Kauaeranga, NZ to Thames, NZ

14.6 mi / 9.9 mph / 404 ft. climbing
Home: Rolleston Motel

Yesterday’s hike was tougher than we expected, so that made it extra-helpful that we’d planned a short easy roll downstream back to Thames. Well, of course it’s New Zealand so there were still a number of uphills taking us high above the river’s route, but thankfully the exhaustion of our hiking muscles wasn’t affecting our biking muscles (though the division between “hiking” and “biking” muscles probably isn’t as stark as it feels; more-likely, the muscles we use for both biking and hiking are strong enough to take the hike-abuse without complaint, while our hiking-only muscles rage loudly against their lack-of-use).

The smooth gravel ride out on the Kauaeranga Road.

Even before we had set out for two nights of primitive camping, we were already looking forward to a McDonald’s lunch upon our return to civilization. But yesterday I had somehow remembered that today was ANZAC Day (“Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”, so essentially Memorial/Veterans Day in the US). And I had no information about how “seriously” New Zealand takes this holiday. The McDonald’s not being open would be a disappointment, but survivable, whereas if the grocery stores were closed, that could be a real problem for us!

So when we reached the end of the gravel road and the Visitor’s Center, I called a stop so that I could use our newly-returned mobile reception to check store hours. Also, Rett had noticed that the Visitor’s Center sold dehydrated backpacker meals, so in case everything else was closed, the DOC Visitor Center might be our emergency “grocery store” for the day! But it wasn’t necessary; the Internet seemed to indicate that while stores were closed for the morning, they were all opening at 1pm.

McDonald’s bait-and-switched us though, saying they were open online, but in reality they’re inside a mall (that was closed until 1pm), so only the drive-through was operating, and we didn’t want to test what the New Zealand attitude toward “bikes (or pedestrians) in the drive-through” was. Instead we popped back over to Thames’s main retail street where we had seen plenty of small places already open, and got lunch at a “Bakehouse”, an unusual cafeteria-like place that sold everything from pastries to Chinese food.

12:59pm at the Pak’N’Save grocery store on ANZAC Day was like Black Friday in the US with lines of people and their shopping carts waiting for the doors to open!

Our first motel experience in New Zealand had been at the Rolleston Motel in Thames, back in November. It was really nice, so why not try it for two nights this time? Unfortunately it was US$101/night this time rather than US$85, but still not a bad deal for a nearly-full kitchen in our room, and laundry that they didn’t make us pay for!

Our room at the Rolleston Motel last time was over Rett’s right shoulder, this time it’s the room over her left shoulder.
The hills above Thames.

Day 2

Weather had us staying for a planned two nights under our roof in Thames. And hey, it’s my birthday (at least according to this country’s day-ahead calendar), so a day off sounds like a good gift to myself. Ok, no, my actual gift was Rett going out (on her increasingly-sore muscles) to do the day’s grocery run, where she also got me two baked treats, most-importantly a banana-strawberry pancake, which is just that: a cold pancake folded taco-style around a split banana, strawberries, and whipped cream. It reminded me of the strawberry shortcake I had as a kid when the garden strawberries ripened in late-spring/early-summer.

It’s a bit wild to do the math and realize that I was living in New Zealand for the majority of my 47th year! (though just barely, 189 days vs. 176 in the USA). While I’ve obviously known on paper that we were spending more than half a year here, it hasn’t felt like a life-defining amount of time, I suppose because it’s only about 1% of my life at this advanced age. I’m not sure if that’s an advantage or disadvantage of being 47.

Happy Birthday to Me! (Lamby helped blow out the candles)


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