Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 6: Dargaville to Kaiwaka

Distance: 79.9k
Distance so far: 377.1k
Speed: 14.9k/h

Runkeeper logs: 1 2

Once again I planned for an early start today, getting up a little after 6, but my plans were pleasantly derailed when I ran into another cyclist staying at the Greenhouse Backpackers' (hi, Emma!), and we spent a couple of hours chatting about our respective trips, tips for the road, and so forth. It turns out she's following the same guide I am (the Lonely Planet Cycling New Zealand guide), and even doing the same route I am currently on, but we're going in opposite directions! I was able to fill her in on what to expect in the next couple of days, and vice-versa.

The weather today was best described as 'ominous' - dark clouds overhead for almost the whole day, with only brief breaks of sunshine. It constantly threatened to rain, but surprisingly the most it came to was a couple of occasions when it started spitting for a little while, then gave up. I'm hoping the clouds blow out or rain themselves out by morning.

Once I got on the road at 9, the first 30k were pretty smooth going, being an all-too-rare flat section. It's incredibly nice to be able to just sit back and set a nice brisk, steady pace, rather than having to change up and change down every few minutes, spending seemingly interminable amounts of time grinding up hills at a snail's pace.

After about 30k, I stopped at Ruawai, at the Elle Cee cafe, recommended to me by Emma, and enjoyed a really delicious second breakfast - probably the best french toast I've ever had - and a pretty good coffee too. As I was leaving, I ran into another touring cyclist, who was ending his day in Ruawai, and we chatted briefly about conditions and the road ahead, then I set off again.

Heading out of Ruawai, I had about another 8k before the hills began, after which they really didn't mess around, seemingly seeking to make up for the easy ride I'd had the rest of the day. The next 3 hours were spent slogging through the hilly terrain along State Highway 12, before eventually making it to Brynderwyn.

Brynderwyn really is just an intersection with a cafe. There's supposedly a motel there, but I couldn't find it, and I didn't particularly want to stay there anyway, so I set out for Kaiwaka, and the Gateway North Motel & Cafe, which seemed like my best chance of shelter for the day.

This last 8k stretch from Brynderwyn to the motel was along State Highway 1, and I'm fairly sure riding it took a couple of months off my life. Even a hundred kilometers north of Auckland, SH1 is busy, busy busy. Motorists blat by at speeds in excess of a hundred kilometers an hour, with far less clearance than they'd usually accord a cyclist on quieter motorways. At times there's a fairly wide shoulder, but at other times this dwindles to almost nothing - seemingly coinciding with downhill stretches. Most of the road has a vibration strip along the border of the shoulder to wake sleepy motorists. As a result, the downhills consist of trying to keep the vibration strip between the right wheel and the rear one, while simultaneously turning to track the road, making sure the left wheel isn't in danger of going off the edge of the road, and trying to dodge the occasional roadkill or pile of broken glass. Fail to do all of this and you're greeted with bone-shaking vibration at best, and the grille of an oncoming car at worst. Not my idea of fun.

Thus, the motel was a welcome sight. I'm checked in, resting my legs, and planning for tomorrow - for which I think an early start will be essential if I don't want to compete with traffic like this again tomorrow morning before I can take the fork to SH16.

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