281111 BLOK 'Cape Regina or Bust!'
I'm back in Kaitaia after our trip north to the Cape, the Lighthouse and what is called Te Paki (the northern most tip of the Aupouri Pennisula). This 250KM trip, took five nights, and six days. I basically cycled from 4 to 6 hours each day, getting to wherever, and then setting up (camping) long before darkness. Cycling is only a part of the lifestyle.
The first day, we managed 70KM in just four hours, but with much help from a tail wind! I felt like I had an engine! I was wearing Rabbi's (new friend in Kaitaia) sunglasses, seeing the world through his creative eyes! It was so different from cycling during the first three weeks.
It turned out to be just an all-around perfect day, that made up for the previous 21 days! I had 'struck the jackpot' at the 'Hike and Bike Hostel,' by meeting some interesting local people! But, it went from that (sitting around talking), the first days to succeeding days which became more of a challenge as the weather deteriorated (more wind, showers, etc.). Plus, after the first 70KM, the hills got steeper, and the wind got stronger. Cape Reinga makes a cyclist 'pay' for it! It you cycle all the way from Auckland, even the most direct route is 500KM.
I had been struggling the first three weeks out of Auckland. The steep hills, the wind, and the weight I'm carrying (55KG), all proved daunting. It was more a mental than a physical test, however, as I started making excuses for myself. Excuses to quit, to take the bus, to whatever I was making them, excuses! However, if you persevere, things change. And if you try and keep trying you're rewarded. The 'hard' road, 'the road less travelled,' always 'pays off!
After 70-years of age your overall health becomes fickle. By that I mean, you might feel fine (strong) one day, weak the next. You never know exactly, depending on the air pressure, humidity, temperature, digestion, distraction, problems with bicycle, weather, other, even fear! Sometimes I just want to play it safe, and cuddle up next to a fire!
BUT, IN KAITAIA I GOT MY 'MOJO' BACK! So, the going has gotten a little easier!
That first afternoon, I opted to stop and camp at Rarawa Beach on the Pacific Ocean (government camp ground). The gravel road to it was some 4KM, but not too bad with my 'Extreme' treads. But, sometimes, especially when much is loose, it's tricky business.
When I got to the campgrounds, there was no one there, maybe a caravan parked somewhere. But, just about as soon two boys pulled up in an automobile. They turned out to be most helpful, giving me .50 cents to make up my $7.50NZD fee (1 adult). In return I offered them some dried figs which they took. Note, at these Government Camp Grounds you fill out an envelope, and deposit it into a lockbox (as no human there to 'register'). Then you attach a portion onto your vehicle (to prove you've paid).
After surveying all of the campgrounds, I finally chose a tent spot distant from the boys. I liked the spot I chose for other reasons (Alvaro would not understand).
There's a spiritual element to my selection of where to sleep, etc. The boys (at this campground) chose a spot near the river. I choose drier spots to pitch my tent (as need it dry quickly in the morning). And of course there are other reasons. Xutan thinks it's best to sleep in a north-south attitude, a la 'Feng Sway,; as they say! I don't bother with such. I look for level, good drainage, away from trees, water, sheltered from the wind, where the sun comes up first, etc. Camping is an art form you learn after much experience. The one I picked at Rarawa had little wind, our spot sheltered from the prevailing 'westerlies.'
Other vehicles arrived later. A woman parked her van just opposite the toilet where I was (on the other side). She departed early the next morning.
I walked down to the beach at twilight, hardly anyone there. There was little surf. My bare feet walking on sand! I looked eastward toward Chile, my next country, some 10,000KM distance. The Pacific Ocean so vast! In a commercial jetliner it takes almost 12 hours (Auckland to Santiago)! The Maori did such distances in canoes how, no one will ever know: I guess fishing, catching rain water and shitting over the bow,
Now, brown cow!
Later, I walked all the way back to the grass, sometimes wincing from a thorn, a branch or a rock my tender feet had encountered.
Such was our first 'perfect' day! From 'Hiking and Biking' in Kaitaia, sped by the wind some 65KM, the only decision of the day was, 'Should I go further?' I wisely opted not to, and camping at the Rarawa Beach Campground turned out good! Note, I've learned not to push it too far!
Next morning we headed north to the next goal, Whatiki Landing some 50KM distance. At this point, the wind was coming from 1000 (compass direction): a headwind from my left (or northwest in this case). This with the hills, made it more challenging. The good news was that I'm feeling stronger (my legs for one thing).
I think i managed the 50KM in four hours, compared with 70 the day before. Up and down through bucolic, green hills we went. To the east from time to time, you glimpse the Pacific, 'Parengarenga Bay, sail and fishing boats, etc.
All the outdoor stores in Kaitaia have fishing gear. But, up here the tourists come for things like sand surfing (on boards from the top of giant sand dunes). Note, see pictures at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/
Whatiki Landing is operated by Maori people. They seem to have wonderful dispositions, but this group was completely disorganized. Maori, the native and/or eastern way of thinking about things, is different: more relaxed, more open, more fatalistic. And maybe to their credit, as they seem happy!
Full day, #2 (Tuesday), back in Kaitaia (after cycling up to the Cape and back.). It's so weird seeing signs of Christmas coming, while it gets hotter and hotter, the days longer and longer. This will be my first 'Summer Christmas' ever!
Where was I...? Alone at Whatiki Landing, and happily alone the first day. The second day there was Cape Day, so 'time to ride!' I loaded up Mr. Fetes with as much as possible, not wanting to push a lighter bicycle. The ride was challenging from the beginning. as you seem to go up to the Lighthouse, not down (as expected). There are three distinct hill ranges (ups/downs) on the way (the last right at the end). Plus, there was a headwind (at 1000, compass direction). Both hills and a headwind together make for daunting tour cycling. But, always, my motto, onward! So, I got there! I forget how long the 22KM took, but something like three hours. This an 8KM per hour average, which is pretty slow. I was glad I wasn't fully loaded (55KG).
Arriving at the Cape you see the sea first. It was stormy gray seemingly restless, even angry. Think of this huge body of water as a living thing: and this can be a churning mass, of swirling suds, as if they had a life of their own. Sailors know about the sea of course!
I'm not a sea person, but I can appreciate such, the water, the waves, the vastness of it.! Att Cape Reinga the Tasman Sea, between New Zealand and Australia, and the Pacific Ocean, meet. This, 'meeting' as if oceans had borders, and being named gave them distinction. Before people, the world's oceans, seas, water, whatever you want to name such was just that: One big mass of salt water covering the earth's surface. They didn't 'meet,' as they weren't separate (or named). But at Cape Reinga I did notice, just to the west of the Cape, some 'churning' as in 'meeting.' But, maybe this is waves over a reef...? I took a picture of this (www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery/
At the parking lot/Entrance I parked Mr. Fetes in the shelter of the toilet building. I locked him, and then took the, almost 1KM, walk down to the Lighthouse. There were many tourists, going/coming, climbing the hills, taking pictures, reading the information 'plaques' about the history/geography of the area. As everywhere in N.Z., these things are in both English and Maori.
On the way down, the two cyclists that had passed me on the highway, were cranking back up from the Lighthouse. They'd ridden all the way down (note, most walk). We 'high-fived' it, as they passed.
There exists a special bond between people who participate in the same activity. They acknowledgement each other as understanding the challenges. Only people who actually do it, know what pain you go through!
The Cape Reinga area (Te Paki), is sacred to the Maori. One of their myths has to do with deceased Maori spirits returning to, from whence they came, Hawaii. They call it 'Hawaiki.' It is, in fact, the most spiritually significant place for them in all of N.Z., as it's here, they believe, that deceased spirits depart for 'home' (Hawaiki'). Their spirits travel to the Pohufukawa tree (I took pictures.) They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down one of the roots and fall into the sea. They climb out again at Ohaua, the highest point of The Three Kings Islands (you can see them on a clear day). This to bid a final farewell before returning to the 'land' of their ancestors.
Note, the idea of 'death,' and returning to the source ('home'), a powerful myth in all cultures.
When I was at the Lighthouse there were many tourists (from buses). A young couple asked me if I would take a picture of them in front of the lighthouse. Then they offered to take one of me. Note, I don't need pictures of me, but sometimes just to prove I was there.
Walking back to the Entrance, I was engaged by a young man from Austria, a cyclist who was sorry he hadn't cranked up from 90-mile beach on his bicycle.
Back at Mr. Fetes (next to the 'Men's,'), I sat on the 'sealed' surface out of the wind,
and ate my lunch . Nobody bothered me, although some shot curious glances. 'What's an old man doing, sitting on the ground, eating? And is that his bicycle?'
On the ride back to Whatiki Landing it seemed easier going. I had some help from the wind. If it took 3 hours to get there, it took only 2 to return.
I got a surprise when I returned, however! Now, there were many people, campers everywhere, children running hither and yon, and a couple sitting at 'my' table drinking a beer. We chatted, and 'Ron' turned out to be a good guy. He explained this was a weekend camping trip for a Rugby Club (20 kids). They try to do this once a month, where they camp out, provide instruction in sports, etc. for the children.
I had dinner in the Community Kitchen, observing a Maori crew prepare dinner for 80 people (was surprised at the number). I opted out of a hamburger, but eyed their desserts (sitting on a table). I offered them some crackers, which most declined (left them there when I left).
Later trying to sleep in my tent, the children became more and more of a problem. First, just the noise, then as the evening went on I became a target to upset.. I thought it would subside, but they didn't retire until close to midnight.
One 'knocked' on my tent to offer me a hamburger. I begged off, but asked about their dessert. Damn, if they didn't deliver the most wonderful, but decadent dessert I could imagine (chocolate cream cake and ice cream). Note, no wonder most New Zealanders seem overweight. I thanked the boy profusely! Later, I made a big mistake when I left the remains inside the ten without closing the zipper 'door.'
Some of the children took to knocking on my tent. They became noisier and crazier. They would trip, on purpose, over my tent stakes/cord jarring the tent in the process! They tried yelling at me, thinking I'd be scared. I yelled back at them, but it had no effect.. I thought of getting up and out to try to scare them off, but sometimes it's better to 'play dead.' Finally, they were called to bed, and it was suddenly quiet.
The next morning I noticed the kids had broken one of the cords on my tent, ripping it at where it's sewn. When I complained to the elders (a group of Maori men in charge), all I got were blank stares. One did offer 'how impossible it was to control 20 wild kids!' But, basically I was S.O.L., as this came under the category of 'Tough Shit!' (to the Maori men).
But, guess who came through for me, a 'Pakeha' (European) the guy I mentioned earlier, Ron. Not only did he try to repair the rip, by sewing it (with my needle and thread) but he apologized (on behalf of the parents). Is this a difference between the Maori and the Pakeha?'
The next day I managed to ride and walk to 90-Mile Beach. This, via the 'Giant Sand Dunes' at Te Paki Creek. First, the crank against a stiff west wind, then slipping and sliding on the gravel down to the parking lot. This is where the 'river road' begins, but only for 4-wheel drive vehicles, or a bus (with experienced driver). I walked. And it turned out to be a long walk to the beach, maybe 3 kilometers! First, I tried the dunes above, but too steep, the sand too soft. Then I returned to walk on the riverbed, the hardened sand making driving on it possible. Walking on it was like walking on concrete, the sand is so hard.
Halfway, I stopped to take pictures of people partaking of sand surfing. Two experienced at such, slid all the way through the river below. Most, however, tried in fits and starts, some falling, and, of course, always some screaming teenage girls! What a sport, sand surfing! I'll stick to tour cycling, discovering the world!
Full Day #3 back in Kaitaia, and remembering the trip up to Cape Underworld...
I had a good night (at Whatiki Landing), as the group had departed (Thank God!). Just as it had become noisy in an instant, it became peaceful in an instant as well! People! People! People! I can understand why people become hermits!
There's a good reason I never had any children of my own! Even now with my informally 'adopted' Chinese children, as they are so much work! So much pain! So much misunderstanding between, not only cultures, but generations. I used to tell Richard, that our differences wasn't because he is Chinese and I am American, but that he is 27-years old and I am 7!' I forgot, and so much money (children cost)! Anyway, I've been lucky in that regard. I didn't have to go through the changing diapers cycle, but even with my 'adopted' Chinese 'adults,' challenging!
I had stayed one extra day at Whatiki Landing to visit 90-Mile Beach and the Sand Dunes, but now it was time to return to Kaitaia.
On the way up, I'd stopped at a general store in Te Kao. At the same time a bus had arrived to let the passengers partake of whatever. I was just about to depart, when they arrived. A man engaged me in conversation, wanting to know the usual. Later, his wife asked more questions. Older people who do the 'group bus' thing are curious about a lone guy traveling on a bicycle.
Sometimes, I don't know what to say to people, except give the 'usual rap,' trying to motivate them to do, or try, the same! But, sometimes I wonder if I do it to get attention? If the latter, then shame on me! I suppose my Ego is involved, but hopefully for good, rather than unpleasant, reasons!
KNOW THYSELF, the Oracle at Delphi told Socrates! And such is an important, if not the most important task, in life! If you don't know, that you don't know, then you've got a problem, living in darkness!
On the way back to Kaitaia, I stopped again at the General Store in Te Kao. But, this time I met the owner, a friendly woman named, Bonnie, the 'Ice Cream Woman!' She invited me in for tea, and then told me interesting stories of people who had come through there. She mentioned two books as well, one by the Lighthouse keeper (author, Clarke maybe?), one about Mt. Camel. She was engaging, but finally let me go with, 'Tell them to give you a bed for the night!' (referring to the people who operate, Houhora Hotel/Tavern), 'Tell them, Bonnie, the Ice Cream woman said so!' It's people like this that enliven my life, the reason I travel.
What happens to you 'out here,' isn't always good, but at least it's interesting. I basically got bored in the U.S. I seem to crave experience! I rush in where angels fear to tread!
Well, it turned out Bonnie was right about the InnKeepers at the Houhora Hotel and Tavern (Russell and Helen McAlees). Good people! I camped there with their two dogs, this out back near their (shipping) 'container' and an old garage. I befriended their two dogs and had no trouble with them (little barking)! So, I had a good night, finally.
In the morning I did whatever in leisure fashion, knowing I had only 50KM to Kaitaia. It became sunny, and after breakfast I walked around and took pictures. They've done a good job with this place, organized, clean, and decorated. The Houhora Tavern, 'New Zealand's Most Northern Pub!' I recommend it! I'm not sure if I can recommend Whatiki Landing!
I had some help from the wind getting back into Kaitaia, arriving about 3P.M. I stopped off at Pak 'N' Save, to buy some food (using their ATM for cash).
I was back at the Hike and Bike Hostel by 4P.M., and in room #5 by 5P.M. I needed to take a shower, but David explained there was a water problem, a leak somewhere. No problem at that moment, as I'd gone six days without one. Worse, I needed to use his washing machine.
Anyway, I was back in Kaitaia. My first dinner, I cooked asparagus and ate crackers with a basil and cheese dip. I think maybe I had a tin of tuna (olive oil and garlic)! I'd purchased some unusual yoghurt ('wild apple')! Whatever, it was, it was much enjoyed.
Next, about being in Kaitaia, 'the second time around'... This all about applying to extend my visa, and 'Waiting for Jack!'