25th December 2003

First day in New Zealand we were pleasantly surprised by the cool dry morning - no hint of the humidity that we endured in Australia.

Our first destination was to be a town called Thames about 40 miles south east of Auckland and on the coast. The first problem was getting out of Auckland without using the motorway which on the map was the most direct route. No minor roads seemed to run anywhere near parallel with the motorway and we zig-zaggd up and down steep hills and crossed the motorway several times. A left turning that we needed to take proved impossible to get onto by bike as the only way on was via a motorway exit! Eventually after about 60 hard miles we stopped short of our intended destination at a resort near Miranda where there were natural hot springs. Joan simmered for half an hour while David tinkered around with the bikes.

As expected, so far it is somewhat like England. The roads and landscape are similar, but the trees are different. Next day a nice flat ride round the coast to Thames where we stocked up again on the essentials like milk powder, porridge, noodles, pasta and flour for pancakes. After a ten mile ride over the mountains on a good gravel road we stopped at an empty camping site by a river.

They were getting ready, they said, for the Christmas rush on Christmas eve when all sites would be full. We would have to make sure that we were not in a popular area at this time. David had a go spinning on the river to see if he could catch supper. First cast surprised him and a largish trout which got away and spooked everything else. Pasta for supper again.

The riding is fairly hilly, somewhat like the peak district but it is nice to have a cool back wind most of the time. On the way down the Coramandel penisular we came across a beach resort called Hot-water beach. It was packed with holidaymakers with spades digging holes in the sand and then sitting in the hot muddy hole formed from the geothermal activity. We didn't participate but just watched with amusement.

On the map, it looks like a coast road, but it goes up and down all the time - no level bits and no sign of the sea. Near Whangamata we turned off and camped in a National Forest camp which was basic but nice apart from millions of mozzis.

As in England, there are dead hedgehogs on the roads, but here there are also possums - bigger than a domestic cat and with sharp teeth and claws. They are the equivalent of the raccoons in America.

On the road we met a German cyclist couple who were going our way, but as usual we didn't cycle together but just suggested that we met at the same camp site that night. This happned to be at Tauranga on a site by the river. It poured with rain all evening, and was still raining the next morning but there was a nice camp kitchen which we turned into a social club.

Turning inland, the road started to climb immediately and carried on for the next 20 miles when it turned into the steep up and down type of road we were now used to. About ten miles from Rotorua Davids rear tyre exploded. It had split near the rim which is usual when touring with heavy weight. The only spare we had was a narrow fold-up which proved very difficult to fit as we didn't have a narrow tube to suit. Normally on other trips we have carried at least one spare tyre as shops have been few and far between, but in New Zealand we assumed that we would not be stranded. We must have pinched the tube putting the spare on as after a mile it went soft. Fortunately a pick-up was passing at the time and a quick thumb from Joan saw us in the back heading to Rotorua. The couple driving very kindly took us to a cycle shop where we bought a new tyre.

Rotarua is where the volcanic action is. Geysers, hot mud pools and boiling
springs were everywhere even in peoples back gardens. The town stank of sulphur and wherever you looked there was steam escaping from the ground.

It is Christmas day, we are in Taupo and for the first time are up to date with
our reports.

Dave and Joan