Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 12: Rotorua to Taupo

Distance: 82.2k
Distance so far: 737.3k
Speed: 18k/h

Runkeeper logs: 1 2

Today's leg, from Rotorua to Taupo, takes me further into the heart of the North Island. Rotorua is pretty much geothermal activity central, but that extends further south, too - there's a beach on Lake Taupo that's so active you can catch a fish, then bury it in the sand to cook it.

I got up early as usual, and had a delicious breakfast at the Fat Dog Cafe, which seems to be something of a Rotorua icon. They do excellent coffee, but the bacon was rather disappointing. It was drizzly in the morning, but I set out anyway, initially in the same gear - merino top and sports shorts - that I usually wear, with the addition of a 'softshell' jacket.

The jacket quickly proved too warm for the conditions, but without it the breeze was too chilly on wet skin, so I swapped to my raincoat - the first time I've needed it, and more for the wind than the rain. That worked for a while, but despite its being Gore-Tex, it still ended up nearly as wet on the inside - from sweat - than on the outside. At my rest stop, I packed it away, and switched to wearing thermal underwear - long sleeved top and pants - under my usual cycling gear, and just tolerating getting wet. This seemed to work pretty well, and even when it started raining for real and I got thoroughly wet, I stayed nice and warm. I realize I sound like an Icebreaker salesperson, but this stuff is simply amazing.

The miserable wet weather continued for pretty much my whole ride, alternating between drizzle, actual rain, and merely threatening. When it wasn't actively raining, the ride was fine, but the drizzle gets in my eyes, making riding difficult, and the front wheels pick up any water on the road, generating rain showers of their own if there's the slightest bit of crosswind. Fenders would be great here, but they still haven't arrived.

Trucks also present interesting challenges in the wet. Ones going the same way are mostly fine, but ones going the other way generate a constant wavefront of atomized water picked up off the road by their wheels. When there's only a little, it's kind of cool watching it roll towards you, but when there's a lot it's like someone coming up and blasting you in the face with a spray bottle every time one goes past.

As far as the scenery goes, today wasn't much to write home about - mostly farmland, some pine forests, and a little native bush, with the occasional geothermal source to break up the monotony. The start was a bit hilly climbing out of Rotorua, but it was even easier than yesterday's climb. Then the route was mostly flat until about 15k from Taupo, where there's another, even easier again, set of hills. On a nice day, it would've made for a fairly pleasant ride.

I'm theoretically headed to Turangi tomorrow, which involves a lovely ride along the shores of lake Taupo, and only one major (and fairly infamous) hill. Depending on the weather, though, I may put it off a day, or ride in the afternoon, when it's supposed to be less rainy.

I'm now roughly 400 meters above sea level, and I'm looking forward to reaping the rewards in the form of downhills when I approach the west coast in a few days.

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