Waiare, NZ to Kerikeri, NZ

13.7 mi / 12.4 mph / 403 ft. climbing
Home: Na’s AirBNB

We got plenty of light rain pattering on the tent overnight, but thankfully woke to a cloudless sky. Except…it didn’t take long for the mist to return again. I think the mountaintop location is generating precipitation that probably isn’t happening at lower elevations. We were able to do breakfast again under the small shelter, so nothing got too wet at least. Morning arrivals revealed the party tent set up last night to be for some sort of DOC-worker group, which I guess makes more sense than a random couple’s wedding (though at some point we could hear them all singing a song).

Our campsite at Puketi Recreation Area, with our tent tucked into a bit of wind shelter. There were a lot of piles of torn-down trees/brush, which is maybe part of a long-term improvement project, but in the short-term it made the area feel a bit trashy.
The shelter that we claimed that made life a lot easier in the frequent light rain (obviously not present at the moment!)
Now that’s a tent! If the shelter hadn’t existed, we probably would have hung out under this tent last night.

Avoiding the highway and getting more value out of our DOC-campsite pass were two of our reasons for going out of our way to this campsite, but there were also some kauri groves to visit, the first one directly from the campground. Well, I wasn’t even sure if the campground walk would have kauris (especially given the somewhat-decimated look of the campground itself, and its proximity to pastureland), but it turned out to be an impressive surprise. The dense mossy trail looped down and back up a steep slope, lined with charismatic native trees of all varieties. It led to a viewing platform surrounded by one of the highest densities of big kauris that we’ve seen, and since the slope continued downward, we felt like we were climbing up in their middle tiers, an Ewok-perspective that was exciting and new to us.

Rett dancing through Puketi kauri forest.
The kauri might be a bit taller than Rett, but otherwise they’re pretty similar, right?
Looking down onto the tall kauris as the slope they’re growing on falls away below us.
This big kauri has a red “wound”; I’m not sure if it’s somehow related to the kauri-gum harvesting we would learn about later?
#FindRett in the dark forest light at the end of this nurse log.
There was plenty of non-kauri beauty in this forest too.
This is what lies on the other side of the road from the dense forest we had just been walking through, which is what made the forest’s quality that much more surprising!

Near the end of yesterday’s hill-climb we had passed the Manginangina Kauri Walk, but were too tired to explore it then, so this morning we parked our bikes at an intersection and backtracked on foot down the gravel road to the short boardwalk loop. Yesterday I had assumed this would be the “good” kauri walk of the two, but the quality of the campground walk had me thinking this shorter one would now be the disappointment. But by now I should know that kauris never disappoint! They are always impressive, and the groves always have a different atmosphere, so they’re all worth exploring. The unique thing about this one was the kauri “gum” that we saw seeping from many of the trees. The collection of kauri gum was once a big industry, and in its latter years after all the “natural” gum had been harvested from the ground around the trees, short-sighted people began intentionally “wounding” the trees to get them to “bleed” gum.

Walking back down the road that we rode up yesterday.
A fern tree finding a hole in the kauri forest.
In the sunlight, a young 20-foot(?) kauri tree growing high up in the crown of another kauri tree!
A wider version of the photo above; the epiphytic kauri is nearly invisible at the top of its enormous host.
Kauri gum seeps and hardens as it drips down the bark of a massive tree.
Rett says goodbye to the last gathering of kauris that we’ll see in New Zealand.

Then it was finally time to fly eastward down the hill to Kerikeri. The 1000-foot drop over 12 miles wasn’t a pure downhill, but was still good riding (this was another case where the maps thinks there is a 2-mile section of gravel at the top, but it is now all paved). We returned to traffic at Waipapa, first with a brief turn onto SH10, and then on the three miles of Waipapa Road that looped us into Kerikeri. Despite the constant flow of traffic, there a nice bike lane the whole way, and when we crossed the Kerikeri River gorge, the pavement even turned into beautifully-smooth American style-asphalt!

Beginning our descent to Kerikeri.
I’m not really sure what this fox was up to, but he seemed friendly?
A gentle ride down from Glendale Heights; we could see the sea in multiple directions from up here.

We continued around straight into the center of town that was incredibly busy at lunchtime, especially at the McDonald’s we stopped at. It’s right next to the high school (the biggest school in Northland), and apparently many of the students come there on their lunch break. As soon as one crush of kids finished up and the place quieted down, another group would slam in (presumably from the next period). It was very well-managed though, as they’re clearly used to handling this burst-y traffic pattern (well, not so well-managed that I didn’t end up with an unintended “free upgrade” to 2 Big Macs!)

Our AirBNB was down a 13%-grade dead-end street of gorgeous jungle-landscaped lots. But while most of the houses were incongruously blocky and boring “Niles houses”, our hosts’ place was an architect’s dream, wooden and angled and nestled into the landscape perfectly.

The view from the back deck o our AirBNB room.

In the evening we walked down to the historic part of town to the Plough and Feather for beers and pizza. The autumn leaves falling amidst the outdoor seating made it feel incredibly “comfortable”, as if it could have been dropped into New Zealand straight out of Rett’s upstate New York. And we even lucked into a live music performance, literally the first that we’ve seen in New Zealand (a fellow traveler recently commented how rare live-music-in-bars seems to be in this country, and he was right!) An excellent smoky beer and an Emily VanCamp lookalike at the next table (if not for the Kiwi accent I would have believed that it was her!) marked a great end to our pedal-based movement across New Zealand.

Outdoor autumn beer-gardening at the Plough and Feather, Kerikeri.
Night falls on the historic building of Kerikeri.


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