Kerikeri, NZ to Auckland, NZ

4.9 mi / 8.6 mph / 381 ft. climbing
Home: Christine’s AirBNB

We finished our tourist-time in charming Kerikeri with breakfast at a cafe in the less-charming modern town center. But the cafe itself was still really cute, we were the morning’s first customers, and the food was excellent. While we waited for our eggs to be poached, I wrapped our bike chains in garbage-bag strips and removed the pedals to prep them for the bus.

Now pedalless, we walked the bikes the half-block through a park to the bus stop. My heart dropped a bit when a Ritchies-branded coach pulled up, not the green Intercity-branded bus I was expecting. Yesterday morning I had ridden down to the stop to do the same bus-scouting I had done in Auckland, to maximize our chances of success with the bikes, only to remember when I got there that the morning bus doesn’t run on Saturdays.

Not that I could have done anything different if I’d known in advance about the Ritchies bus. Oh, and this one appeared to have a cargo hold tall enough to stand the bikes up in anyway, unlike the Ritchies buses I’d observed in Auckland. So we’re all set!

Except…when the driver sees our bikes, she tells us that we were required to call to inform them in advance that we had bikes. Luckily, after a little grumping and scolding, she lets them on anyway. Yes, we were technically in the wrong and I knew we were supposed to inform them, but it seemed so pointless when I had done it Auckland that I figured no one would care if we skipped the formality this time.

Because what, would you have changed to a different bus type if you knew we had bikes? Of course not!  So while I get being annoyed at people not following the rules, a moment of thought would reveal this to be a pointless rule. Well, not completely pointless, the point is that if we tell them we’re bringing bikes, and they know that bus won’t fit bikes, they can tell us in advance “tough shit, take a different bus”. But, we’re taking this particular bus because I had already done all the not-published-anywhere research to know that this would be a single-decker bus with sufficient luggage capacity for the bikes.

I ask if we can just stand them upright against the center rail like we did last time, but she huffs “no, gonna be too much luggage, gonna need that space”. Except…standing the bikes upright maximizes the space available for other luggage! She instead brings us around to the door on the driver’s side of the bus and directs us to lay them down in a compartment empty except for cleaning supplies. They have to lay one atop the other, with the front wheels partly turned to wedge into the space, so certainly not ideal, but I think they shouldn’t get completely wrecked. And it’s a fair punishment for our sins (I’m now especially glad I removed the pedals this time, which I didn’t do last time). I gave her the NZ$20 cash bike fee before she even asked, which did make it feel a bit more like a tip/bribe this time. Once my quizzical stare got her to re-close the door a couple more times to make sure it was truly latched, we settled into seats nearly on top of the bikes, while six others boarded here in Kerikeri.

The bus that took us from Kerikeri to Auckland.

In Whangarei (where we had disembarked from our northbound bus), the coach mostly filled up, including a family whose stroller got “placed” on top of our bikes. The driver also drove like an insane person, especially on the narrow, winding, detour route, to the point where I needed to work to keep from getting thrashed around too much. But maybe I was just worn out from the cold I received (or rebounded?) from Rett, and the bikes would be able to handle the abuse better than me?

Our bus returns to Auckland over the big harbor bridge.

And hey, the reckless abandon got us into Auckland 20 minutes early, so, fair trade? When we unloaded the bikes, my stem had somehow twisted around the fork a bit so the handlebars weren’t pointing forward, and Rett’s fender/headlight bolt had loosened, but both were easy repairs and nothing else seemed damaged. Hooray, a Northland in-and-out completed without damage or death!

That left just a hilly, bike-laned route from Central Auckland to Sandringham, a route that we were mostly familiar with from our previous time in Auckland, but it was still fun to see Rett switch on her Aggressive City Rider mode.

Returning south out of the CBD on the pink path (Rett noticed a shaded section below an overpass that showed how sun-faded this paint has become!)

Familiarity also sprung from the fact that we were returning to the very place we had lived for a month after our first arrival in Auckland! We had left the IKEA “Frakta” bags that we use for flying with our host Christine, and a few weeks ago she reached out to check if we were returning to Auckland soon. That then quickly led to us booking her place for a week, since we had found it so comfortable and easy (and they presumably found us good guests worthy of continuing a reasonable rate).

Pedaling the last few blocks was surprisingly emotional. The month-long stay had made the townhouse (and the neighborhood it sits in) feel more like “home” than almost anywhere has in our last two-and-a-half years. So our return echoed the mix of satisfaction, anticipation, and touch of sadness that I’d felt years ago when pedaling back to my own house at the end of more conventional “bike tours”. Even though it would have made no sense, I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised to see a crowd of every welcoming Kiwi we’ve met over the last seven months, holding balloons and a novelty “finish line” for us to cross.

But no, it was just a code for the lockbox and a key to let us in. But Rett especially was excited to find many of the “extras” that she’d left behind (mostly personal care products) still there to welcome her back.

Lamby and KB (Kiwi Bird) were thrilled to see each other again.
The back yard, including the red flowers, looked identical.

One difference was seeing the fall leaves dropping from the tree outside our bedroom window; that let us know that even if we’ve returned to the same place, we definitely had not returned to the same time. On the other hand, my ride to the Countdown grocery store and walk through the aisles was so familiar I could have done it blindfolded. Especially since my ability to navigate wrong-side-of-the-road intersections was now completely innate, which it had not quite been when we left here in November.

Days 2-7

I inquired about used bike boxes at Evo Cycles near the Countdown, and the helpful guy told me there would be a good chance in a few days. So a few days later Rett and I walked the mile back and forth, returning with a couple of unwieldy boxes, trying to keep them dry from sudden showers.

More difficult was obtaining packing materials. Partly because our place was in the center of a hardware-store desert, and partly because foam pipe insulation is a much-rarer thing in New Zealand than the US. I also had a tough time finding a replacement for the PVC fork spacer I had cannibalized to fix Rett’s seat; the smallest pipes/fittings anyone sells is like 3-inch diameter, solely drainage/sewage stuff. But the search actually made for a fun exploration into parts of Auckland I hadn’t seen yet.

Extreme cargo biking to get packing supplies from New Zealand’s Home Depot.
Mount Mangere, across the bay, reminds that volcanoes aren’t hard to find in New Zealand.
I guess this is an easy route for high-voltage wires to take without angering property owners.
A well-designed road that truly gives bikes priority. Every 100 yards or so was one of these one-way speed bumps to slow the cars, while bikes get flat, concrete-protected bypasses.

The bike boxes we ended up with were a bit smaller than what we’ve used before (hey, at least they were free!), so it took a bit more time and effort to first figure out if there was a way to fit the bikes, and then to do the extra disassembly that was required. For my longer bike, I needed to rotate the fork 180 degrees so it pointed backwards, and for both bikes I needed to remove the stem+handlears from the forks, rather than removing the handlebars from the stem. On the other hand, then I didn’t need to remove Rett’s Ortlieb handlebar bag mount (always an annoying and semi-destructive procedure), so maybe I’ll just stick with that method going forward.

The packed version of my bike.
The packed versi of Rett’s bike.

Beyond those chores, we didn’t do much around town besides a short tour of the really cool super-Indian center of Sandringham we’d never done before. If there are new things that we still want to do after seven months in New Zealand, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t high priorities!

Lamby saying a final goodbye to KB, sad to be leaving him and New Zealand behind.


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