New Zealand Cycle Tour: Wentworth Valley to Mount Maunganui 79km
The day started so promising. But like my run out to Wentworth Falls in the morning, the day gained momentum on a downward track; snowballing and collecting obstacles until it finally concluded with us surreptitiously hiding in a laundry out of fear of being evicted on grounds of trespassing.
The day started with a bush run to the Wentworth Falls. Bush runs are all lovely, but if I have to take an hour out of my busy schedule of cycling (100ks scheduled today) to run to the far end of a track to see a waterfall – I was hoping for something spectacular – after all they had named a whole DOC camping ground after it – but I was disappointed. The Wentworth Falls is pretty, but fairly marginal. Obviously I was in too much of a flying hurry to be ‘still in the moment’ and enjoy the sanctuary of the environment.
The day was hot, and it was a late start due to my insistence on seeing the waterfall, so what came next was kind of annoying. Seven kilometers into the ride – ‘ping!’ Another spoke departed Scott’s back wheel. This did not bode well for the day.
Between Wentworth and Waihi there is only one major hill, graded “hard” by me, and continued on for 4km – we hit it midday. We were burning up in the sun, elevation was only 263m, but it felt more as sweat soaked we crawled skyward. Exhausted from the heat it didn’t take long to fall asleep on a park bench outside the bike shop in Waihi where Scott got his wheel re-spoked AGAIN. We felt God had blessed us with this bike shop open on a Sunday – but at is turns out God was just toying with us.
One kilometer out of Waihi – you guessed it – ‘ping!’ Now there is no pretence. No affable keeping of the peace to protect (and not panic) the girlfriend. Scott launches into a bellowing fuck mantra, scattering birds from the trees as the offending spoke is violently launched end over end into the neighboring paddock. And if that wasn’t enough, his tyre sprung an air leak as well. Scott, seething and muttering, unloaded and turned over his bike with as much care and compassion as a belligerent drunk, and once again I found myself sitting exposed under a blistering sun. Only one word was heard in the oppressive heat. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!
The day was beautiful. The road was gentle and rolling. We should have been enjoying ourselves. But both physically and mentally we felt beaten and the last ten kilometres into Katikati seemed like the longest 10ks of our lives. The Katikati wholesaler we rolled up to has a nice little veranda outside its dark interior. We took a break – I lazed drinking Wild Turkey on the shaded porch – Scott attempted in vain to straighten his wheel – but by now it was evident that his wheel was no longer completely circular and he broke another spoke trying to re-shape it. After about an hour, I was all for sleeping on the wholeshaler’s porch for the night …
However, if things weren’t complicated enough for the day, we decided to take a reprieve at my ex-boyfriends place about ten kilometres out of Katikati. Dining at the ex’s is never much fun – uncomfortable at the best – and this was made all the more disconcerting as the young girl (who had unceremoniously replaced me at our time of separation) served us five-day old goat curry for dinner. Poison I ask myself? Hopefully the Wild Turkey would kill off any unfriendly microbes I was ingesting.
I’ll point out here, that this is not unusual food for this crowd. My ex is very much a ‘Barry Crump’ character and along with his other ex-girlfriend (who was apparently served road-kill as a child), her new boyfriend (his best friend), and the ex-in-laws, their four kids, and a tenant, all share a singular property. It is broken up into various areas, the ex-in-laws and tenant actually have ‘houses’, but the four others share the bunker – which is quite literally a hole in the ground and the boudoir – a small iron-shaped amenity free hut. Running water is through hose pipe, the toilet is the decomposing type, the shower and kitchen are right next to each other in the open air, the fridge is a hole in the ground. The floor in the ‘bunker’ is dirt, if not covered by an animal pelt of some description, including cat, seal and possum. Decorations are sparse and rusty, and there is an awful lot of books – mostly etymology and ecology based. My ex was currently learning to speak ancient Irish whilst working in the bush. However, it was good to see the gang again, but best of all we managed to hitch a ride to Tauranga.
We said our goodbyes, and with Scott’s bike just a short flippity flopping trip across Mt Maunganui’s bridge to our final destination, you would think our troubles of the day were over. Well imagine our dismay when we saw the “FULL” sign swinging in the breeze at Mt Maunganui’s camping ground. The office was shut. The sun had already set. We had no option. We had to squat illegally. We searched around the camp ground for a likely spot and there weren’t many. We decided on pitching our tent in the parking area outside a caravan that looked to be unoccupied and prayed to the God that had so far forsaken us that the occupants weren’t just out for dinner and would try to park their SUV on us later in the evening. After pitching our tent in the dark, we loitered around the security-key locked amenities block feeling like we had “trespassers!” in neon bold-type across our foreheads – but nevertheless managed to furtively dive in behind camp customers to uncross our legs and claim absolution under cooling water of the showers. We spent the rest of the evening in the cramped laundry room doing our laundry. We couldn’t leave until we were done as it would result in being locked out. It was late. We looked guilty. We made our lame apologies, yet one patron commented to our excuses “you meet some strange types”
Paranoia about possible eviction, trespassing fines and, and at best, an impending pre-dawn start was not conducive to sleep. Overall we were well and truly defeated but the day.