Auckland, NZ to Whangarei, NZ

1.75 mi / 8.0 mph / 120 ft. climbing
Home: Whangarei Top 10 Holiday Park

We had time to kill between the 10am checkout from our high-rise AirBNB and our 1pm bus. There were a couple of parklets built into the intersection nearest the AirBNB, so we started out there, and then eventually walked the bikes a couple blocks down to a Turkish restaurant for lunch. The friendly-but-pessimistic owner wondered if he should move to Chicago (“watch your bikes, because I can’t do anything. If I try to stop someone, and the cops come, I go to jail!”) He has a brother there who manages a club on Division. We don’t know if he’d have any better luck with the cops, but sure, go join him in Chicago!

Rett’s hooded head killing time in downtown Auckland.

We were the first passengers to appear alongside our bus waiting at the terminal, though others soon joined in the wait. We removed all of our bags, and I lowered the seats and wrapped the chains in black garbage bags that I had pre-cut into long strips (this is the one “official” rule that the drivers from the other day had told me I should follow). I loosened my pedals just in case the driver would require us to remove those for some reason.

Once the driver appeared and started loading, I grabbed his attention and asked if there was anything more I should do with the bikes. He took a look, and luckily indicated that I should just load them standing up in the exact space I had been eyeing, up against a central rail in the baggage compartment. Oh, and pay him NZ$20, cash. No, this isn’t a bribe request, it’s an odd but standard part of bikes-on-Intercity-buses. I was able to load them in myself (learning that they need to go handlebars facing out, because the compartment is slightly taller at the front), and then bungeed them to the rail. Meanwhile, Rett and other workers loaded our 8 bags into the other side of the compartment, and no one cared that we far exceeded the official bag limit in numbers (2 per person) if not weight (50kg total).

Our bikes standing tall and secure in the luggage compartment of an Intercity bus.

Then all we had to do was give our names at the door, and we were on the bus (along with everything we own)! A couple weeks of stress and doubt could now be forgotten. We could smell a vomit-scent wafting forward from the rear of the bus at the seats we initially picked, but luckily there were still a couple further up available for us to switch to. The space was closer to airplane-seating than Amtrak-seating (especially when the woman in front of me reclined her seat), but it was reasonably comfortable.

Riding the Intercity bus north from Auckland.

It was exciting to travel into parts of New Zealand we haven’t seen yet, even if we weren’t astride our bicycles. As exited the Auckland region, nothing about the Northland countryside seemed shockingly different than anything we’d seen elsewhere on the North Island, but it definitely wasn’t any less pretty. And once the low afternoon sun began saturating the hills, it reached at least the 80th percentile of New Zealand-prettiness.

Riding the Intercity bus north from Auckland.

We made one stop at a cafe to use their toilets and purchase snacks. It must be an interesting choice for a business: get a guaranteed daily flow of customers from the bus, in exchange for…a guaranteed daily flow of bus-riders pouring into your cafe. If I was a local, I’d probably make a point of avoiding the “bus cafe”! Otherwise the 3.5-hour journey was uneventful and mostly-relaxing, with the non-stop chattering (mostly to herself) of the 5-year-old girl next to us being the biggest annoyance.

I remembered to pay attention to the section of State Highway 1 that we might be riding over on our return south (it had some amount of shoulders, but didn’t look like a lot of fun), and then we were into the detour for the SH1 Brynderwynn Hills closure. The bus took the middle of the three alternates, not the eastern one that would make the most sense for us to ride, so the scouting mission ended there.

In Whangarei I had a bit of a struggle pulling our bikes back out of the bus, because additional bags had been piled in next to them. In retrospect, I should have proactively taken the pedals off, just to make them easier to slide forward without catching on any obstructions. We counted up our bags, and off the bus went further north.

The Hundertwasser Art Centre in Whangarei, right next to where the bus dropped us. We did not visit.

We didn’t stop at any of the recommended museums (even if we were museum people, we didn’t really have time), and instead just fought through busy rush-hour traffic and up a steep hill to our holiday park. Once the tent was set up, we headed back out on foot to McDonald’s, and then to Countdown (which curiously faced-off directly across their parking lots with its arch-enemy, New World) for groceries that we had attempted to minimize during our transit. Night had fallen well before we returned, and we settled into one of their two(!) lounge spaces before turning in to bed, in Northland!


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