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4 days to NZ Cape Reinga and around Northland

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by acertainalias, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    The Plan

    The plan was formed months earlier when my mate Peter (noob rider) finally bought a bike after years of saying he would. “Let’s go riding somewhere for a few days in the summer holidays” I said, “we could go up North”. “Sounds like a plan” said Peter, and that was that for the next six months.

    Christmas came and went and we were each busy doing various different family related things here and overseas and then I received a text. “Are you still keen on a ride up North?” I shot back a quick reply - “Yup”. A few seconds later - “How about Thu to Sun?” “Yup” went back the reply again. It was Tuesday and it was game on.

    I broke the news to my wife the following day and she was totally fine with it just like I knew she would be - love ya Rach. It had been three years since my last trip away and I was overdue some extended helmet time.

    Day 0

    Peter and I sat down for half an hour on Weds morning with two smartphones, one coffee (me), one tea (Peter), and Google Mapped a loose plan. “What about accommodation?” I asked. “Leave it to me” said Peter. And that was the planning done. “See you at Z at 0900 tomorrow” [Z is a brand of NZ gas stations].

    This is what we came up with:

    Day 1 - Pukekohe to Opononi

    Day 2 - Opononi to Cape Reinga to Mangonui

    Day 3 - Mangonui to Mangawhai

    Day 4 - Mangawhai to Pukekohe​

    The weather forecast for the 4 days was superb and the 300 km or so planned for each day gave us time for as many stops and diversions as we fancied along the way.

    Peter must have left my house thinking pretty hard. I’d asked him how he was going to carry his gear. He’d said no problem, he had a backpack. I questioned this because my memory of riding extended distances with a backpack was of sore wrists from supporting the extra weight. A couple of hours later Peter texts to say that he’s been up to Auckland and bought a set of throw over panniers. He pops over to my house again and we work out how best to fix them to his bike. We also fit a heat shield to stop the right hand pannier from melting where it touches the silencer. That done, Peter leaves and I finish getting my own stuff together, lubing the chain, checking tyre pressures etc. I end up going to Pak n Save and Warehouse [two giants in NZ retail] to pick up some extra stuff like a new toothbrush, batteries for my head torch and baseball cap. By 2200 I only have my cell phone and charger left to pack and I go to bed full of excitement and anticipation like a five year old on Christmas Eve.
  2. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Day 1

    I’m awake the following morning at about 0530 as it gets light and I’m out with the dog by 0600 knowing that it’s the last morning walk she’ll get for 4 days. I have coffee for breakfast, a quick shower, get the riding gear on, say goodbye to the barely awake wife and still sleeping three children and head to the Z for 0900. Peter is already there and we fill the tanks, zero the odometers and agree that the first stop will be the services just before the toll section of State Highway 1 north of Auckland. And just like that we’re off.

    Here we are at the first stop. It’s a chance to stretch, have a sip of water and check Peter’s panniers after the first 70 km shakedown. We have a look and decide that the heat shield is doing a great job whilst on the move but we worry that when stopped it gets just as hot as the silencer. I look around for something to use to stop the two from making contact and find a palm sized pebble in the landscaping which I wedge in place. Peter comments that he’ll need to remember to remove it before we set off.


    Of course neither of us remembers the pebble until we’re back on the motorway and in my mirror I see Peter pull onto the shoulder and stop. I stop as well but the pebble is long gone. I hope it doesn’t end up in someone’s windscreen.

    I ride straight through Kaiwaka where we’d planned a lunch stop and instead stop at the Highway Café on the junction of SH1 and SH12. Sometimes you’ve got to just go with the flow. We sit outside with coffee and eat our bacon and egg brunches while enjoying the sunshine and thundering traffic. As I write this now I realise the irony of me commenting on the traffic. The café probably wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for the traffic, and we wouldn’t be there either because we are part of the traffic; not quite the thundering part, more like a buzzing part. One interesting feature of the Highway Café I notice is that the door to the gents is only about 60 cm wide. Wide enough to get in but narrow enough to have to consider walking sideways if you’ve still got your bike jacket on.

    Next door to the café there is a building that looks unused. It looks like it could have been a service station once upon a time. There is a wall made of bicycles between the forecourt of this building and the road. I wait for a gap in the flow of logging trucks and cars with kayaks on roof racks to step into the road and take a photo.


    Next up is Dargaville. We want to have a look at the museum and all I can recall from my last visit 5 years earlier is that it’s at the top of a hill. Google maps puts us on the right roads and we arrive a few minutes later.

    One recurring feature of motorcycle travel is that when you stop and get talking to someone, they usually have a story to tell about their own experience of motorcycles. The lady in the museum was no exception and she told us how she loved riding her own bike through the Waipoua Forest so much that she’d been inspired by the continually changing patterns of light through the trees to write a poem about it. Museum Lady - if you ever read this, I'd love to read your poem.

    Peter and I pay our $15 each and Museum Lady offers to look after our jackets and helmets behind the counter for us. We wander about the museum for about an hour and learn all about gum digging, early NZ shipwrecks and the Rainbow Warrior. I don’t get any photos because the camera is in the tank bag which Museum Lady has behind the counter.

    When we return to the bikes Peter takes a photo of his bike with the Rainbow Warrior’s mast and the view of Dargaville and the Wairoa river behind which he posts to Facebook with the question “Where am I?” Nobody gets it right over the next few days.

    We schedule our next brief stop at Tane Mahuta which is NZ’s largest and oldest known living Kauri tree. Since the last time I was there Kauri dieback disease has closed many walking tracks in NZ in an attempt to limit the spread of the disease. There are shoe washing stations installed at the entry to the short boardwalk into the forest where the tree stands. Peter and I take turns standing on the foot-sized grate which depresses and actuates a piston causing a mist of disinfectant to be squirted onto the soles of our boots. We do this many more times than is necessary because it's a clever piece of engineering and any self-respecting motorcyclist derives pleasure from that kind of thing.

    About 100m along the boardwalk we see the tree on the left. Just over 50m in height but with a trunk girth of about 15m this truly is the Lord of the forest. Estimates age the tree between 1250 and 2500 years old and there is a very knowledgeable and patient DOC employee doing photo duty and explaining these facts and figures to a stream of people from all over the world, including us.

    Here is me with the tree appearing to grow out of head. Great selfie mate.


    By now there is just a short stretch of SH12 before we leave the forest. Seal is being replaced in small sections and there are about 8 or 10 sections of compacted and wetted metal (chippings) in place of tar seal in 30-50m sections. None of these catch us out because they are well signed and there are stop-go systems in place. All in all it’s a great ride through the forest and I can see why Museum Lady would be moved to write poetry about it.

    One of the great things about riding NZ is the variety of terrain and scenery (and usually weather) that can be experienced in relatively short distances. This is once again true as we suddenly round a bend and are presented with towering golden yellow sand dunes and dazzling blue water and we just have to stop to take it in. We have arrived at Omapere and are looking at the Hokianga. The photo does not do the view justice because seconds before I took the shot it was bathed in bright sunshine.


    We descend the switchbacks into Omapere and continue to Opononi which is just a couple of kilometers further on. We’re looking for the Lighthouse Motel which is where Peter had booked for the first night. We get room 7 and there is one bedroom with a double bed and a single bed in the lounge. I flip a coin and Peter chooses tails and gets the single.


    We decide on Indian takeaway for tea from the Big Basket Takeaway about 800m up the road. The food will take exactly 25 mins according to the girl in the shop so we go and investigate the story of Opo, who has a statue erected in his honour. I’ll leave you to read up on Opo in the same way that I did if you want to find out more.


    We also check out the wharf and walk down the pontoon beside it. By now the tide is in full ebb flow, Peter says “I wonder how fast that current is” so we conduct a little experiment with a leaf, a stopwatch, the paced length of the pontoon and a few conversion factors which Peter rattles off, and establish that by our reckoning that it’s about 1.5 knots which is entirely reasonable. Go the Maths geeks! We return to the Big Basket 25 mins later and are handed a bag of steaming hot takeaway food which we duly take away and eat, and very good it was too. We say hi to our Lighthouse Motel Neighbours in room 6 and are told a story of a broken toe from kick starting a thumper years earlier - see, everyone has a motorcycle story to share!

    Here is the view looking towards the ocean from the beach across the road from the motel.


    And that was Day 1 - total distance ridden 314km.
  3. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Day 2

    Since the WiFi in the Lighthouse Motel was mainly miss rather than hit, we resorted to reading the information for guests folder. It was in there that we discovered that the Koutu Boulders were just a short deviation from the planned route to the ferry at Rawene that would take us across the Hokianga. The Koutu Boulders are spherical cementations of up to about 3m in diameter and there are loads of them on the beach and buried in the ground in the area. We decided to make the Koutu Boulders the first stop of the day.

    Reaching the boulders requires a walk along the beach and the guest info said that the further you walk the bigger the boulders are. So we opted to ride to the car park at the far end of the beach walk and go down the very steep path to the beach hoping to see the biggest ones.

    The far end car park is reached along a gravel road and we parked up, deciding it was remote enough to leave helmets, jackets, gloves etc. all with the bikes. Helmets were propped on mirrors and jackets were thrown over panniers. I’m being specific about this because it was this decision that would lead to Gear Mishap #1. More on that later.

    The descent was easy if a little overgrown through infrequent use, and sure enough, once we descended to the beach there were some large, spherical boulders half buried in the sand (mud).


    We looked around for a bit but realised that one boulder is very much like another and I was reminded strongly that I needed to lose 20kg when it was time to walk back up to the bikes. Leather riding pants and off-road boots didn’t make it ideal either. A bit of ready reckoning using trigonometry and an estimate of the slope and linear distance walked gave us an estimated elevation of about 110m. Peter checked his What’s my Elevation app on his phone and found it was 103m. Another win for the Maths geeks.

    We jacketed, helmeted and gloved and set off back along the gravel for the ferry. At the end of the gravel Peter stopped and said the zip on his jacket was stuck. It was well and truly stuck so he decided to leave it half way up and fix it at the ferry where we probably have a time to wait anyway.

    At Rawene we were first in line for the ferry which we could see berthed on the other side of the estuary. Peter wriggled his half-zipped jacket off over his head to get a proper look at the problem and that’s when Gear Mishap #1 revealed itself. The plastic teeth on about 3cm of one side of the zip were melted and would no longer mesh with their partners on the other side. Bugger! Some roadside forensic science established that this had happened when Peter had thrown his jacket over the panniers when we got to the boulder car park. Sure enough, when we inspected the silencer, the inevitable transfer of material had occurred and there was a fine line of zipper tooth plastic melted onto the top of the silencer. CSI Rawene!


    “No problem - I have a Leatherman with a file on it” I proclaimed as I rummaged in my bag to find it. Peter then set about re-profiling the blobs of plastic on his melted zip into a shape that loosely resembled a zip tooth. He did a good enough job to get the zipper to travel the full length of the zip, but any tug sideways would now separate the teeth and open the jacket.


    With that sorted I went to get coffee and came back to two boys looking at the bikes. The conversation started like this:

    Boy - “Mister, can we ride your bikes?”

    Me - “Nah bro”

    Boy - “Go on Mister, I can pop a mean wheelie”

    Me - “Still no”​

    Turns out they both lived in Rawene but went to boarding schools, one in Tauranga and the other in Whangarei. I asked them what they’d done all summer and they said nothing much, just swimming, fishing, hunting and riding the quads. When I was their age that would have pretty much been my perfect summer. They were going back to school next week and looking forward to it because they were bored.

    The ferry crossing is quick and cost $5 each for the bikes and before we know it we were off the other side and away.


    We agree that our lunch stop would be in Awanui, the last town before the road to Cape Reinga. But to get there we first need to ride SH1 through the Raetea Forest. This road is easily in the top 10 best roads I have ever ridden. Peter commented that it must have been designed and built by motorcyclists for motorcyclists. State Highway engineers of NZ - I applaud your work. You have created a road through that forest with hardly any bit that could be called straight. And while doing that you’ve managed to achieve a perfect camber on every bend and a surface that never gave any fear of losing traction. Your road is a visual masterpiece too as each bend and crest reveals yet another in a seemingly never ending tease. It just flows in a surreal way like a Super Mario Kart circuit. You also engineered sun directly overhead giving very few shadows, perfectly dry conditions and the road to ourselves. Thank you - except maybe the last few bits were maybe just luck.

    Of course we didn’t stop to take any photos of the road.

    Lunch in Awanui turns out to be a bit of a let down. There are two candidates for a lunch stop, a bakey and a fish and chip shop. We stop outside the accountant's office between the two and I choose the bakery. I try to get Bakery Lady to recommend something to us but she just looks back at me and asks me what I want so I end up buying a very dry bacon and egg muffin, a sausage and a bottle of water. We sit at the dirty table outside and watch the traffic while we play with Google maps to work out how long the 103km ride to Cape Reinga will take.

    Here is the bakery in Awanui (to the right of where the bikes are parked). Not recommended.


    Cape Reinga is a there and back ride. In other words, 103km to get there, and another 103km back to where we are right now. We will need to return to Awanui to continue to our destination for the night so we will end up riding the same road twice but in different directions (just like every other visitor to the Cape).

    Refreshed from our disappointing-but-served-its-purpose bakery lunch we confirm we have enough fuel and set off at a rapid pace, frequently coming up behind slower moving vehicles. Our experience so far is that most drivers pull over at the first opportunity to let us pass but there are a few who just don’t. They speed up on every straight and slow right down on every bend. The danger of this for me was that it dulled my senses. I found my mind wandering and I was looking around and just not giving the road the level of concentration that it deserved. Peter and I talked about this quite often on the trip as it happened to him too and we were both caught out by things that we should have been alert to. This only happened when following other vehicles which we tried to avoid.

    We arrive at the Cape in much less time than Google says it will take and park the bikes in the dedicated bike parking space. It’s hot and windy and we’re hot and happy to be there. This was the purpose of the whole ride really - to see Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island of NZ. We leave our helmets with the bikes but take our jackets with us and set out on the 500m or so walk down to the lighthouse. We stop and look out at the enormousness of the empty ocean and I think I see land on the horizon. I try to point it out to Peter but he can’t make out what I’m looking at and then the next minute it’s gone from view. When we get to the lighthouse we get some cell phone signal and I discover that the Three Kings Islands lie 57km NW of where we’re standing. I open up the Compass app on my phone and sure enough, that is the direction I was looking. Peter says there is no way you can see 57km because the horizon is closer that that, so he opens up the What’s My Elevation app again and finds the base of the lighthouse is at 155m, then finds a Distance to Horizon Calculator which gives a figure of 44.5km. As we walk back up the path I realise that the calculation to give the distance to the horizon assumes that the horizon is at sea level and to solve the issue we need to know the height above sea level of the Three Kings Islands. Peter googles it and sure enough, the highest point on the islands is 295m which places them well within the visible range from where we were standing. Applied Maths is very cool.



    I really can’t say for sure if that person in the photo above, just to the left of my ear, is actually throwing a child in the air or not. You can also see Peter in the shadow of the lighthouse on his phone confirming the accommodation for the night or maybe checking the What’s My Elevation app.

    We decide to take it easy on the way back to Awanui and stop as often as we want for photos. We drop our top speed down to 85-90km/h and enjoy the rolling road as it twists, turns, rises and falls in front of us. We detour to the Te Paki stream only to find that the access to 90 Mile Beach is temporarily closed. Never mind, we had already made the decision not to ride the beach.


    In what seems like less time than it took to get to the Cape we are back in Awanui and definitely not visiting Bakery Lady again. We have about 30km to go to reach our now confirmed accommodation for the night - the thoroughly named Mangonui Waterfront Apartments Motel Hotel (to make sure there could be no confusion as to what sort of accommodation it was).


    We’d been lucky with this booking. It was a two double bedroom apartment on the ground floor, one building back from the waterfront, very clean, very well furnished and absolutely more than adequate for our meagre needs. Apartment Lady had been waiting for us and she quickly gave us a rundown of all the places we could eat in town before locking up her office and leaving for the evening.

    We took the gear inside from the bikes and that’s when Gear Mishap #2 became apparent. When we fitted Peter’s panniers for Day 1 we were very careful to make sure that the left hand side pannier was high enough to prevent it from swinging inwards and making contact with the tyre. During the day it had either moved or it had been fitted lower than yesterday because there was now an arc of frayed material on the inside of the LH pannier and a hole that went right through on the seam. Bummer. With Peter sitting on the bike and me pushing the rear down to full compression we could see how close the pannier was to the tyre, and with a bit of swinging about from the bumps it was clear that the pannier had enjoyed some intimate touching with the tyre during the day. CSI Mangonui could probably have detected some exchange of material but we had already reached our evidence threshold. The tyre had really given it to the pannier. For some reason I didn’t get a picture of the damage.

    For tea we visited the Mangonui Fish Shop, which judging by the number of people inside and outside, was The Place in town to eat. Peter chose Bluenose and neither of us knew what kind of fish that was. I had squid. While we were eating, Peter googled Bluenose and discovered that according to Forest and Bird, it was rated as the worst choice to eat due to unsustainable fishing quotas. We checked a few other fish and they were all worst choices. I contemplated this and realised that we were in no position to make any kind of judgment on environmental sustainability issues because after all, here were we, riding two fossil fuel powered motorcycles on a completely unnecessary journey around Northland for 4 days. Potential hypocrisy avoided.


    The fish and chips were good, but I expected excellent based on the cost.

    While we ate, we also saw a small shark, probably about a metre in length, break the surface in the shallows. We saw it a few times in the same spot but then it disappeared.

    Once back at the apartment, which offered 5 bars of WiFi, I read up on the Three Kings Islands on nzgeo.com and learned all about the history, flora and fauna of these isolated islands. We talked about the day’s ride and it turned out that Peter and I had both been thinking the same thing independently whilst riding to the Cape - one part of the road had reminded us both of the TT course on the Isle of Mann, particularly the mountain mile but just without the dry stone walls, and riding at about a third of speed.

    There was also a classic bike magazine from 2017 in the room which was a good read before bed.

    And that was Day 2 - total distance ridden 354km.
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  4. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Day 3

    We start day 3 lazily because the cafe directly in front of the apartments doesn’t open until 0830. We walk down anyway and spot a classic Ducati parked up on the waterfront with its rider sitting outside the cafe. Ducati Man confirms they don’t open for another 10 mins but they know he’s there. A few minutes later I hear the unmistakable sound of another classic bike but the air is so still and sound travels so well across water that it could be miles away. It steadily gets louder and before long a BSA rolls up and BSA Man joins Ducati Man outside the not-yet-open cafe. Nobody is in a rush so we decide that’s the best way to act too, so Honda Man 1 and Honda Man 2 (us) sit down and relax. Sometime around 0830 doors and windows are opened and shortly after that a waitress comes to take our order. She brings the Honda Men coffee and breakfast, and more coffee after that.


    I’d have stayed longer because it was quite a perfect place to sit and eat and do nothing but we had a destination to get to so we paid up and went back to pack up the gear and load up the bikes. Peter paid special attention to the LH pannier mounting to curb its developing love affair with the tyre.

    The first stop was Kerikeri and we were looking for The Stone Store, which according to Google maps is an historical landmark. It’s actually the original house of the Kerikeri Mission Station, and unusually for NZ, is of stone construction.


    We park up the bikes and walk into the building. The ground floor is a shop which sells interesting reproductions of period hardware like nails, hessian sacks and candle stick holders. We resist the temptation to buy anything which is quite easy due to the high prices, but do pay our $8 each to visit the museum upstairs.

    It’s basically a two room museum which doubles as the stock room for the shop downstairs. Perhaps the most interesting and informative display is a semi-interactive video presentation which tells 6 or 7 stories to illustrate different aspects of the changing relationships between the missionaries and Maori over time, including the trade of food for muskets.

    After we have seen enough of the museum we head outside into the heat and go and look at the footbridge and the river before going back to the bikes. We get geared up and I throw my leg over ready to go. Peter gives me a nod and I press the starter button. Nothing. In disbelief I try again. Still nothing. I call out to Peter “It’s dead”. He looks and says “Your light is fading”. A few months earlier I’d replaced the battery and my mind went straight to a charging issue or a suddenly failed battery instead of thinking rationally.

    I paddle the bike out of its space, put it in second, switch the ignition on and try to bump start it. Nothing. I get Peter to push me back up the slope and we try again but it’s not happening. We do this once more, but we’re in full riding gear, it’s 28 degrees C and we’re now dripping with sweat. I stop and think, which is what I should have done in the first place. When I switch the ignition on all the dash lights come as normal but I don’t hear the fuel pump priming and when I press the starter button there is nothing, absolutely nothing, no click, no attempt to turn the engine over, nothing at all. It’s then that I look down at my hand as I push the starter button and notice the kill switch. It looks different because it’s in the off position. I call out to Peter, point to the switch, ceremoniously move it into the run position, thumb the starter and we’re back in business. I’ll call this User Error #1. I feel like a complete idiot jumping to conclusions and Peter comments that’s the kind of mistake he should be making not me. I want to blame someone for moving the switch while we left the bikes unattended but really I need to blame myself for a) not checking the most obvious things first, and b) probably knocking the switch when I propped the helmet on the mirror. This bugs me a bit as we ride off but then I put those thoughts aside and just enjoy being on the move again. Thankfully, User Error numbering never reached higher than 1.

    We head toward Waitangi and intend to go the back way via the Haruru Falls. I had been to falls in July 2014 in the week of storms and widespread flooding. We take some photos of the falls and decide that it would probably be possible to walk across the top of them if you didn’t mind getting your shoes wet. This is in complete contrast to my last visit when two people sadly lost their lives in the falls when somehow they ended up in the river in full flood. The two photos show the river on each of the two occasions I’ve visited.

    January 2020

    And this one was taken in July 2014

    Waitangi is just a short ride along a gravel road which winds through a golf course. En route we can see Paihia which looks like a playground resort today. There is a huge cruise ship anchored in deep water offshore, parasailing, helicopters, kayaks and just about every form of pleasure craft you could imagine.

    We decide not to pay the fee to enter the Treaty Grounds as we have both been there previously and head straight into Paihia. It’s too busy to stop but I do pause at the far end of the beach and take a photo. While I’m stopped I’m approached by a guy who starts telling me his motorcycle stories. I recognise him instantly as a fellow Brummie and it turns out he’s from Boldmere which is about 5 km from the town where I grew up in the English Midlands. He’s a passenger on the cruise ship and he’s on a trip with his wife to celebrate his 60th birthday and see his son in Melbourne. It’s his first time in NZ and he wants to come back and do his own motorcycle tour. He’s going to try to persuade his wife that they should do that for her 60th the following year. We chat for a bit and then it’s time for us both to go. Cruise Ship Man goes back to the pick up point for his boat and Peter and I head to Opua to catch the car ferry to Russell, the original capital of NZ.

    We get to Opua, following the lane that has Ferry Lane painted on it for about a kilometer and almost don’t see the ferry because there is no queue and the ferry ramp looks like a continuation of the road. Straight onto the ferry and it’s ramp-up and gone in less than a minute. This time it costs $5.90 and I dig a whole pile of change out of my pocket and hold it in my palm while Ferry Lady helps herself to most of the loose change because she’s running low on coins. I’m happy because my pocket is lighter, and she’s happy because she can give people change again. Result.


    In Russell we stop in a 30 min parking spot and plan on finding a cold drink and some lunch. We locate a nice looking cafe and walk in but Cafe Man turns us away because the kitchen is closed for the afternoon. We decide to just grab something from the Four Square and I go in looking for a pie. We must have chanced upon the only Four Square in NZ that doesn’t have a pie warmer so I buy some cold cheese kranskys and an iced coffee and Peter gets some lemonade. I ask about cash out and Four Square Lady is cautious and wants to know how much I want. I tell her $40 and she says “that’s OK, I thought you were going to ask for like $400”. We must look much wealthier than we really are. Peter buys a lottery ticket in the hope of actually becoming that wealthy.

    We eat and drink sitting on a rock in the shade because the nearby bench is in direct sunlight and just within our 30 min time limit we’re ready to move again.


    The next planned stop is Oakura Bay where Peter stayed for 5 days just the week before. We ride in and out on the same road and stop for ice cream, water, a brief leg stretch and the obligatory bike-by-the-beach photo.

    This is on the road to Oakura. It was nice just to stop and look.

    The next town is Whangarei and we just pass through but need a photo to show we’ve been there. We follow the signs for the Town Basin, stop for a 5 minute leg stretch and then decide that it’s time to find the pre-booked accommodation at Marsden Cove which is 35km away.

    Peter has the address and we enter it into Google maps and set off. I have my phone in the clear pocket of my tank bag and can see it on the move, but just as we approach the final few turns my low battery warning appears and obscures the directions so I have to stop, remove my gloves and clear the screen before we do the final 2km to find the place.

    We locate the key and open up and it turns out to be a 1951 2 bedroom home which is very clean, well maintained and very dated.


    We unpack the bikes, get changed, marvel at the bakelite toggle switch in the pink refurbished-in-the-1970s bathroom and google somewhere for tea. We choose the again very thoroughly named Land & Sea Cafe, Bar and Eatery and set off on foot. Google tells us that it closes at 2000 and it’s 1915.

    We get there and are greeted by a very attentive young waiter who tells us of course they are still serving food, and of course we can sit at the tables belonging to the fishing club next door, and of course he’ll bring beer to the table. Fantastic service. Peter wanted the darkest beer on tap and I wanted cold lager. When the drinks arrived, Peter’s was maybe 0.1 shades darker than mine but it didn’t matter because they were cold and wet and just the ticket. We choose a fish burger and chips each and sit and eat while the sun goes down. There is a steady stream of boats of all sizes into the fuelling pontoon and the boat ramp and there is plenty to watch and talk about as we eat and drink. We also remember to pay our $2.40 road tolls from 2 days earlier.


    We leave the bar well after its advertised closing time, and we’re not quite the last people to go. Fantastic Waiter Man splits the bill down the middle for us and we walk back to the house. We maneuver the bikes so they can be locked together and to the deck and head inside to decide on a route for the final day.


    Each of the bedrooms has a pull cord switch in the centre of the ceiling which hangs down to about 50cm above the bed. That’s great because I don’t have to get out of bed to switch the light off.

    And that was Day 3 - total distance ridden 253km
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  5. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Day 4

    Day 4 was always going to be the shortest day and we figured we’d try to stay off the State Highways as much as possible. We couldn’t avoid a short section between Ruakaka and Waipu but then turned off and headed through Langs Beach to Mangawhai Heads looking for coffee. We rode past the turn for the Heads and needed to U-turn in the road. We end up stopping on opposite sides of the road for a few mins and quickly notice that two mainly black and white motorcycles parked on the shoulders, with helmeted hi-viz wearing riders looking up and down the road, causes the traffic to behave quite differently. Mangawhai Heads was rammed with people and cars and it would have been tricky to find a space to park even a motorbike, so we about-turn and head for Mangawhai town.

    Parking is in Mangawhai is easier and it looks like the town has a summer-time special one-way system in place. We buy a barbequed breakfast from a guy outside a pizzeria and he sends us inside to buy drinks from the boy behind the bar. It turns out that BBQ Guy and Pizzeria Place are two completely separate businesses who trade together for breakfast every morning. My coffee arrives as expected but Peter’s English Breakfast tea was actually Earl Grey and came out in a dusty tea pot. I think it might actually have been the first pot of tea that Barista Boy had ever been asked to make.


    Full of bacon, sausage and egg we leave Mangawhai and cross SH1 on the way to Port Albert. There are gravel roads but they’re hard like concrete with very little loose stone so they are easy to ride.

    At Port Albert there is a wharf that is maybe 120m long. We walk to the end and notice the stainless hardware that the deck is installed with. As a hobby boatie, I know that anytime something is labelled as ‘marine grade’ its price goes up tenfold. The stainless hardware in the wharf must be marine grade and Peter counts 10 screws per deck board. I say “I wonder how many screws that is in total”. We each devise a method for estimating the number of deck boards in the whole wharf. I count 4 boards per stride and the wharf is 130 strides long. Peter counts 24 boards per handrail section and there are 20 sections of handrail. My estimate gives 520 boards; Peter’s gives 480. Two different methods arrive at estimates within 10% of each other. Call it 500 boards and 10 screws in each. If each screw cost $1 thats $5000 in deck screws alone. Another win for applied Maths!


    We leave Port Albert and join SH16 heading south and pass Gibbs Farm where some of the huge sculptures are visible from the road.


    After getting some not-very-good pictures of the sculptures we continue to Kaukapakapa and get off SH16 again to avoid Helensville. We make rapid progress south and soon end up in Kumeu where we stop for lunch. Peter eventually gets the cup of English Breakfast Tea he’s been trying to have for days, and I can order an Americano and cream with confidence that they’ll be able to do it. We can tell by this that we’re pretty much back in Auckland again.

    Google maps tells us that we’re about 70km from home and it should take about 60 mins. We briefly discuss avoiding the State Highways again but discard that idea as we don’t feel that there is anything to be gained by driving through heavy traffic off the State Highway instead of on it.

    We set off and almost immediately hit crawling traffic. I make the decision to do some lane splitting (or filtering as it’s known in the UK) and carefully ride down the median. It’s not long before a snapback wearing, seat reclined, boy racer does a U-turn right in front of me without warning, but I’m ready for it and there is no drama. Fuckwit.

    We get to Whenuapai and it all speeds up and then we’re in the Waterview tunnels, then Mangere, then back on SH1 south to Pukekohe. We’ve arranged to head straight to the Z where we set off from 3 days earlier to re-fuel and get a total trip distance, and that’s it, trip over and all returns to normal.

    I get a nice welcome home from the dogs because everyone else is out.


    And that was Day 4 - total distance ridden 233km
    skyguy, eri and DADODIRT like this.
  6. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Summary Stats

    Total distance for the 4 days - 1154km

    Total cost of fuel - $96.23

    Fuel consumption - worst day 76 mpg, best day 83 mpg (imperial gallons)

    Total accommodation cost (my share) - $293

    Total spent on food and drink - $183.69

    Total other expenses (museums and ferries) - $33.90

    Grand total - $606.82
  7. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Things I learned
    1. I need to lose 20kg so my bike jacket fits properly and walking up cliff paths in biking gear is easier.

    2. Or I need to have an easily reached pair of shorts and trainers to change into before I walk up cliff paths.

    3. Or I need to buy a bigger bike jacket with better venting.

    4. A 12V accessory socket or USB port on the bike would be great. I’ll fit one before my next trip.

    5. I need to do something to reduce the buffeting from the screen on the CB500x. This is a well documented issue and there seems to be no general consensus on what the solution is in the hundred or so pages of forum discussion on the topic.

    6. Putting foam earplugs in and out 10 or 15 times a day is a pain. I need to get some custom moulded ones made that just pop in and out. Peter made a similar observation too and he just took to leaving his in most of the day once he'd got them comfortable and sealing properly.

    7. It’s definitely better riding with a mate than alone. We stopped much more frequently and interacted with other people and things more than if I would have done if I was alone. And accommodation costs can be halved too.
    I’ll probably keep adding to this list as I think of stuff. The packing system I used worked great. I used a bunch of small dry bays inside the Giant Loop saddle bag which meant I could find anything I wanted quickly and easily.

    All in all it was a great trip and we’ll do another one in April I think.

    Anyone know the best way of getting a bike to the South Island without riding it? Can it be freighted on a train?
    andy mac, oldbeer and Repoman87 like this.
  8. oldbeer

    oldbeer Grandadventurer

    Jan 25, 2017
    Tamaki Makarau, Aotearoa
    Nice write up. Its nice up there isn't it? Ive done 90 mile beach and i much prefer the road. Agree the Mangamuka Hill on SH1 through the forest is glorious. Always very tempting to turn round and do it again!

    After years of never quite getting round to it i finally bought a mouldable earplug kit. I finally have ear protection that doesn't irritate after 20 mins. Of course wish I'd done it years ago.

    Best way to get bikes to the SI is to ride them but if you don't have time, get biketranz or one of the other companies to ship them there and back for you. Last time i looked at it its expensive but cheaper than riding when you include accom gas ferry meals etc. Plus you can fly in and ride. 8

    If you head north again try the Paparoa Oakleigh road, through Maungakaramea and Maungatapere (good lunch stop) then up to Kaikohe. Avoids most of the truck infested SH1 ( the truckies are great but there's just too many on that road)

    The gravel back roads up there are great if you like that sort of thing.
  9. neppi

    neppi Been here awhile

    Mar 9, 2017
    Tauranga, New Zealand
    Nice write up! Thank you!

    Music stores (among others) sell silicone plugs that come with different dB filters. A lighter option for the mold plugs. Easy and comfy to use with a fraction (maths, right?) of the price of the molded ones.

    I wear a kids (foam) version of neck brace / support to cut down the other third (maths, right?) of the helmet noise. Doesn’t help too much with the buffeting itself, but helps with one of the major side effects of it...

    I made a new windshield for my Transalp back then, and making it only 20mm taller reduced buffeting to minimum. I also rode it without one for a week or two after I crashed in Coromandel and riding without the whole thing was actually way more pleasant than riding with it being a tad too short.

    end of my off topic!

  10. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Hi Oldbeer - thanks for reading. May look at one-way shipping of the bikes to Christchurch, then head South and ride them back over 10 days or so. That could be a good compromise. We took Peak Road and a bunch of others on the way back and as you say, if we go up that way again I would definitely look at the alternatives to the SH network. Got a plan for earplugs - I'll post the outcome after I've tried them.
  11. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    Hi neppi - thanks for reading. I hadn't thought of music shops at all so I'll call into the one in Puke later and see what they have. Otherwise I've found a silicone kit for $35 that I'll try. Totally agree about no screen at all being an improvement, the only problem with that is the ugly brackets it leaves. Will try taping a series of extension pieces to the top of it and experiment with height. Might even draw a graph of buffetting against screen height and look for a correlation ha ha.
    neppi likes this.
  12. acertainalias

    acertainalias Adventurer

    Jan 11, 2010
    Pukekohe, New Zealand
    The other thing that I've been thinking about is GPS. On my previous rides I've taken an old Garmin eTrex with me that records a trail of where I've been. I didn't have it this time because when I got it out of the cupbaord the batteries had leaked and possibly ruined it. That old unit was no good as a road navigation tool anyway and Google Maps or other app on a cell phone does the job just as well. Just need a USB port to keep it running all day, some way of waterproofing it and a mount for it for next time.

    What do others in NZ use?
  13. neppi

    neppi Been here awhile

    Mar 9, 2017
    Tauranga, New Zealand
    I use iPhone with Scenic app. Scenic gives you routing options such as ”Curvy” or ”Superspecialduperhellofa (or so) curvy”.
    U can download offline maps (uses Google maps) and U can save and share your routes, add pics to them and edit them before, during and after ride. Heaps of options and very customable. If you have only a couple of hours to spare, like ”honey, I go get some milk”, you can choose a ride some other dude / gal / person has done and shared near you.

    Check it out!


    And no, I don’t have anything to do with it, just happen to use it.
    acertainalias likes this.
  14. eri

    eri Been here awhile

    Jan 5, 2018
    i have an old garmin nuvi 5 picked up from cash converters for $25, for navigating on sunny days....... most of the time it lives in the pannier
    (it bluetooths to the phone which at least tells me if someone is calling)


    tried to upgrade to a garmin drive assist with action cam but tinstead of an old pressure touchscreen it has the new capacative style that won't work with gloves on....so that ended up in the car

    for wet days and hi-vibe adventure touring, also have a garmin GPS78, that gets clipped to the bars...also used hiking and sailing

    having both as garmin means they can be freely updated with maps from the nzopengps project and use the same mapsource software on the computer


    but you have to put up with a fair amount of techie-crap keeping them; on the bike, powered, updated, accepting tracks + routes

    also for solo riding in rough stuff a small marine epirb (48hr) goes into a jacket pocket


    probably better for biking, a smaller hiking plb (24hr)

    acertainalias likes this.