? Well, I pushed the bike and trailer to the top of the hill, and found a grassy patch, and unhooked the trailer. I then dug out my tools and thought how I could fix this. In the end, Swiss Army to the rescue. I used my multi-tool, which has a sturdy set of pliers, along with a chain breaker. I held one link with the chain breaker, then torqued on the other link with the pliers until it sort of straightened out. Once back on, I cleaned some of the gunk out of the pulleys and chain, and re-lubed everything. It seems to be working okay now. However, I think Santa might have to bring Steve a new chain before too long, because that one is just begging to break for good now.

After that little bit of fun, it was a short 8km or so into my final destination. When I got there, no one was around, so I set myself up, had a shower, and explored the village a bit. I also picked up a full roast dinner in town for 13.50NZD. Roast pig, potatoes, kumara, parsnips, carrots, peas, and gravy. I also got some ‘crackle’, which is the crispy outside of a roast pig when done right. The shop owner let me try it, then packed me up with a bit of it on the side. This is the special part, and not everyone gets it, but for a cyclist, this salty treat is divine! It was a great meal, and I ate it all up in a hurry. Now I’m just chilling out, listening to tunes, and writing this. I’ve also realized that I might start getting screwed on accomodations, since things are apparently booked solid starting tomorrow. Damn. Better get on the horn and try to find a way around that. Hope everyone is doing well. I just realized tomorrow is Christmas Eve up here. Craziness! Adios.

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