Each ridge we crest can lead to a stunning view of the barren mountains or of crystal blue waters in the bays below.
Gisborne to Te Kaha
We pass over bridges spanning empty river beds, their parched rocks hungry for a taste of mountain water. This small reminder of how dry the season is and could reach critical if the weather continues on the same path. The road so far is good condition, and much better than we expected. Corn grows on this coast, but somewhat stunted compared to its kin growing in the center of the island. Cars are few, and houses even fewer, mostly tourists, on the same quest as us, as well as a handful of keen motorcyclists like ourselves. It is surprising to see yellow leaves fluttering around on the ground and spray up as we drive by. The secatas are more scarce, but do occupy groves that seem to hum as we pass them by. Each ridge we crest can lead to a stunning view of the barren mountains or of crystal blue waters in the bays below. We start to think that each one can’t be more beautiful than the next but we are amazed each time a new one comes in view.
Or first stop was not far from Gisbourne, about 45 minutes away, the small town of Tolaga Bay was shut up for the weekend, only life breathed into Maria’s cafe on the corner. The food was filling, but lacked any imagination, but it was subsidence, and that was all we required. After a generous break, we ventured back to the bitumen. We were dragging our heals a bit today, it seemed the back to back riding was beginning to take its toll, and despite the comfortable hotel room, we still lacked a decent night of sleep. The roads slowly deteriorated in many forums, resealing, uneven surfaces and large humps.
Our next stop, the old shipping port of Tokomaru Bay, old brick building lined the narrow road. Relics from days gone by these old brick beauties would have been no expense spared when they were built. We wound down to an amazingly scenic bay, Waima, flanked by soaring baron hills with a straggling few pohutukawa trees clinging on for dear life. A long wharf pierced through the center of waves, it skinny rail tracks running its length, no doubt to carry all the wealth’s of overseas spoils. Only its skeletal structure was all that remained of a booming industry one hundred years ago. We begin to reflect if our current situation could produce similar results. What determines what stays and what goes?
With our attention turned back to the road, we aimed to cover some ground. Stopping ever so slightly to snap a few photos and to enjoy the vistas making quick breaks to rehydrate and to enjoy some shade. The east coast proved a refreshing change from the west, the light traffic and constant sunny skies brought our moods up and urged us to ride further. We finally passed through the east coast boundary.
We pulled up gravel drive which transitioned into macadamia shells and finally into river sized rocks that bumped the tires around. A small oasis occupied the top of the ridge, the Macadamia trees dotted the hills, its unripe produce baking in the summer sun. A small cafe offered everything macadamia, from cookies to ice cream to roasts in take home bags. We enjoyed a small helping of their homemade ice cream and set off over their trials like obstacle course of a driveway to our motel.
We began to feel like we were very far removed from everything. The road ranging from superb to barely passable kept us on our toes. The single lane bridges crossing the rock bed rivers with the railing painted the same blue as the waters at the shores where the rivers dispersed into the sea
We pulled up to the new hotel, air conditioning and a shower awaited us. A throng of sports bikes sprawled across the front parking lot, and it wasn’t hard to pick out the balding middle aged overweight riders in the middle of the bar, sporting their leather riding jackets and “safety” jeans. I guess I fell a bit depressed about the state of the sport, an old boy’s club of back slappers that get their kicks by riding like jackasses, weaving in and out of traffic with no care for other people’s safety. You could smell the cliché from across the bar.
After a few drinks and a snack from the adjoined store we talked about my riding skills, and feeling flustered, I thought it was time to go back to the room and contemplated going for a swim, but continued our dissection about what was the problem and solution to me riding so slowly all day long. We walked through all the points, the looking through the turns, the countersteering, the weight on pegs, the moving the head and eyes, I had the system down, the technique as textbook as possible. I’ve never felt so frustrated about not being able to do something, and not knowing how to correct it. There had to be an answer.
Time neared for dinner, and we set out for a healthy meal which ended up not being much more than an entree size for 30 bills per plate. Depressed, we went across to the store and picked up some ice cream and settled in for the night and watched “American Gangster”
Te Kaha to Auckland
Another semi-sleepless night we wrestled the covers off at 6:45 to a another stellar morning.
The main struggle I have been having, and unaware that it was the cause is problems with my coordination and vision. I hate to dub this as an excuse, but I am a typical Dyslexia case, horrible in the written form, refusing to read for pleasure, and most of all problems focusing. I try not to let it take over my daily life, but it seems that my extended use of the motorcycle has led to frustration and aggravation for both myself and Joe. I spent an entire evening explaining to him how it felt to be dyslexic, but its not really something you can explain, you just are or you not. I suppose its like explaining to a man what it’s like to be a woman, I guess you’ll never know what the other is, well, not naturally.
Unfortunately my lack of sleep, and exercise had led to a huge onset of dyslexic disturbance in my riding, when I would start up each day, my eyes couldn’t focus on the road ahead. My mind would be spinning and any speed variance or corner would be a huge drawn out process to coordinate what my eyes were seeing to what my body had to do to get the bike around the corner. As my frustration continued, I would argue any little discrepancy to Joe, patiently taking my abuse as I followed blindfolded with my condition.
The day did not differ from the rest, still the mounting stress of riding on physical fumes was taking its toll. The first hour of Cliff side winding passes and up and down rolling off camber turns was endless, and the added distraction of having an amazing view to occupy the dreamy side of my brain didn’t help the situation. We had departed early enough that we were able to miss most of the traffic on the Sunday morning, most people still recovering from the night before, longweekenditus. Finally, we managed our navigation of the east cape and returned back to Opotki for a coffee and an quick break. Forgoing the recommend cafe in the main road, due to a massive tour bus occupying the entire cafe, we road on until we found the grungiest, greasy spoon located across and besides the pumps in town to have some of the worst coffee to date. A few examples of poop on two wheels occupied the crumbling parking stalls, and since we committed to stopping, there was no turning around. The smell of grease nearly knocked us out at the door, as we held our breath while ordering the coffees.
While we sat and waiting for our coffees to arrive, contemplating the next leg of our journey, a biker pulled up on a Suzuki with a horrible pink Jacket. I cringe every time i see a woman with a pink jacket, it either indicates that she’s a girly girl, which i despise, or the whole, “look at me I’m a woman biker” which also annoys the shit out of me. Good on her for wearing protective gear, well jacket any ways, those jeans she had on wouldn’t last a 100 meter fall, but for god sakes, pick another colour!
With the disgusting coffee leaving a foul taste in our mouths, we thought it best to move on, and we did move, on straight roads all the way to Tauranga for lunch. The holiday traffic was already starting to mount its brigade against us, as time after time we encountered vans and trucks pulling every which kind of boat from their summer location, back to Auckland. The lines where constant, with campervan’s setting the pace at around 85km an hour. Tauranga’s traffic turned to be atrocious, but we where hungry for lunch and ventured into town for some lunch. As I write this now, a day later, I really wish we went somewhere else for lunch, the squid salad we had was suspect at best, and I really feel the effects today.
Our lunch bill arrived, and it was 72.00 clams! All we had was some fizzy water and two salads.
We felt right ripped off, and vowed to try to save some money next time. It seems that everywhere we go is the issue of having bad food for extortionate rates. We were both pretty tired of this by now. As we stared at the ridiculous bill, we both made the decision that we would try to make the last 200 kilometers that day, and be home for the evening. The prospect of sleeping in our own bed with a proper home cooked meal seemed too much temptation and we convinced ourselves it was worth the push. Tauranga through the Waihi gap onwards tested our paitience as we road in 28 degree weather alongside the barrage of holiday traffic.
After the gap, we stopped in Ngatea for gas as well as a re-hydration on the side of the road. Our usual stopping at the cafe was thwarted by the throngs of tourists bunging up the parking. The shade of a tree is all we required, to patiently wait to return in the massive mobile line once more.
Honesty, we felt refreshed from our stop and ready to tackle the road. Thus began our final push to get home. As traffic continued to mount, I suggested we take the back way to Auckland, which involved a round about way through Hunua which was fun and usually clear. My hunch proved true as we passed onto the main road that married into the new hwy that they had finished just before Christmas. It was stopped dead. The first exit back to the old hwy was only 800 meters ahead, and we dodged through cars and weaved our way towards the exit. People seemed to be sticking to their guns about staying on the hwy, only a few stragglers attempted to find they way around, to no avail.
It was clear, back up to speed we made up time on an empty road. In the distance we caught a glimpse of the hwy, blocked as far as the eye could see, we had made the right choice, and turned towards Hanua, towards home. We rejoined the hwy at Manukau and routed towards the airport and west towards home. It was a roundabout way, but at this point we were not taking any chances of getting caught in traffic, by 5pm we were home, and exhausted.