23.4 mi / 9.7 mph / 399 ft. climbing
Home: Charade’s AirBNB
“No room at the inn” for tonight forced us to press forward when we didn’t really want to, and while the denial didn’t result in the start of a major world religion, it was still a blessing-in-disguise. The weather was supposed to continue nice today but be rainy tomorrow, so it’s much better to be riding today and then finally have our day off on a day when the weather sucks.
The elevation profile for today’s ride was the mirror image of yesterday: it would be pancake flat for the first 80%, with a few hills to bring us up to our destination at the end. But we wouldn’t be achieving a double-digit average speed like yesterday, because we would finally be actually riding the gravel Hauraki Trail through the flat sections, and the gravel slows us down (though New Zealand’s mottled chip-seal “paved” roads drag down our speed pretty effectively too).
We got on an offshoot of the trail while still in Thames, and were glad to find the surface much-improved over what we saw on the west side of the firth yesterday. It still wasn’t edge-to-edge perfect, with us mostly riding single file on top of the compacted line, but there were only a couple spots where the gravel was deep and loose enough to threaten dragging us down.
The trail was nearly empty, especially once we got south of Thames. We leapfrogged a bit with a couple on e-bikes carrying a small dog, and then saw a couple on loaded bikes headed our way, but stopped long enough only to learn that they were from France and spoke little English. They win the prize as the first other bike tourers we’ve seen in New Zealand though!
As usual with trails, we faced a lot of small challenges versus the road (which all add up to slow us down), but in this case the freedom from traffic and the ability to stop anywhere, made the trade worth it.
We stopped for groceries (back at Countdown again!) and lunch in Paeroa, and then headed east down the highway (now SH2, people say the lower the number, the worse the traffic!) toward our AirBNB. Some big trucks blowing by us on the shoulder sucked, but it wasn’t long before we made it to our quiet-road turnoff (and a return to 12% grades!)
The farthest we went from our AirBNB over the next 43 hours was five steps out back to hang out our laundry to dry. Rain came as planned on the second day, and we got rested up to move on again.