Sunday 22 November – Day 8
Again I’m up at sparrows having had a great sleep. The bed was so comfortable. I mooch around until 8 am when the breakfast is served – a continental tray with all one needs plus there is a table with cereals and bread for toast. I’m happy as they have Vogels. At 9 am the van is leaving with guests who are cycling back from Kaikohe. Others are checking out plus I need a bike arranged and for my pack to go forward to Kaikohe where I am staying tonight. It gets a bit Faulty Towers esque as everyone is running around like headless chickens. Eventually I can depart at 9:30 on my metal steed (electric powered don’t you know) and it is somewhat of a relief to be on my way again. I backtrack as far as Mataitaua marae before joining the cycle trail extending to Kaikohe and beyond to Opua. The km signs all show the distance to Opua. Today I will pass through Okaihau, Lake Omapere and arrive in Kaikohe. The cycle trail runs abreast the road through meandering farmland. Every now again there is another marae and cemetery. Neglected and abandoned houses dot the roadside.
About half way to Okaihau I come across an idyllic park area beside the river. Karen has her wee shop set up and it looks inviting. The Nelson couple had mentioned this place last night but I had forgotten until now. She sells baking and drinks plus there were baskets of lemons and avocados for sale. The land is in her family and she told me of her childhood camping here with the cord running down from the woolshed to power the fridge. Good times.
From Karen’s shop the trail follows the river and winds in an out of native bush. It is so beautiful and made for really enjoyable riding even though a drizzle had started. I knew at some point that there was a serious hill to be climbed. It was on the maps, the documents promoted cycling down from Okaihau and Karen had said it was a gut cruncher even with an e-bike. I hit the switchback just as the weather came in. The drizzle got heavier but I managed to get half way up before finding shelter under a tree. Old muggins here hadn’t brought a rain jacket so I had to grin and bear it. Within 20 minutes the rain stopped and I was soaked. I pushed my bike up the remainder of the hill and once at the top was on level ground for the rest of the way. The Horeke to Okaihau section was never a railway line hence this tough hill. From Okaihau through to Opua follows the old railway line – trains don’t like steep so we’ll be all good from here on.
The ride into Okaihau was really lovely. Quite different from the valley. Here was lush green farmland with rows of puriri and bamboo. Peacocks were crying out. I was drying out too. I passed by two churches and a cool accommodation place called Okaihau Rail Stay which had old railway carriages to sleep in. Once in Okaihau I stopped for a real coffee but sadly it was a long wait and it was too milky. Disappointing. Definitely not Allpress.
The next section to Kaikohe is on the rail trail. The cycling is easier over the flat ground or gentle grades. The only annoyance is the poles or bars each time the trail crosses a driveway. You need to dismount at each one and push your bike through. I swish along at good speed and before long pass through the tunnel. It is curved and just long enough that full darkness is is encroaching before you glimpse the light from the other end. This part of the line has native trees in abundance which form a natural canopy. There are plenty of puriri, tawa, matai, kahikatea and totara. Before long the trail rounds a hill and descends into Kaikohe where I ride down the main street to my accommodation for the night at Left Bank. Probably the best place in town the Left Bank has a great restaurant, hotel style rooms and a backpackers area where I am staying. It was a bank in better times. The bike is on its charger and I am ready for another day of cycling tomorrow.