Gold Mines and Great Hikes

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30/12/07
Hi friends and well-wishers. ActiveSteve here, ready to fill you in on another exciting day in paradise. As I write this to you, there is a cool breeze blowing through my tent, and I’m writing by the light of my headlamp and screen. Yup, I’m camping once again, as there were no places to check into with a bed. Aw crap! I just lost an entire friggin blog post that I had written, and I really don’t feel like rewriting it from scratch. It’s late and I’m now tired. As a result, I now present you an abridged version of my previous post. My apologies, but that’s what happens when technology screws with you. As usual, check out the map tab for the route of the latest day, and read on for a few more “nuggets” about the day. Enjoy.

First, back to last night. As the tide was low, I hiked across the bay to trek up a nearby peak for amazing 360 degree views of Tairua, the bays and harbours around it, as well as the Coromandel range of mountains. It took longer than I’d hoped, but it was well worth the extra effort. I left around 5, and didn’t get back till after 7. However, I did find time to pick up some takeaway. Second round of chips for the day, this time paired with a chicken burger. I’ve got to start specifying that I don’t want beet root and onions on every burger I get though, I’m really not a fan. After eating, I hung out with the Germans as they played Jenga, Dropdown, and Connect 4. Also, one of them made banana cake, of which I had a piece. Yum.

The stars were out in full force, which was amazing, but I still managed to hit the sack somewhere around 11pm. I slept relatively well, and got up around 7:30, and on the road by 9. I had to take the time to clean my bike thoroughly, after the dusty route 309 choice of the day before. I also did some drivetrain tuning, and fixed some nagging problems I’d been having with my rear dérailleur. Hopefully that would lead to buttery-smooth shifts all day on my route from Tairua to Waihi. The early morning ride was pretty sweet, with a full sun, but a bit of breeze to keep me a bit cool.

However, that breeze didn’t last nearly long enough, and before long I was sweating buckets. Especially as I was heading up the steep inclines of the day, of which there were a few. Oh well, just another day in the life of a cycling tourist, right? I made it to a town called Whangamata around 11am. I’d been hoping to call Jody all day, as I’d promised her a call that morning. However, the hostel phone was a cordless one, and it had run out of batteries overnight when someone forgot to charge it. My plan in Whangamata was to find a phone, as well as inquire about lodging in Waihi. I went to the info center, and was chatting with a lady there when I got a tap on the shoulder. It was Ralph from a couple nights ago, He’d followed my route, and caught up to me here. Too funny. As a result, my phone quest didn’t occur. Instead, we had a quick food break, then decided to ride together to Waihi and find a campground.

Ralph was much quicker than me on the uphills, so on the major climb of the day, he says he actually waited about 20 minutes for me! Isn’t that nuts! I guess I’m just not a climber. At least on the downs and flats, I had no issues. Unfortunately, it’s really all about the uphills in this country, so I fear we may not ride together too long. We plan to ride for a while together tomorrow, but I have a tentative place to stay (with strangers) in Tauranga, whereas he doesn’t know where to stay yet, so we’ll probably part ways for a little bit anyway.

Having a biking partner was fun for a change, and we rode into Waihi together, and hit the info center there to talk about lodging. There was also a gold mining museum on premises that we briefly checked out, as well as an open-pit gold mine next to it. It was a bit of a strange feeling being in a mining town, and reminded me of my youth in Westville, a proud coal-mining town in years gone by. As it turned out, the Waihi Motor Camp was pretty much our only option for rest, so we headed there. For 20NZD each, we had tent sites. Well, that’s a bit of a stretch, as space was at a premium, and we had to make do with whatever patch of grass we could find. It’ll do though.

After setting up camp, we went out hunting for food and drinks. Not an easy task on a Sunday night in NZ, as I keep finding out. All the cafes and pubs were closing down early. We really wanted a real meal, not just takeaway, so we made a few inquiries of locals, and were pointed to the RSA place. RSA stands for Returned Servicemen Association. Essentially, the Legion in NZ. Weird, right? Well, the hall had tables laid out, most of them reserved by locals, but there was a table open for us. Beer was cheap, and the chef had a good rep. There was a choice of 4 mains, which you then garnished yourself with veges and sides. I got butter curry chicken, and it was awesome. We ate like kings with the locals in their Legion Hall, and were very impressed. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more of these places. Definitely not your typical place to eat, and we really liked it.

Afterwards, it was off to find a grocery store, to which we’d been given directions and opening hours to by someone at the RSA. How lucky for us. We hadn’t seen any on the way in, and being on foot now, didn’t want to wander too long. However, we found what we needed, and stocked up, before heading back to the camp to pour over maps, discuss touring itineraries for the next little while, as we drank big beers and ate chips. It was a very congenial thing. We also wandered over to the farm animal section of the park to see pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, roosters, chicks, etc. It was a funny dichotomy, having the loud annoying drunk kiwis next to the peaceful animals looking for food. I can only imagine what the sheep think of all the commotion!

Anywho, now that I’ve reconstructed a lot of what I’d said in my earlier lost blog post, I’m going to crawl into my silk cocoon for the night, although sleep might be hard to find, since the youngins next to me just pulled out a guitar. I can’t believe I’m not joining them, but tomorrow is another day of biking, and I’m saving my party hat for New Year’s Eve. I’ll stay up late and maybe get silly then. What have I become eh? Ciao for now, sleep cozy in your home beds, and cast a thought to roaming Steve in his Big Agnes tent in a different spot every night. BTW, love the comments, keep ’em coming. I read them all, but don’t get to reply too often.

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