Last Official Day Biking

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25/03/08
Hi folks, and welcome to the almost-last post from New Zealand! This post will be a bit longer than yesterday’s, because I actually got off my butt and did something for the day. In fact, my plan had been to do an overnight trip, but as you will learn, circumstances conspired against me and it turned into just a day trip. But it was definitely a good one. I ended up grabbing a ferry to a place called Waiheke Island. It’s a mere 19km off the coast of Auckland, but in terms of pace and scenery, it’s literally a world away. I had stripped my bike down to the basics, and was travelling with just a day pack rather than the trailer. What a treat. Also, I didn’t have the rack on the back of the bike either, so I felt quite free pedalling along. Of course, I had the annoyance of a pack on my back, but compared to hauling 60+ lbs. behind you, it was pretty relaxing. Read on for the complete details of the day.

Again, I started my day just after 8am, as once again, sleeping in just didn’t seem to be working for me. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it again once I start working 🙂 I showered, and started packing my day bag, before turning my attention to the bike. In the process of removing some things from my bike, and trying it out, I realized that after over 4300km, it’s really starting to show some signs of wearing. I had to tighten my cones to get rid of wobble in the back tire. I also noted again how the rear shifter no longer works properly. The brakes make noise, the cassette and chainrings are getting pretty worn, and so on and so forth. I have the feeling I’m going to have to put a few bucks into ole Epic before trying to tackle any big races this summer. Oh well, she deserves it, after such a great performance down here, right?

Once everything was finally set, and I was ready, I rolled out of the driveway, and stopped shortly after leaving to hit up a cafe for a bite to eat. Then it was off along Tamaki Drive, the waterfront road that leads all the way downtown from where I am at St. Helier’s Bay. I got to the ferry terminals and was there around 10:30am, so I bought my return ticket, and was taking the 11am boat over to Waiheke. To kill just a little time, I wandered over to the waterfront iSite and got some tourist info on the island, and accommodation info. The lady there warned me to head straight to the island iSite to try and book accoms, as things were pretty booked out. I thought I’d be safe on the Tuesday after the 4-day Easter weekend, but there was a wrinkle with that. Apparently, schools and universities get the Tuesday off as well as a holiday. That makes this weekend the last big weekend for families. Oops.

The ferry ride was only 35-40 mins, and the water was pretty calm. I had hung up Epicus in the back of the boat, and she just swayed back and forth, enjoying the sea air while I sat in the cabin. Disembarking the boat, I headed straight to the iSite. The woman there called around to all the backpackers for me, but they were chock full already. There was only one she didn’t get a hold of, as their office hours were whacky, and I just decided to roll over there later in the day to try my luck at lodging. I didn’t hold out much hope, as this was the only BBH hostel, which usually fill up first. There was one place that had a room, but it was 80NZD for the night. I made a note of where it was, and decided to check it out on my way cycle touring, to see if it would be worth it. Sadly, later in the day, I saw it wasn’t. It’s an ‘eco-lodge’, and was located in the middle of the island in a thickly grown-over valley. No views, and pretty spartan accoms. Not fancy enough for me to spend that kind of money when I have a nice place to stay back on the mainland.

So, just what is so cool about Waiheke Island? Well, it’s a haven of wineries, olive groves, and artists. The island itself is the second largest in the waters surrounding Auckland, and has a population of about 8500, which makes it quite populace in NZ standards. However, these residents are spread over a fair amount of space, and are nestled in all sorts of nooks, crannies and hills. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention it, as it pretty much goes without saying, but this is an island formed of volcanic activity. As such, there were plenty of hills to climb throughout my day of touring. Another nice thing they’ve done on the island is they’ve laid out 3 different cycle routes on the island, a 12km loop, a 25km loop, and a 70km loop. No, I didn’t do the 70km loop, but combined elements of all loops to do about 50km on the island, combined with the 26 or so km going to and from Kevin’s place, so I did about 76km on the day. I’ll add it into my totals for the trip, but I have no map.

On my cycle tour, I visited a few wineries to sample their wares, as well as checked out several of the beautiful beaches they have on offer over there. I didn’t make it all the way to the east of the island unfortunately, where there is a cave system for an old military installation, similar to Devonport, which I’d already visited early in the trip. However, the best stop I made on the tour was to the Wild On Waiheke Brewery and Winery. I stayed there for a bit chatting with the owner about his beers and general small talk. Of course, this time was also spent ‘sampling’ each of his beers a couple times. They were not fully licensed, so he couldn’t sell me a beer to drink on premises, but he could give me a few extra samples. It was a cool spot. He even offered me a place to camp if I had a tent, but of course I hadn’t brought that with me. D’oh! I bought a nice Matiatia Malt Beer from him for the road, and headed back to the roads.

I made my way back to the ferry terminal, and saw I could probably catch the 4pm boat back, but opted to wait for the 4:45 boat. I cycled to a reserve area, where there were volcanic rock cliffs, and just sat there, looking out at the bay and Auckland in the distance as I enjoyed my beer in the cool afternoon breeze. It was a good moment. One that I’ll probably remember. The quick cat was just coming into the harbour as I was getting near the end of my tasty brew. I finished it off, and pushed my bike back up to the wharf to board the boat. The return ride was pretty much the same as the way there, only the winds had picked up a bit (northwesterlies). Back on the Auckland waterfront, it was clear there would be stronger winds heading back to Kevin’s. That was okay though, as I was just going to take my sweet time, eat somewhere along the way, and hopefully not get back too early to their place.

My plan worked out pretty well, as I stopped in Mission Bay for some tasty supper at a place called Mecca. Satay chicken pieces in rice with some tasty veges as well. It was a good meal to cap off a nice day. However, just for good measure, I treated myself to the most decadent of ice cream at the Movenpick on the corner, with their fresh, delicious Swiss waffle cones. As I was sitting on the corner eating it, I saw Kevin and Holly bike by across the street on their way back home after work. They had biked to work together in the morning. Well, at least I wouldn’t beat them home. In the end, I got back to their place just after 7pm. We watched some TV for a bit, and were all in bed by around 10:30, me being the last one up.

So there you have it, one last mini-adventure and trip before dismantling all my gear and packing it up, which is what I’ll start doing tomorrow, to make sure I have no problems on Thursday, rushing around to get to the airport in time. My flight isn’t until 7:30 at night, but I have to be there 3 hours in advance, and with all my gear, there is a myriad of things that could go wrong while checking in, so I’ll leave nothing to chance. Till then, I’ll sign off.

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