New Zealand Cycle Tour: Taupo to Ngongotaha, Rotorua 90km
Following the New Zealand Ironman route we headed out of Taupõ for Reporoa (maori for deep swamp). This is a route I’d ridden countless times. It is an ambling, but mostly straight and unmemorable stretch of road through a combination of pine plantation and cattle farms. Halfway to Reporoa is the Ohakia geothermal power station. It’s hourglass-shaped cooling tower, large and imposing on the flat landscape, continually billows condensed vapour. As a regular cyclist in these parts, it provides something different to look at and the steam that almost always permeates north acts like a cyclist’s windsock, the length and fragmentation of the steam trail a warning to the level of difficulty expected on the return trip.
The familiar road, and with both wind and elevation at our backs we flew along averaging a decent 30kph, at one stage even threatening to catch up another cyclist out on his training ride. To us it was just another training day. It was hard to convince ourselves we were actually on holiday at last.
With the excitement of leaving and a couple of last minute catch ups with friends, I hadn’t eaten an adequate breakfast, and eager to be on holiday with the promise of pizza in Rotorua we chose not to stop to eat in Reporoa. This lack of nutritional sensibility was taking hold. I managed to scoff a couple of bananas and museli bars on route but was forced to watch Scott disappear into the distance as we turned onto State Highway 2 and into the hills that surround Rotorua.
I started lumbering. My head droop and swayed. I had no strength in my legs, my focus blurred and my eyelids drooped heavily forcing me to blink hard and talk to myself to keep them open. I had the unnerving feeling that I was about to fall asleep whilst sixteen wheeler trucks tumbled by a metre from my shoulder. Eventually, before cresting the highest point for our days cycling the sugars from the muesli bars had entered my blood stream and alertness flooded back – however the fatigue in my legs didn’t. I’d learnt a good lesson. I was going to have to eat more sensibly if I was to avoid a diabetic coma in the saddle.
In Rotorua we made our customary visit to Ali Baba’s pizza shop. Ali is an immigrant from Tunis, whose pizza creations, laced with delicious combinations of sweet spices, chilli, spinach and philly cheese, are in our opinion, yet to be surpassed in perfection by any paid establishment within 200 clicks of Taupo. But Rotorua, (colloquially named Vegas by Kiwi’s because of its touristy nature), held no new surprises for us near locals, so we were keen to get further out of the city. We quickly shopped for some last minute supplies, a headlamp and some reading material, and then headed to Ngongotaha. Ngongotaha is a small suburb on the northern outskirts of Rotorua which hugs the edge of Lake Rotorua. It’s place name literally meaning a place to drink besides.
We booked into the local motorcamp and set about the chores of setting camp. Scott and I had never travelled together before and after some friendly argumentive banter on who would get to pitch the tent and who would cook, our camping rules were made. One would make camp, the other take a shower. It only took minutes to put up the tent, expand the therm-a-rests, lay out the sleeping bags and stack all other provisions neatly under the fly of the tent, then lock the bikes. Generally, before the first one was out of the shower, camp was set. Then the camp setter took their shower and relaxed whilst the former prepared the evening meal. We did the dishes together. I’ve watched other couples who set up camp together, watching them both buzz around the operation like flies around a turd, and alway thought it an odd and inefficient way to do things. An unfair judgement. The simple fact is that Scott and I both live alone, and are in the habit of making lone decisions independant of others. We haven’t spent more than 2 days in each others company over the last year and this adventure will be telling, to see if we can share our lives as a couple, or see us running for the hills in dire need of ‘alone time’.
That night I was hit with a headache that wasn’t to leave me until we reached the Coromandel.