Shortcuts for Shorter Days?

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29/12/07
Hi gang. Here I am, back to report on another lovely day in the lands down under. Due to a good bit of luck and some advice, I was able to shorten my biking day by about 24km, and still make it to the same destination. However, in order to do this, I had to take the fabled 309 road. Intrigued? Well so was I, which is why I decided to give it a whirl. Let me describe it in this way. It was basically my own personal Bolivian Death Highway! Okay, certainly not quite as extreme as that famous road, but it was something else, let me tell you that. Of course, I didn’t have the luxury of only going downhill, so I had to climb a nice long ascent up a twisty dirt road with dropoffs beside me, before descending it on the other side. I was quite glad that I’d brought the full suspension bike today. Read on for a bit more about this day.

I did my utmost to start my day early anyway, but that sort of fell apart. Especially after last nights’ puzzle marathon. Ralph, Kati, Kiki and I got sucked into doing a 1000 piece puzzle. Hey, what else were we going to do on a Saturday night in Coromandel Town? Luckily, Ralph and I had picked up a 6-pack of Steinlager, so we had a bit of a feeling of a Saturday night. We stayed up until 1am, when we put the final piece into the puzzle, and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Kiki was going to put it back in the box, but I wouldn’t let her. Not till all the other guests admired our handiwork 🙂

So, although the alarm went off at 8am, I didn’t roll out of bed till 8:30, and by the time I had eaten, re-packed and done some bike work, it was almost 10am. I had also been half waiting for Ralph, as he was going in my direction for the first bit, but then he wasn’t ready, and wouldn’t be ready for another hour. He wasn’t going as far, so I opted to just get going on my own. Just 4km from the hostel was where I had to take the turn-off for the 309 road. It was another 4km or so along that 24km road that it turned into an unsealed road. From then on, it was a rather interesting bike ride, with a lot of loose gravel. Things are a little bit different with a loaded trailer. Whenever my front wheel would hit a patch of rocks, it would really try to pull me down, so several times I’d have to stop just to keep the bike from slipping off.

Of course, this road was definitely not without it’s merits, as there were several cool sights such as Waiau Waterfalls, and the beginnig of a trek up a 520m mountain called Castle Rock. Of course, time being of the essence, I didn’t climb it. On the plus side, I had managed to book a tent site for the night in advance, so I didn’t have to worry too much about the time. The climb along the dirt road was very long indeed, and sweat was just pouring off me. At the top, I took a well-deserved quick break and had a granola bar. It’s really the little things 🙂 After that, it was the start of the descent, and what an interesting one that was. Normally, I get to make up time on the downhills, but due to the road, I had to really slow down quite a bit. The road was limited to one lane in many cases, and oncoming traffic didn’t seem to have much compassion for little Steve. Luckily, I made it out in one piece, and with a grin on my face from the experience. I wonder how some other cyclists fare on that road with no suspension and heavily laden racks of gear. I would imagine there have been a few interesting tales.

Once off the 309, I hooked back up on the 25 to head towards Tairua. After a little bit, a camper van slowed as it was passing and yelled at me. It was Kiki and Kati from last night, who were heading elsewhere for a few days, and saw me biking. It’s always a nice feeling to have a familiar face cheer you on as you bike! By now, it was after noon, and I was plenty hungry, so I decided that the next place I found that had food would be where I’d eat my fill. Enter the Coroglen Tavern. A bar in the middle of nowhere. Quite nice however, and filled with bikers on day trips. Secretly, I’m sure they were laughing at my ‘cycle’, but I chatted with a few of them just the same, about my trailer, and the way of the road. I think they were relatively impressed overall with my journey, but I’ll never know. I had a great cheeseburger and an order of fries, along with my requisite Powerade. Yum! Delicious. Just what I needed to fuel myself to keep going.

Once my belly was full, I got back on my trusty steed, but not before slapping on another layer of sunscreen. Have I mentioned how insane the sun is down here? It’s nuts. I’ve already gone through one big bottle, and have still gotten burned a bit. Oh well, I should come back all nice and brown, with bleached hair for you all to laugh at! The biking wasn’t too bad, until the last 10km, when I once again hit a giant hill. However, knowing it was the last one of the day made it somewhat bearable. I climed and climbed, until the top, where I was rewarded with a fairly sweet view of the lands below. Tairua is a nice spot I suspected. Before long, I hopped back on the bike for the fast descent into town.

Once in town, it was pandemonium, this place if FULL of vacationers mostly from Auckland I suspect. All the B&Bs, motels and hostels are quite full. I’m sharing my own little patch of grass with at least one other person. When I checked in, I didn’t get a very friendly feeling from the lady showing me around, but the place is nice enough. She seemed rather put off by a biker, and cheerfully informed me that it was the busiest day of the year, and ‘the book’ said you shouldn’t bike today. Whatever. As I was sitting here, writing this, she came through with another couple staying here, and I noticed she gave them tons of extra info, like telling them about local sites and hikes, as well as pointing out BBQs. For me, it was just, here’s the bathroom, kitchen, TV room, “although I’m sure you’ll just eat your pasta and go to bed”. Nice, right? I’ll show her. A bunch of Germans I met earlier just showed up, so I’ll proabably enjoy some more beers tonight. They were the group from Christmas, and are staying here until New Years.

However, I’ll be back off tomorrow, heading towards Waihia. Time to sign off, the sun is shining, and the beach is calling. The tide is low, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to hike to a nearby summit to take in the views before grabbing supper and a few drinks. There is also pay wireless access here, so hopefully you’ll see this post in almost real time! Hope everyone is doing well, and I’ll hopefully be talking to some of you soon! Cheers.

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