29.2 mi / 9.1 mph / 1811 ft. climbing
Home: Tapapakanga Beachview Campground
Yesterday we had been so stressed out by the traffic that we didn’t do any proactive grocery shopping; we only had the mental capacity to select the absolute minimum of what we needed for dinner. Plus I needed time to figure out exactly how-limited our shopping opportunities would be over the next couple days before deciding what to stock up on. So I made a morning ride back to the Countdown grocery (again sneaking out the back gate) to get breakfast and more. That gave time for the tent to finish drying from the evening and morning sprinkles, and again the inside stayed condensation-free.
On our way out of the park, we stopped to chat with a ranger (the first we’ve seen; all booking is done online, so there is no check-in process at these Auckland regional parks). She sympathized with our traffic woes, telling us of a German couple who showed up with their touring bikes and kids, and almost immediately decided that it was unsafe rented a van instead. And she unfortunately indicated that today probably wouldn’t get any better than yesterday until we reached the beach at Karakara, since it was such a nice Saturday.
Well, getting out of the park the “standard” way was pretty woeful, with rough gravel, steep hills, and annoying gates to navigate through (we should have just left the way we came in) before we even got to the main road. But when we returned to that terrifying road from yesterday, we quickly discovered that the ranger couldn’t have been more wrong, thankfully! Traffic was very light, not in a hurry, and even with no shoulder again for most of the way, it was easy for us to enjoy the views over the water as the road now hugged the coast.
We had about two miles of that gorgeous coast-riding, and then the road turned south and inland into the wind, but Rett kept cutting through it nicely. There were still ups-and-downs to get over, but they weren’t high, and more-importantly, were closer to the comfortable 5%-grade range than the 10%+ grades that seemed to have been the New Zealand standard up until now.
At Clevedon we had gone far enough south to reach the first crossing of the Wairoa River, and then turned almost 180 degrees back northeast, now getting a helpful wind for the rest of the day. At one point the darkening skies made me check the radar, and since it disagreed with the no-rain forecast, we bagged up, including our rain jackets. It turns out the forecast was smarter than me though, and the rain dried up as we raced toward each other. At Karakara we made our first New Zealand gas station stop (for drinks), and ate lunch on a bench outside, temporarily moving to another one under the canopy when sprinkles got heavier for a few minutes.
While eating I was trying to book a motel for the next night on my phone, and during the payment process I ran into a somewhat common and frustrating problem I’ve been having with the New Zealand eSIM I’m using: the firewall/security of certain websites think I’m some kind of bad actor and won’t let me access them. In a stroke of luck we were sitting right across from a tiny library, and I could connect to their open WiFi and get the job done.
It turns out the ranger from this morning was partly right, the traffic definitely got lighter after Karakara, it just went from light to nearly nothing (facing the road at lunch, five minutes would pass without a car going by). And that was good because we now had a 500 foot hill with a 9% grade to get over, and even the light traffic of the morning would have been tough in that environment.
If last night’s campsite was tough to get in and out of, tonight’s was even worse, but more worth-it. We had to descend nearly 200 feet down to the water, over multiple sheep guards and down and back up some steep loose-gravel sections, so we walked decent portions of it (thankfully they had paved one of the steepest sections in the middle, so we were able to ride that).
Beachview was definitely best of our three Auckland campgrounds so far, even if the only shower was an exposed showerhead on the side of the vault-toilet building. The giant age-twisted trees, the blue-green waters of the Firth of Thames, and the isolated location all made it a special place.
We were done with dinner by 6pm, a much more-relaxing result than our previous nights, and despite the world’s longest-lasting rainbow thriving in the showers over the Coromandel Peninsula, that forecast remained true and every wave on the radar evaporated just before it reached us.