Tutukaka, NZ to Oakura, NZ

38.9 mi / 8.3 mph / 3222 ft. climbing
Home: Whangaruru Beachfront Camp

Yesterday it was easy to say that our decision to live fancy-free (by making an unplanned right turn to snorkeling) had paid off. But the final bill has not yet come; only after today (and maybe even tomorrow) would we be able to make a full tally of the consequences of that choice. Because having put ourselves in a blue oceanic hole, we now had to dig ourselves out. Tonight’s destination was where we had been heading two days ago before we changed course, and despite our deviation bringing us four as-the-crow-flies miles closer to that destination, the revised ride would be eight miles longer, with 1000 more feet of climbing!

A praying mantis is here to help me take the tent down this morning.

If we could just take a boat from our coastal starting point to our coastal end point, it would be super-easy, but instead we have to traverse the tightly-folded land, and a 300-foot hill kicked us in the mouth right from the beginning, starting before we were even out of the holiday park’s driveway. Once at the top, we immediately gave all that elevation back, caught a view of Matapouri Bay, and then climbed back up again.

Matapouri Bay, on a brief return to sea-level.

This pattern only had a chance to repeat a couple more times before we turned inland, onto a 500-foot still-not-flat plateau. Apparently the bays must become so cliff-hidden that no one has even attempted to build a coastal road. We could have potentially stayed near the water a bit longer on the Whananaki Coastal Walkway (and then taken the world’s longest pedestrian/cycle bridge), but our choice to live fancy-free left the route too risky since I didn’t have an opportunity to research it.

Green fields that in their current state look nearly like desert dunes.

The research I did have time to do focused on the risks of gravel-road “shortcuts”. To stay on paved roads the whole way would have added another 10 miles, so if I could find one of the several gravel options that would allow us to keep rolling at a decent speed, that’s a risk we should probably take. We turned onto Jubilee Road shortly before we stopped for lunch, by which time we had already done 2000 feet of climbing! And luckily the gravel barely slowed us, and in sections where the surface was smoothly compacted, it was actually faster than the rough chipseal “paved” roads we had been on! And the climbs and descents weren’t too extreme, so we didn’t need to stop to pick our way up/down those.

Smooth riding on Jubilee Road.

Despite the terrain challenges, it was a wonderful bike-touring route; in the morning we saw a car once every 10 minutes, and then even more-rarely than that on the gravel (though traffic increased somewhat once we returned to pavement on Russell Rd.) And although we had left the coast for a while, we were treated to Northland’s version of the New Zealand farm country we love so much, which in this case brought a load of cute animals to see Rett in addition to the topographic vistas.

Hello little moo-cows!
We’ve been in New Zealand long enough that this is now the second round of calves that we’ve seen! It appears that all the calves we saw in the spring were “normal”, while these autumn calves are part of a newer trend, maybe even specific to Northland.
They were all waging an epic internal battle between their curiosity and their shyness.
New Zealand doesn’t seem to know anything about eating turkey meat, so it’s been surprising to see groups of these guys running wild in Northland.
Oh man, another stop! Apparently it’s alpaca calving season too, and they’re even more curious than the cows!
Family resemblance?
This little lady heard that there were human visitors and came sprinting around from the back of the paddock to join the fun.
Our quiet roadside lunch/tent-drying spot.
The view from lunch.
The flora is attractive too.
More New Zealand vistas.

Eventually we wound our way back to the coast (via a 900 foot descent), and turned off to the small settlement of Oakura. Our plan to make our lives easy by getting dinner at the one restaurant in town (a fish & chips shop) was foiled by that restaurant requiring nearly a mile backtrack from our holiday park, which Rett was far too exhausted by this point to consider doing. Unfortunately the store was similarly-distant, so we were forced to pick dinner ingredients without knowing yet what kind of kitchen equipment the holiday park had. Normally the exhaustion would call for a frozen pizza, but without guarantee of an oven, we went with rice and fancy local ground beef (oddly, the store had no tuna or other canned protein; yes it was a very small store, but that stuff is standard at even the tiniest places).

Oakura Bay glows behind the park’s nice trees.

The day’s final absurd challenge was an insanely-steep hill (13% up, 14% down) just before the campground. Good thing Rett was exhausted enough even before reaching that hill that we had already planned around not leaving camp once we arrived. Because she might have just found washed-up fish on the beach to eat rather than doing that hill twice more to go back out to the fish & chips shop!

The kitchen did have small convection ovens, so with hindsight pizza would have been the better choice, especially since there were no pans available (we ended up spreading the beef across both our own pot and frypan to brown it), no real seating in the kitchen, and certainly no TV lounge. Our bayfront campsite was pretty spectacular though! (it was another low-season case of “just set up wherever you want, even if it’s a powered site”, even on this Saturday night.)

But, we didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy it,which is a direct consequence of a 4h40m riding day (our longest in more than two months), and our 83 feet-per-mile of climbing, both of which are a direct consequence of gallivanting off to a snorkeling adventure (because it’s not like there was any closer place where we could have stopped). In my mind the tally is still in the black, but including today’s ride-end stress in the count has certainly pulled the total score down a bit.

Our campsite at the appropriately-named Whangaruru Beachfront Camp.
Wider view of the tent from the kitchen/bathroom area, which yes, unfortunately was up yet another hill!
They didn’t mention anything at check-in, and thankfully weren’t enforcing any rules, but the the owners of this campground must be seriously COVID-cautious! We haven’t seen anything like this before in NZ.


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