Thursday, 28 March 2013

HAWKES BAY - Havelock North to Waipawa (50km)

A new day has dawned, I've stretched, had a good breakfast and I'm now eager to ride off into another beautiful day and what that day beholds.

As I was reading the ride notes in conjunction with my GPSies map which incidentally gives altitude range, total climb, total descent, as well as distances between objects e.g. hills, one sentence caught my eye, 'you will cycle one significant hill climb prior to Patangata so be prepared to exert some extra effort on this section'. I checked it on the map, nothing we haven't done before, so nothing to worry about. One thing did bother me a little though......even though the altitude gain was only 148 m., the total climb was 706 m with a total descent of 576 m My interpretation of this data was  that the significant hill was basically an undulating climb almost all of the way.....interesting!

Part of the Zimbabwean collection

Birdwoods Gallery and Cafe

There's nothing like cycling by the skin of your pants, not really knowing what you are getting into. Happily breezing along the road, not a care in the world, taking in the beautiful scenery. Isn't this what bicycle touring is all about. Now hang on a bit, "I thought today might bring a little bit more challenge than yesterday's docile meander along the seaside and river."
Suddenly, not more than three kilometres into the ride, we stop at the Birdwoods Gallery and Cafe, renowned for it's stone and metal sculptures, the metal no less coming from used 44 gallon drums. For more information on this fascinating gallery, please open the above link.
My wife purchased a number of carved wooden apples which looked remarkably like the genuine article. This is unusual for my wife as she is not in the habit of purchasing this sort of thing unless it is exceptional.

Having looked at the above pictures you would have to agree that with this type of scenery to distract, it is quite easy to be lulled into a comfort zone and a sense of euphoria.
The climb started gently and it was quite awhile before we became aware that we were pushing that little bit harder and looking for a lower gear. The 'pelaton' was starting to split and the gap widening.
I thought to myself that this landscape, as it is, is a photographer's dream and I am so lucky to be here at this point in time. To clarify, New Zealand was in the midst of a major drought. This is not what you would normally see. Usually the hills are lush and green. To my mind though I love the contrast of the different shades of brown  and green, the form and texture of the hills. It is no less than a natural form of sculpture.
Up and up we climbed
Back to reality, there is a change in the tone of the group. A little while ago people were laughing and joking amongst themselves. This has been replaced with a deeper breathing action, the friendly banter has stopped and been replaced by the odd curse as someone misses a gear. The breathing is becoming more and more audible. Even the birds have stopped twittering, perhaps in a show of solidarity. There is a nervous glance amongst the cattle and sheep as they start to feel the discomfort. Why do humans do this to themselves?
On and on it went. Someone asked me if we were near the top. I said I thought so, only to find another upward undulation, and so on and on it went.
Some time later, I pulled out from the rear of the field to peddle to the front of the group to gauge a better idea of how close we might be to the top, and bingo, at the top of the next rise I knew we were there, as there was a long descent winding downward.

Even though we were on the downward run, the scenery still remained extraordinarily beautiful.

I don't, as a norm, drink alcohol on a ride but the temptation in this case was too much. Both my wife and I had Gurnard, a local fish for lunch and it was one of the nicest fish meals I'd eaten in a long time.

The 16km ride to Waipawa, although undulating, was like a stroll in the park and took us no time to complete.
Due to the village having limited accommodation, we were split into three groups with one group of four being transported to a motel in Waipukurau. We had another short, sharp climb to the Abbot Heights B&B where we were greeted by Charlie on arrival with very welcome cold drinks.
Our leader Ken with the consent of their gracious host Nicolette invited us to join them for pizzas, wine and pre-dinner drinks at Abbotsford Oaks. Having had a great night, Nicolette kindly drove us back to our B&B. I have to say that this B&B is absolutely unique for this part of the world, in a word superb. Nicolette certainly does have an eye for detail.

Our Tour Operator Takaro Trails Cycle Tours (Link)

Wishing everyone a very happy Easter and if you are riding, make it safe.

Jimmy Bee

Saturday, 23 March 2013

HAWKES BAY - Ahuriri to Havelock North (52km)

The Hawkes Bay Tour is about to begin.

 U3A Peddling for Pleasure

Jenny from Takaro Trails Cycle Tours (Link) arrived and whisked us away to her office and workshop in Ahuriri where we collected our Scott Sportster hybrid bikes and made all the necessary adjustments for a comfortable five day tour of the Hawkes Bay countryside. All the bikes came with panniers, helmets and puncture repair kits.
Each was given a map and written riding instructions highlighting cafes, wineries and other places of interest throughout the ride and Jenny assured us that help was only a short time away should we need it.
Overnight, we appear to have become minor celebrities and just prior to commencing our ride, a photographer from the local paper arrived to take our photograph. Throughout the next few days, we were greeted and given encouragement by a number of readers of the regional paper

Caffeine top up at Starbucks


On departing Ahuriri, we followed the coastline back to Napier where we stopped for our first coffee. It appears to be part of the recreational cyclist creed internationally, to charge up on coffee when riding. Personally, although I love coffee, too much sometimes makes me feel unwell when cycling.

Napier abuzz with people

Napier was abuzz with tourists due to a cruise ship being in port which made for a carnival atmosphere.Whilst some of our group sat and sipped coffee others strolled around the Art Deco town taking photographs of some of the 1930's architecture.

Back on the trail again, you couldn't help but notice the colour and texture of the beach. It was a coarse, black, volcanic pebble, much different to the red and white sand we are used to. Of course, the whole island is not like this as most of the beaches have beautiful sand.

Touring by bicycle can give you a sharper appreciation of the intricate differences in landscape that you may not normally experience in your homeland. When travelling in a motor vehicle, you notice the spectacular but due to the speed the less subtle changes are often missed. Not only that but when riding the trails you feel as though you are a natural part of the surroundings.
On this ride we experienced the very essence of the terrain we were travelling in and there were so many differences, colours, textures, species, architecture,contours, the list goes on.


Clive River
A pair of beautiful swans  who have made these wetlands  home

Wetlands with Napier in the distance

We followed the pathway to the bridge spanning the Ngaruroro River and then over the Clive River. Here an executive decision was made to bypass Clive and continue on the "Water Trail" past wetlands, home to a number of species of native birds. The path took us a short way along the coast before veering right and following the Tuki Tuki River to Black Bridge.

An interesting shot. Perhaps the riders were victims of kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers

Cape Kidnappers

Clifton Cafe

Awesome coffee

On crossing the bridge, we followed the river back to the coast continuing all the way to Clifton which is at the base of Cape Kidnappers. Clifton cafe was a real find, serving quality lunches and great coffee. If we had the time we would probably have taken the tour to the colony of Gannets on Cape Kidnappers, but we still had quite a ride ahead of us.

The name Cape Kidnappers conjures up all sorts dreaded deeds but in fact the true story can be found by opening the following link

Te Awanga Beach looking towards Cape Kidnappers

After lunch, we headed back to Black Bridge picking up some of our group who decided to take a break at Te Awanga.

Apples, grapes and corn......Almost a cyclist's breakfast here

From Black Bridge we continued on the limestone trail through an array of colourful vineyards, orchards and grain crops until we reached Te Mata Road which lead us into Havelock North.


Acorns on an Oak

Four km. from Havelock North, we pulled into the Te Mata winery to take a look and sample the wine. As I was more inclined towards a nice cold ale at this time I declined the wine tasting and whiled away some time under a beautiful old oak tree.

Example of a stop bank

You may have noticed that some photographs show the trails are atop embankments which were put in place by the Government as a measure of flood mitigation. This is an excellent idea from a cyclists point of view in that it gives the embankments a secondary use as a base for cycling and walking trails and secondly due to the height, enhances the view as can be seen in some of the photographs.

Very innovative

You can almost hear the thrust of that donk


Havelock North is a pretty little town, 5 minutes from Hastings and 15 minutes from Napier and prides itself as being the fashion hub of Hawkes Bay. Incidentally, my wife, who was also on the ride agrees, having declined an after ride drink at a local pub in favour of a spa and stroll through the local shops. I can't comment on fashion but I do have to comment on three notable points observed whilst in Havelock North and they are the innovative bike stands, good selection of flavoursome ales and their apparent liking for veteran sports cars with grunt. All male things I know but...... and they can serve up a pretty mean steak as well.
 Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee


Tuesday, 19 March 2013


The first day of our trip was spent crossing the 'ditch' to Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand and it wasn't without it's problems. The best laid plans can often go awry. Everything was going to plan with a number of the group having met at a coffee outlet in the departure lounge. Only one thing was wrong....three of the group were missing. The boarding announcement had been given with still no show from the missing three.

The Group minus 3 plus photographer

The group minus three boarded the aircraft and it wasn't until just before the door was closed that we saw them walking down the aisle. Phew! that was close. The reason for the late show was that one had forgotten his passport and they had to make a hasty retreat to retrieve it.
Disembarkation  in Auckland went without a hitch. We had to cool our heels at the airport for one and a half hours before taking a one hour domestic flight to Napier. This is where our plan began to unravel. We booked our baggage through to Napier as instructed and then we learnt that our flight was cancelled. This was not a major problem as we were able to join a flight to Palmerston North and take a bus to Napier....just a wee loss of time. When we tried to retrieve our suitcases, one could not be located and the next hour was taken up looking for the lost luggage to no avail. We were told to board the aircraft and the lost suitcase would be located and would follow.
The flight to Palmerston North was great in that we flew at an altitude suitable to getting a fabulous view of the volcanic landscape  en route. A coach was waiting for us at the terminal and due to daylight saving, we were able to have a very pleasant trip to Napier.

The truant suitcase

Prior to delivering us to our motel in Napier, we detoured via the Napier Airport where a number of other diverted passengers, not members of our group, were delivered. Jenny, from Takaro Trails Cycle Tours (Link) was there to meet and greet us and was straight onto the task of locating the missing suitcase. Although  the Airport Manager was unable shed any light, we felt confident that with Jenny's help, it would turn up.

On arrival at the Marineland Motel, we were met by the manager who organised food for the hungry travellers. Our luck seemed to be changing for the better, as the bar was still open, necessitating in the parching of our thirst with a couple of good red wines. As the mood lightened, the waiter informed us that the missing suitcase was in a taxi en route from the airport....hallelujah! all's well with the world.

Kiwis (New Zealanders), in the main, are very laid back people but when the pressure is on and there is a problem, the system miraculously comes into play and all involved will do their utmost to solve the problem. Everyone, to a man, was absolutely sure the suitcase would turn up and after a number of phonecalls to..... "I'll just make a call to someone I know", the truent suitcase did turn up and found it's way by taxi to the very relieved owner. With a wink and a smile and..... "See, I told you it wouldn't go missing for long."

 We slept soundly.

The following posts will be a series of instalments covering the Hawkes Bay tour.
Cheers and safe riding,
Jimmy Bee 

Monday, 4 March 2013


Excitement is building in the camp as some of these legs will be peddling in foreign lands in a few days time.
We had hoped to have had a better period of preparation but alas , this was not to be the case due to cyclones, floods and torrential rains. February is normally hot and humid but this year the temperatures were low, little sunshine and rain, rain and more rain. Is this part of the global warming that the scientists have been warning us about???
New Zealand here we come. The hoards of Australian barbarians are about to invade but in a nice way because we intend to inject some hard earned cash into your economy.
On Wednesday morning we fly three hours across the ditch landing in Auckland and catching a commuter plane to Napier in the Hawkes Bay precinct to start our 5 day adventure with  Takaro Trails Cycle Tours  (Link).
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand tour (Map with the help of GPSies)
On completion of our riding tour, my wife, who, incidently is also cycling with the group, and I will be embarking on a further 5 days touring from Napier to Auckland stopping overnight at Lake Taupo (world renowned for it's cycling events), Hamilton (equestrian and race horse breeding) and the Corramandel Peninsula (everything aquatic). I have only one complaint and that is that we're not spending enough time in each of these areas to do them justice. Unfortunately, my wife can only afford to take 10 days leave from her job.

Having travelled to New Zealand previously I know that if the weather is kind to us and there are no major incidents,  everybody is going to have a wonderful time and on returning I will be writing a number of posts covering each day of our tour.

Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee