New Zealand Cycle Tour: Coromandel to Whitianga 41kmTime in the Saddle: 2:25hours. Average 17kph. Maximum 49kph
We were told by the locals that “The 309” was the road to take to Whitianga – it was reported to us as being gravel the whole way but had only one hill of mention. Considering my elevation map of the alternative sealed route showed six ugly big hills that I’d categorized as ‘hard’, the first of which I had glimpsed with dismay from the top of the pa site the other day, it didn’t take much convincing me for the 309.
We left Coromandel early (early for us), yet my secret speed packing operation to beat the German cycling couple out the gates failed (it would have helped if I’d let Scott in on my plan, but he would have just looked at me like I was a lunatic).
From the Coromandel side, the 309 initially follows a river, so it is a pleasant gentle incline for a time, if not stinking hot. Along the route there are a couple sites of interest, an unpleasantly graffitied waterfall lookout, the best of quirky Kiwi ingenuity at The Waterworks, and the gorgeous Waiau Kauri Grove where we cooled in the shade, took silly photographs and hugged trees.
Finally we heading into the one and only hill, but after yesterday efforts it didn’t feel too awful – the main thing for me was that we passed the Germans – I’ll just point out here, I have nothing against German cyclists specifically, just all cyclists that cycle in front of me – call it middle-child syndrome if you will, but I must win! We careened flat-out on the downward side – faster than would be prudent on corrugated loose gravel – and it was during this handle bar clenching adrenalin ride that I spotted Scotties rear wheel doing flip-flops again. Sure enough another spoke had passed on to smoother pastures.
Sweltering under the midday sun Scott straighten his wheel. I perched on a fence and stayed quiet least I antagonize Scott more than his bike had already done, and kept a keen lookout for any sign of ‘zee Germans’
We made it back on the bitumen without any further incidents and without encountering the Germans again. We had a flat road and tail wind into Whitianga which coupled into a truly speedy entrance into town at over 30kph – I could barely hang onto Scott’s back wheel.
A lovely couple who had done the ‘rail trail’ in Otago told us where the bike shop was. Being New Years Day we had no delusions of the shop being open, but Scott phoned the after hours number and as luck would have it The Bike Man Greg was pottering around in the back of his shop and he open up long enough for us to lighten him of 3-spokes.
Hahei was the next stop on the schedule, so we took the ferry across to the other head (Ferry Landing) and cycled on past Cooks Beach. On the first small rise up out of Cooks Beach “ping”, you guessed it, another spoke kicked the bucket. Scott was simmering. There was no question of continuing on now, and we settled in to do some bike repair. Not that I would say such blasphemy to Scott, but I was quite enjoying all the unscheduled rest stops.
Scott soon realised he couldn’t put the new spokes in without a specialist tool to get the cluster off … shit. Angry Scott is Angry!! He jumped on his bike and cycled flat out back to Cooks Beach a kilometer back down the road, his wheel wobbling ominously behind him – I’m sure his bike was getting very close to a sudden ocean drowning.
Cook’s Beach Camp was in the throes of being converted from a rundown camping ground into a Resort, and the first stage had been completed which consisted of a kitchen overwhelmed with large shiny stainless steel appliances and a giant flat-screen TV that continuously playing annoying (and child inappropriate) music videos, and a swimming pool surrounded in sweeping decking and desert plants. We were given a bit of a ‘junk yard’ to camp in – we hung our stuff on sheets of corrugated iron and broken irrigation equipment – but at our cheapest overnight rate yet, we didn’t complain.
But Cooks Beach isn’t a bad place to be stranded. We had a lovely swim in the pool, sunbathed, napped and went for a sunset stroll at the beach. The colours of the Pohutakawa and Agapanthus in the golden dune grasses were just lovely.