Happy Holidays From Rainy New Zealand!
Hello again loyal followers and friends,
The last stretch Ville and I rode in New Zealand can be summed up best by Hunter S. Thompson, "Wow! What a Ride!" We'd been looking forward to the last stretch, knowing it would be more remote than the last, and it did not disappoint. Once leaving Mangakino (where manager, Emma, gave us a ride to get food because we looked too haggard to make it in the rain) we continued southwest on the Link road on our way to the trailhead of the Pureora-Ongarue Timber Trail. Just outside town we came to a sketchy, chain-link walking bridge that we had to remove panniers and drag the bikes over (should have been our first sign of what was to come) and as we climbed deep into the rainforest on a narrow, steep goat trail, the rain fell steadily, soaking us through. By the time we reached the trailhead, we sprung for a cabin that reeked of mildew, housed a swarm of mosquitos, but offered a hot shower. I'd have paid a million bucks for that hot shower. We pitched our tent inside, sheltered from the downpour and began the Timber Trail the next morning.
The Pureora-Ongarue Timber Trail is a fifty-mile stretch of hiking/biking trail that climbs and descends through the Pureora Rainforest Park. The well-maintained trail crosses multiple suspension bridges (not for the faint of heart) and has a camping/hotel option mid-way through. The wilds and birdsong that accompanied us through the forest was amazing! The rain showers that turned most of the trial to mud with deep, brown puddles was character-building. We stayed at the campground, where we met Ross and Don, a father-son duo braving the rain for the weekend and had a great time sharing bad jokes and great stories. Thanks for sharing your whisky boys. :)
We popped out of the forest at Ongarue in the pouring rain and had 14 miles to Taumarunui. We were so wet we had to sit outside a restaurant to eat dinner, checked into a motel, hosed mud off the bikes, showered and washed clothes. From there we had a great stretch on backroads (there have been far less traffic south of Auckland) to the Blue Duck Trailhead. Not wanting to pay for camping, we charged ahead that evening, through the Whanganui National Park, trying to reach the Mosley Camp. The trail turned to a mud slick and as we climbed into a steep gorge, the trail narrowed to the width of a hiking trail, with a cliff to our left and rock face covered in greenery to our right. Then it began pouring rain. I had already been dismounting, pushing my bike over boulders, across slippery, mossy bridges, through deep mud puddles for nearly 10 miles when the trail turned into a river. Luckily, Mosley Camp had a three-walled shelter, where we pulled bikes inside, stripped off wet clothes, ate dehydrated dinner and slept fitfully, dreading the "ride" the next day.
Four more miles of pushing bikes with intermittent riding brought us to the intersection where we were suppose to ride towards Mangapurua Landing and the Bridge to Nowhere, but due to excessive rain and landslides (they call them slips here) the road was closed. Again we detoured down out of the forest, past farmland, farmers moving livestock and into Raetihi. When we arrived, soaking wet at the campground at Raetihi, they had a major water leak and told us we might want to head 10 miles up the road to another campground. I practically begged, pleaded with them and they were super nice and let us stay.
From Raetihi, we had a long, steep descent into Pipiriki, where we met a group of school kids who just got off the river after a five-day canoe trip. We chatted with them a while and Ville let one of the guys ride his bike. Meeting people, especially kids, along the way has been such a blast. The route south along the Whanganui River was beautiful! Paved, easy road, intermittent showers and our campground was on the opposite side of the river accessed by gondola. We stopped at a roadside shop, manned by Moana and her brother Te Rangihaeata, where we bought ice cream and enjoyed chatting with them about their town, lives and what they planned to do for summer. Thank you both for hanging out!
The next morning, we rode 27 miles into Whanganui. We didn't even mind the rain and lightning storm because we checked into a motel with a hot shower. It took a lot of legwork, but we even found a motel that aired the World Cup Final this morning at 4am (for all you soccer fans) and holy smokes what a game!! If you missed it, I recommend watching the highlights. Tomorrow, we will continue east and then turn south on back roads and make our way to Wellington. We hope to make it there by my birthday, Dec. 30th.
Until next time, I hope you all have the happiest of holidays! That you enjoy some time with friends and family, eat too much, sleep late, drink some egg nog and party like it's 1999. Thank you for all your continued love and support, until we meet again, keep on keeping' on...
Howdy Ho Good People!
Time for a rest and another update. For those of you that don't know yet, Ville and I are riding from Cape Reinga to Bluff (top to bottom with a lot of zig-zagging in between) of New Zealand. For those of you that are caught up, we left off in Opononi a couple weeks ago. A lot has happened...
After we dodged a lighting storm, we ventured out heading south, climbing, climbing and climbing through the Waipoua Kauri Forest (home to Tane Mahuta, the largest living Kauri tree and Te Matua Ngahere, the oldest living Kauri tree). It was an incredible experience to see these trees and the ride through the forest was amazing!
The next large town we passed through was Dargaville, where we decided to take a three-day-long alternate route east around the Wairoa River Inlet to get some extra riding in (as opposed to taking the ferry across it). Our route took us mostly on farm roads with a few long stretches of death-defying highways in between. There have been no flat spots, we are either steeply climbing or on gravely, steep descents. We passed lots of cows and sheep, grazing on green hillsides. What was the favorite stop? A field of Shetland ponies and their foals. SO cute! Each day it rains, everything from showers to downpours. Kiwis, the nicest, friendliest people! When behind the wheel, some of the most dangerous drivers we have yet encountered in the world. They give new meaning to Too Fast, Too Furious, that's for sure!
On our first night out of Dargaville, we camped on Rob's farm, a handyman and auto mechanic who has a collection of 60 old Chevy cars. We passed Kaipara Butchery and bought the best snack ever at a roadside stand: homemade sourdough bread with mixed berry jam. Thank you Trish and your sister for the goodies! Our second night we passed Gillian in a field brushing her horse and camped next to her barn. John, her husband, and Gillian were nice enough to let us use their shower! Thank you Rob, John and Gillian for your hospitality. On our third night, we limped into Auckland in a complete soaking downpour, rode straight through the Santa Parade right before it started (waving at fans lined the road) and checked into a hotel to shower, wash clothes and catch up on my last round of Book edits!
After five days in Auckland, we were itching to get back in the saddles. It took almost an entire day to get out of Auckland suburbs, we passed some rugby matches, parks and a small mountain bike park along the way. We passed Ardmore Airport where small planes were doing acrobatics (we found out later the next day was a big air show), were turned away at the RV campground, and began a serious climb along a militarized zone when we were in need of camping. Disheartened and exhausted, we pulled over at the top of the climb to ask a man doing yard work if he knew where we might camp. Shane went to ask his sister, Paula, who invited us to camp down in her field. Then she offered us a shed in her backyard, then her boat to sleep in, and finally her spare bedroom. Paula and her husband, Harry, lived on the top of the hill, in a beautiful house, with views of the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland and the Firth of Thames Bay in the distance. It was spectacular and we couldn't believe our luck. An act of kindness that came when we least expected it. Thank you Harry,Paula and Shane for your kindness.
Harry suggested we get a ride up to Tapapakanga Regional Park, up to the north point of the Hunua Ranges Regional Park where he promised the road and views would be far better than the route we would have taken. Of course we agreed, loaded the bikes on his bike rack the next morning and got dropped off at Tapapakanga Regional Park at the campground (near Orere) on the beach. Harry and Paula were right, the route south along the eastern coastline was our favorite stretch so far! The traffic was light, the views amazing and we spent most of the day on the Hauraki Rail Trail (a fantastic REAL bike route along the coast and through farmland). We stopped for ice cream at The Country Store where we met Jack and Grace, two of the sweetest kids working at the shop. Thank you both! Jack, save your money for a touring bike, it will take you further than a quad. :)
Unfortunately, ten miles of the Hauraki Rail Trail were closed without notice, pushing us onto a busy highway without a shoulder, but we made it to Kopu (Thank you Red Door for dinner). From there we continued south along the rail trail, stopping in Te Aroha (where we enjoyed a soak in the mineral pool) a lunch at The Merchant in Matamata (thank you Simon for the t-shirts) and camped at the Little Waipa Reserve. We had the best three miles of riverfront bike trail before we learned at breakfast at the Rhubarb Cafe that the next twenty miles would be another detour through farmland. Of course it would be. It was beginning to be a pattern in New Zealand, bike routes/paths closed without a detour. Thank you staff at Rhubarb Cafe for the directions and tasty pick-me-up that made the detour better!
We jumped back on the bike route at Waipapa Dam and had an epic twelve-mile ride along the Waikato River in thick rainforest, unreal steep switchback climbs and descents into Mangakino. Which is where we now sit, resting our sore legs and butts for a day. Next, we plan to head through the Pureora Forest Park, a fantastic fifty-three-mile timber trail through a rainforest. Fingers crossed it is open!! Until next time, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
P.S. BOOK UPDATE COMING SOON...(Leave your email to be sure not to miss it!)
My Grandpa once said, “the grass doesn’t grow under your feet” and he knew us all too well. This last couple of months was proof of that. We crammed in so many things my head is still spinning.
In mid-September, Ville FINALLY received his U.S. Citizenship! It took ten years of paperwork, fees, fingerprints, rentna scans, questioning, appearing, more paperwork, getting flagged, searched, more fees, more paperwork, a test most U.S. Citizens would fail, meeting criteria, another test, more paperwork and then an oath ceremony, but he did it. Just in time for us to leave for our next adventure.
Mid-October we rode the train from Portland, Oregon to Tustin, California in Orange County to visit my Aunt Lori and Uncle Steve. My Uncle is a cancer survivor and avid cyclist, and we ride the number of miles for his age on his birthday each year together. This year he turned seventy-six. My Aunt Lori joined the party for two additional rides. We also had a visit with my cousin Shannon, her husband, Kirk, their kiddos, my cousin Sara, Chip, his wife Nicole and their kiddos. It was great to spend some time with family!
When we returned, we spent a week in Bend volunteering at Mountain View High School (my old school) to speak with the Freshmen Foundations Classes. After recently losing a student and coming out of multiple years of lockdowns, the moral was low, so it felt more important now than ever to share our story. A few students signed our bike bags to come along on the adventure. Thank you MVHS for having us, we hope our message resonates and inspires you to live your passion.
Speaking of living your passion, it was time for Ville and I to get back to ours, traveling. We packed up, sold things, cleaned, said our goodbyes and moved into a storage unit. At the same time, we packed up our bikes and gear and flew to Auckland, New Zealand, with a plan to ride from the top to the bottom of the country. It's time to get back in the saddle!
We spent a couple days in Auckland (north island) before taking a bus up to Pukenui in the north part of the island, where our friends, Warren and Glenys live. We met them while traveling home from Ushuaia after completing our long bike ride from Alaska in 2018. They welcomed us into their beach house for a night and then showed us around the area for a few days. Ville, now a "Kiwi Bloke" made a new friend, Shorty, a pudgy, old paint horse he considered trading his bike for. In the end, Shorty preferred the barn to life on the road so Ville is still on his bike.
Before we left, we spent a day at Pukenui School where we did two presentations for the elementary and middle school kids. We had a great time and the kids were a fantastic audience. We added more names to our bags and were ready to set off. Warren and Glenys gave us a ride up to Cape Reinga, we took pictures at the Lighthouse, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea and set off!
From Cape Reinga, we rode south and west to the beach. There we rode fifty-miles on the 90 Mile Beach to Ahipara. While we were riding we passed hikers (hiking the Te Araroa Trail), cars and even spotted a wild horse missing his herd. He was walking away from us, then hearing us, turned and ran towards us thinking we were his herd, stopped, then ran when he realized we were not. We named him Black Beauty. We camped at Ahipara Holiday Park and continued inland, climbing and descending steep hills on out-of-shape legs and butts, but with spectacular views! When it's not raining. After all, it is spring.
We spent a night at The Tree House in Kohukohu and took the ferry to Rawene crossing Hokianga Bay. From there, we rode lots more ups and downs to Opononi where we now sit in a motel, waiting out a thunderstorm before we continue towards Dargaville. While here, we took a tour to the Waipoua Kauri Forest with a Mauri guide named Billy Boy and it was a really emotional experience to see the two largest Kauri trees in the world, in the 2% of rainforest that remains in New Zealand.
Tomorrow we plan to keep trucking. We'll do our best to keep you updated, however, the WiFi has been spotty at best, so bear with us. You can follow us on all the socials: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok. We would love to hear from you, comment, email us or give us a call on WhatsApp. Thanks for your continued love and support! Until next time, keep on keeping' on ya'll...
K.G. & Ville
In New Zealand on bikes.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson