Tuesday 17 March – tropical cyclone Gretel

Tuesday 17 March – tropical cyclone Gretel

62km from Te Araroa to Waihau Bay, total elevation gain 646m

My heart sank when we woke to hear rain and wind lashing against the hostel. Tropical cyclone Gretel was passing through, bringing some much needed rain and also warnings of 100km strong winds. The rain is welcome here, as the whole region is in the midst of a drought – everything is noticeably dry.

We had little choice but to pack up and ride, as all our accommodation is booked ahead of time. It wouldn’t be the first time Jenny and Kris have been drenched on a cycle trip, and we comforted ourselves by recalling all our rides in weather worse than this.

We actually had a good start to the day, with some conversation over coffee and our breakfast (toast and bananas) with a friendly Dutch couple in the kitchen (while observing physical distancing).

We started out taking a short cut to get back onto SH35, but we missed the turn off and ended up at a dead end along a muddy road. We hadn’t even started and our bikes and shoes were already all muddy.

A muddy dead end – unpassable river up ahead

The first part of the ride was quite wet, but at least not cold. The landscape was still beautiful in the mist around the mountaintops. The first hill out of Te Araroa was the highest. Although the wind was strong it was coming from the side or at our backs most of the time – when it was behind us it was almost like having power assist on an electric bike!

The terrain was very hilly, and the rain began to ease up mid morning. We had a very scenic downhill run to Hicks Bay, but unfortunately for William, his rear brakes beginning to give out. He took the hills very gingerly for a while after that. We began to dry out a bit after midday and we stopped to replace William’s brake pads. We were well equipped for bicycle repairs (even had spare tyres and spokes), as we knew there is not much chance of getting parts on the Cape.

Replacing brake blocks

There was noticeably much less traffic on the roads today, making for a very pleasant ride.

We thought we had arrived when we got to Cape Runaway, but our accommodation was still 10km away. We were a little worried about whether we would be able to buy food at Waihau Bay, but this was unfounded. There is a restaurant at the Lodge where we were staying, and a small shop and cafe next door. There is not much else on the bay, except for some very up market houses and a small wharf. This is evidently the town where the movie “Boy” was shot.

Reception was a grumpy old Maori lady in the bar downstairs. However, we were pleasantly surprised by our accommodation – it is a huge apartment with a balcony overlooking the bay. It sleeps about 6 people, including two double bedrooms, both with an en-suite bathroom, as well as a huge lounge and kitchen. Fish and chips take-aways from the next door cafe seemed appropriate, eaten on our balcony. The seagulls kept a beady eye on our chips but we managed to keep them off the balcony.

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