Having cycled around 7,200 km in nearly six months, it was time to slow things down a bit. We had 10 days left before our flight back to Vancouver as our six-month adventure was coming to an end. What to do with 10 days?
From Auckland, we took a ferry to Waiheke, a bucolic little island within sight of New Zealand’s largest city. It’s dotted with small communities and wineries and there are several glorious beaches. In short, a perfect place to hang out for a few days.
We found lovely accommodation at Fossil Bay Lodge just above Oneroa Beach and a short walk or bike ride from town. We stayed in one of the yurt-like tents for a little bit of glamping. We liked it so much, we stayed three nights.
We cycled around the island a bit visiting wineries and beaches, but mostly we just relaxed and tried to find interesting places to sample the local cuisine. The Tantalus Estate Winery and Alibi Brewing Company proved to be a hit.
We took the ferry back to Auckland and a bus north to Paihia on the shore of the Bay of Islands. We dragged the bikes along but mostly as a way to carry our luggage. It would have been simpler to leave them in Auckland but we thought we might ride. We didn’t.
We couldn’t find any accommodation we liked in Paihia and there was no way we were going to camp for $50 at the Top 10 Holiday Park. We’d really had enough of that kind of rip-off. We found a room available in Russell, a short ferry ride away, and Barry, the host and owner, is as quirky and unconventional as his place, and warmly welcomed us. We had a basic but comfortable room and after cycling up the insanely steep Robertson Street from the ferry dock we parked the bicycles to not use them again until our departure a few days later. There was just no way we were going to ride that hill more than once.
Instead, we walked, paddled and took a ferry to nearby Urupukapuka, the largest island in the bay where we hiked around for a few hours and had a nice lunch in Otehei Bay. This place was made famous by Zane Grey who had a base for fishing expeditions and wrote about his exploits there.
Pearl Zane Grey was best known for his westerns, becoming one of the first millionaire authors, but fishing was his passion, and he wrote several books on the subject. In 1927, Grey established a resort on Urupukapuka and it became a destination for the rich and famous to indulge in catching big fish. Grey held many world records for heavy tackle during his time there. Now it’s a popular anchorage for pleasure boats sailing in the Bay of Islands.
One morning, we rented a kayak and hired a guide for a paddle in Pomare Bay. Our Guide Deana is a transplanted Canadian who’s lived here for many years. We paddled for a few hours through mangroves and along the coast, finishing at Omata Estate Vinyard for a delicious lunch and wine tasting.
We relaxed and went for walks to the local beaches and generally just rested and ate to try to gain back a few of the kilos lost during our six month bike ride. It was nearly time to go home. Back to Auckland on the bus and a visit with Kerry and Merrilyn along the way. Our friend Jim Harris had put Kerry on to our blog and he insisted we come and visit, so we managed to squeeze in a day just before our flight home.
Kerry took us sailing on his 50-year-old wooden sailboat Mercury in Hauraki Gulf to Tiritiri Matangi, a scenic reserve that is now home to translocated species of birds that have been threatened with extinction. New Zealand had no mammals until they were introduced by Maori and Europeans. The birds didn’t stand a chance as predators like rats, stoats, weasels, cats, possums and others began wiping out New Zealand bird species.
A number of years ago, the Department of Conservation began an impressive, and contentious, program of trying to wipe out introduced predators by trapping and poisoning. Tiritiri Matangi was declared predator-free in 2011 and bird species were re-introduced, including the nearly extinct takahē.
The South Island takahē, the largest and a flightless member of the rail family of birds, were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century but a carefully planned search in 1948 discovered a population of takahē in a remote valley of the Murchison Mountains on the South Island. The birds were captured and a breeding program was established, saving it from extinction. Some of the birds were released on Tiritiri Matangi and the population is growing there and in other locations. We encountered a group of five takahē while hiking on Tiritiri Matangi.
Kerry drove us back to Auckland that night and we began preparing for our journey home. We collected a box of stuff from the post office that we had mailed to ourselves a couple of months earlier and cycled to a hotel at Auckland International Airport. Along the way, we found a bike shop with a container full of bike boxes and we happily acquired two of them. In front of the hotel, we disassembled the bikes and packed them into the boxes.
We packed the rest of our gear, had dinner and turned in early as we had an early shuttle to the airport the next morning. A day later, we walked out of the Vancouver International terminal into winter. Our six-month Down Under adventure behind us.
Note: This is the final instalment of our six-month journey in Australia and New Zealand. We travelled from August 1 to November 11 in Australia and Tasmania, and from November 12 to January 31 in New Zealand. We cycled a total of 122 days, covering 7,200 km and 66,000 m in elevation. We both rode Surly ECRs with 3-inch tires and Rohloff hubs. For more information, please feel free to contact us at email@example.com