New Zealand Cycle Tour: The Coromandel Walkway to Coromandel Town 63kmTime in the Saddle: 5:45hours. Average 11kph. Maximum 51kph
Well those above statistics tell a sorry tale. That was a hard day’s cycle! But the effort was rewarded with stunning scenery, especially along the Coromandel Walkway where at every rise and turn it was hard not to get the camera out.
The Coromandel Walkway begins on the eastern side of the Fletcher’s Bay Camp. Its beginnings cuts across farmland which is calf burning steep in places. Before you enter the bush you come across a signpost that divides the track in two. We had to choose whether we were going to take the mountain bike track or the walking track. We were ignorant to the existence of the mountain bike track, which caused some discussion, but we chose to take the walking track, as we reasoned it was more likely to cut through bush than farm country. We just hoped we wouldn’t regret the decision.
Once into the bush we hit a stunning but steeply descending single track. Heating my brakes I edged my bike down, but wrestling to keep my lumbering load on a straight course I chose the cautious approach, dismounting and walking my bike. A heavily loaded touring bike is hardly a nibble mountain pony. At the bottom we came out at Poley Bay – a rocky and craggy cove that was aptly named bay for our skinny dip.
As with laws of cycling, what goes down must go up, and the steepness of the next section was not far from vertical. We grunted like tennis players with each arduous step as we shunted our bikes up a foot at a time feeling every ounce of our loads. Fortunately the ascent wasn’t too lengthy and our efforts rewarded. The rest of the track was effortless, with dazzling views and beautiful beech lined single track winding its way along the edge of cliff tops. Too soon we were done. The Walkway ended with a final long coasting descent into Stoney Bay.
Shortly after arriving in Stoney Bay we met a young man who told us the mountain bike track was hard work and not worth doing. We were glad we’d made the right choice in taking the walking track.
Considering we’d lost a spoke from Scott’s bike the previous day, we’d decided that I should carry the lion’s share of the load to lighten Scott’s bike to prevent any further spoke losses until we could get it fixed, and also to cut the gravel road trip towards Hot Water Beach out of our itinerary and head back to Coromandel town. A reluctant decision.
So for the next 50 kilometers out of Stoney Bay we climbed and descended, and neither was much fun for the slippery gravel, the corrugations, the tendency for my heavy bike to slip towards the low apex of the corners, and the suffocating dust as cars rolled by. Along the coast we were rewarded with vistas of golden sand bays but once we came out of Port Charles we headed inland again and into stifling hot dry farm country. I drank four bottles of water and had two iced teas and only peed once all day, if that tells you anything about the temperature of the day!
Glad to be out of the gravel at Coville, and with a new packet of lolly laden scroggin we chugged on towards Coromandel with three big hills in our way. I was beat, but head down I struggled on. By the day’s end, Scott’s computer read 45 minutes less than mine. He’d spent that time waiting for me at the top of the numerous hills we crested that day.
There were no free plots at the Coromandel camp ground when we arrived, but the lovely couple that run the camp allocated a small spot below the deck of the kitchen between a couple of New Zealand ferns.
It was New Years Eve.
We did our laundry and fell asleep.