Ahipara, NZ to Cable Bay, NZ

38.6 mi / 10.0 mph / 1492 ft. climbing
Home: Anna’s AirBNB

We woke to a completely dry tent, inside and out, for perhaps the first time when camping in Northland. And it was relatively warm at 45 degrees, presumably due to our low-elevation proximity to the sea. Still, that’s not exactly balmy, so I really don’t get the people I’ve noticed recently in campgrounds taking morning showers. Like, I get that maybe you’re a morning-shower person in “normal life” (I’m not, I’d rather be the cleanest before I get into bed), but is the habit really so hard to temporarily alter that not even freezing your ass off can push you to try a different approach?

Once again without trying, we were up in time to see the sunrise, something like our fifth consecutive time seeing the moment when the orange ball crosses the horizon.

Rett back up to our hilltop viewing spot to see what the curve of Ninety Mile Beach looks like at sunrise.
The sun punches its way through the hill and the trees.
As I get a photo of our campsite at Ahipara Holiday Park, Rett points to something behind me. Is a forest fire heading my way or something?!
Huh, yes, the forest is on fire, but it seems that it’s in no danger of spreading.

On our way back out of town, I took Rett over to get a look at Ninety Mile Beach. It wasn’t perhaps as dramatic as it was in the near-darkness last night, but being able to actually see the mirror-sand added a new dimension. We simply parked our bikes on the quiet residential sidewalk where it ended and left them unsecured for a few minutes as we walked 50 yards around a sand dune and onto the flat part of the sand. So we were surprised when we came back to see them vandalized! With…a mandarin orange sitting atop each one of our handlebar bags! While we never confirmed it, we assume the “culprit” was the kind and curious elderly woman we chatted with a little further down the block, who was waiting for her “bus” to take her to a seniors group that “keeps her young!” Well, that and an orange-a-day, I assume!

The expansive mirrored surface of Ninety Mile Beach, with tire tracks heading out to infinity.
A Jeep and a guy providing some scale on Ninety Mile Beach.
Orange gifts left on our handlebar bags.
Rett rides the baby blue whale, like a Fremen rides a sandworm, in a pretty awesome Ahipara park.
Don’t worry, we turn left before we hit that volcano-thing!

Ahipara has a small grocery store and a couple of restaurants, but that’s about it, so the nine miles connecting this satellite to the commercial center of Kaitaia (with 6400 people, Northland’s 3rd-largest town) had about ten times as much traffic as our entry yesterday from the southeast.

They really like their roadside gateways around Ahipara!
This gateway had sculptures from the animated Harry Potter sequence in it for some reason.
On the peninsula that runs north to Cape Reinga, one of the best examples of New Zealand hedge-fences that we’ve seen.

Since we had another long-ish day today, when we got into Kaitaia, I left Rett at the center of town to get a couple of groceries while I rode a 2.8-mile round-trip to Mitre 10 (Australia/NZ’s Home Depot) to finally get some proper hardware to repair her seat. Unfortunately even they didn’t have the M8 bolt/nuts I was looking for in stainless steel, but not knowing how much longer my hack-repair would hold, I grabbed a zinc-plated shorter-than-ideal version. Rett had better success, finding fancy donuts from a fancy donut shop in what otherwise felt like a fairly cruddy (but busy!) town.

Several days ago someone in passing mentioned the SH1 closure putting more traffic on SH10 in this area. I didn’t think much of it, except that they obviously didn’t understand how road networks work if they thought the closure way down in the Bryderwyns could have any effect way up here. But then yesterday on the ferry across Hokianga Harbor, they had a map posted on the boat, and I realized that he had been talking about another SH1 closure in this area, one that has existed for years.

I had been planning on taking SH10 north out of Kaitaia, and then east, but its narrow shoulders said that wouldn’t be fun even before I knew that it was handling SH1 traffic too. So I pitched Rett on an alternate that required 5 more miles, a few hundred more feet of climbing, and several miles on gravel. Is that a fair trade for (hopefully!) less-terrifying traffic? With a reminder of how much she has been loving these traffic-lite sections of Northland over the last week, she signed on for the extra work.

Ironically, we then departed Kaitaia heading east on SH1! But because we were heading toward the closure, that meant there was actually less traffic on New Zealand’s most-major highway than there had been on the local road from Ahipara. When we angled off onto Fairburn Road, traffic dropped as hoped to nearly nothing, partly because in another five miles the pavement would change to gravel, and most people (including us!) would choose to avoid gravel if they can. But then…the gravel never came! It was a rare case where OpenStreetMap, Google StreetView (from 4 years ago), and the satellite view all were out-of-date, but since their error was in our favor, we will not complain! The pavement didn’t even look especially new, so my guess is that they sealed it a few years ago soon after the SH1 closure, in expectation that many more drivers would begin using this road as an alternate. Thankfully the highway department must have forgotten to inform anyone, so we got both the ease of pavement and the minimal-traffic of gravel! If only they could have done a similar trick with the headwinds…

Riding a backroad alternate to Doubtless Bay.
Riding a backroad alternate to Doubtless Bay.
Saint Barnabas Anglican Maori Church. We see two very different sets of gravestones in New Zealand: ones from ~150 years ago, and far more modern ones (that you can see mixed in here), with little in between. And the modern ones seem to be associated with churches that have “Maori” in the name, so it almost feels like the gravestone makers recently discovered a new market in Maori Christians long after the business dried up amongst Pakehas (White Europeans).

I didn’t really expect there to be anything along the cross-country rural roads, so it was pretty magical when Bush Fairy Dairy appeared on the roadside. It’s a small grocery, but also has local food and handcrafts (I saw a farmer pull up in his pickup to deliver a couple crates of fruit), with a surprisingly-hippy vibe. They were sold out of hot pies so we couldn’t really buy a full lunch, but they had a nice covered seating area where we assembled and ate what we had packed with us. So much better than unpacking our own chairs on the side of the road!

Bush Fairy Dairy in Peria.
A weirwood tree (straight out of Game of Thrones) welcomes us to the community space.
The world needs more welcoming trees!
The plaque at the base of the “tree”. Right on, my hippie Maori brothers!

Ten northward miles later we reached the end of our backroad traverse, and joined up with SH10 to head east along Doubtless Bay. The highway had the heaviest traffic we’ve experienced in a while, confirming that the five extra miles were totally worth avoiding it for most of the day. Some tough hills were thrown at us too. Luckily we were close enough to “town” that speeds were slow enough to make things manageable.

Without realizing it, this spot marked our northernmost position in New Zealand.

Rain is in the forecast for tonight and into tomorrow, so we got a roof for two nights. It’s an AirBNB “Rooms”, though largely self-contained in the back of a nice older couple’s house. The limited kitchen equipment in our room meant that when I did a run out to the Four Square I picked up grilled cheese ingredients (and tomato soup!) to make for dinner on their electric panini press.

Our hosts’ dog quickly became a huge fan of Rett (and vice-versa).
The view from our hosts’ porch.

Day 2

A mostly off-day (it did in fact rain significantly last night), with the difference being that I made the grilled cheese sandwiches on their actual outdoor grill tonight, to avoid the epic mess and hour-long cleanup of the stupid kitchen gadget.

At sunset we took a short walk down our hosts’ quiet street to an incredible rocky beach. I hopped from stone to stone over the tidepools and out to the edge where the waves came crashing in, and that ended up being my most-northern spot in New Zealand!

A tidepool wonderland on the southern end of Doubtless Bay.
#FindRett inside the roots/branches of a cliff-descending tree.
“My Northernmost position in New Zealand” is a lot less-meaningful than “My Southernmost position in New Zealand” (since the latter is also global extreme), but still fun to mark!
Rett is apparently a natural action-photographer! (I don’t think I have one photo in my last 1000 with more human motion than she captured here!)
Stone and water commingle on a shore than couldn’t be more different than Ninety Mile Beach.
Goodbye to one of our last New Zealand sunsets?!
To the naked eye it looked like the sun was sinking into the sea, but there are actually two peninsulas (unusually flat ones for New Zealand!) between us and the orb.


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