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Old 01-05-2015, 09:19 PM   #1
sgtp OP
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250 ninja tours NZ

I never expected my 3rd post on ADVrider would be my story....my ride report, but here we are, so lets get the backstory out of the way.

Am I a kiwi? Nope, i am an American. Am I a tourist in New Zealand doing a tiki-tour?... and why the hell are you riding a baby ninja instead of a beemer rental???? Well, I have lived here in Wellington NZ for the past 5 years, which is still a bit of a shock when I think about it. Living overseas was not something I ever thought about persuing, but then it happened. I met a girl in Chicago back in 2009 who 6 months into dating told me she wants to move to NZ... and I can come with if I want to, but she is leaving with or without me! OK, I've met enough women with wild ideas that conflicts with my calm and conservative ways, but something was different about her so I said yep, Im coming.

We got setup with holiday work visa's that gave us a year to live and work in NZ. We arrive in January 2010, get settled, I find work, she telecommuted to her US company she still worked for....and I bought a 50cc scooter...the beginning of my biker life.



Laugh all you want. Ive never rode a motorized-2-wheel-anything before that scooter. I loved that scooter, and put 5000km on it in the first year buzzing up and down the hills and around the bays of Wellington, mostly two-up with girlfriend on the back, going on fun rides or just commuting into the CBD for work. Fast-forward to month 8 in NZ, we as a couple are doing great and both agree we would like to stay beyond our 1 year visa. To make a long story short, we succeeded in jumping through all of the flaming hoops required by NZ immigration and are now on a 4.5 yr program to achieve permanent residency. OK.....we're going to be here a while, I am buying a bike!



There she is, my 2007 Kawasaki ninja 250. (NZ's tiered licensing restricted you to 250cc's when you start out, but they have since changed the law so learner legal bikes are based on a power to weight ratio, so you can get a heavy 650cc bike so long as the 650 is a slow pig). I really wanted a 250 Suzuki bandit as it had more HP, but the ninja turned up on the auction site, had higher KM than most 2nd hand learner bikes, but was heaps cheaper so I bid and won her.

My progression as a biker was as follows:
-read twist of the wrist II and practice slow speed riding skills
-Confidence grows, I start riding more spiritedly and that results in a lowside when an approaching car on a winding road startles me and I lock up the front and go down, slid down the road a bit, but didn't hit anyone. My riding gear works! not a scratch on me but the bike now has more character, heh
-Our living situation changes and now I have a 180km round-trip commute to wellington that includes 15km of winding mountain road. I am committed to commute on the bike and put up 900km a week just commuting. Mornings, I am dodging logging trucks on the mountain pass but am loving the empty road coming home. My riding experience and skill is significantly
fast tracked as I rake up the KMs, learn to deal with 60km crosswinds, and being prepared for riding in the rain, and memorizing every turn of that mountain pass during the 5 months I had this long commute.
-In 2012, I do my first 3 day trip around the lower north island
-In 2013, I take the ferry to the south island and do a 8 day loop, here I am in Milford Sound




Fast forward to late 2014: Now engaged, and nearly earning permanent residency, fiance and I agree that its time to return home and get married. Right. We are leaving the country soon...I have to do one last epic ride. I quit my job with the plan to complete a 14 day journey where I criss-cross the north island. At this stage I have read enough ride reports on ADV to know I want to camp along the way to make it an adventure.

My bags include a 51 liter Ventura bag (clothes, food, cooker) and a huge 70 liter tramping pack (tent, bed roll, sleeping bag, 5 liters of water, hiking boots). If I had to do it again, I would bring a more compact tent and sleeping bag, and a proper sleeping pad....I brought a 10 dollar foam pad :(


(thats just a green tarp you see)

Day 1: Wellington to the forgotten world highway, 475km

Sunny day!
Everything for the first 250km is old hat to me. Ive rode these roads enough to not feel the trip started till I neared Mt Taranaki



but I did a reststop near this mermorial in Patea remembering the early Maori people who settled this area



First view of the volcano, Mt Taranaki:


Rolling into town on reserve, Stratford was my first fuel stop, and had to get a shot of the glokenspiel



but then it was onward into the road I've wanted to explore for some time now...SH43, the Forgotten world Highway



Google searchs of this road will attempt to impress you with historic tidbits of pioneering past. Thats all well and good, but its also a fine stretch of pavement for a motorbike, so fine that early into the road there is a sign warning you its a high moto accident area. I enjoyed the amazing weather and seeing another remote corner of the county.









Here is the hotel in Whangamomona. I only stayed long enough for a break....should have stayed to have a burger and beer.



I did a side trip to Damper Falls. It was a 20 minute round-trip walk from where I parked. Are my packs safe here?





Some sheep on the walk back to the bike




All good on returning, back on the road. I should stop feeling so paranoid.



Continuing on was my first exposure to riding on gravel, ever. I did ok, but really went slow. It was only a 8km section so it wasn't all that bad for a newb.



Before reaching my camp ground, I followed a sign to a historic area: Pioneers used to ride riverboats up the ohuru river to get to these remote parts of the region.




I dont have pics from the campsite I stayed at that night, but it was where I met the one and only character on the entire trip....Hobo Carl.

sgtp screwed with this post 01-06-2015 at 04:58 PM
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Old 01-06-2015, 08:51 AM   #2
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Great start to your report! To follow your gal to the other side of the world....wow....no one can say you're not a romantic! Love to see reports from riders of smaller bikes!
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Old 01-06-2015, 04:36 PM   #3
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That evening I roll into Ohinepane camp ground. This is a basic campground not maned by anyone. It overlooks a river, with a rocky bluff that rises up from the other side. Its managed by the Department of Conservation, a government department that handles all things to do with NZ's environment, biodiversity, etc. Its free to stay at this campground, so thats nice. I roll in and see a few others already there, two girls tent camping out of a car, some other bikers who took over a camp shelter (pro move), and then I come across a blue tarp and other random objects on a bench in a little sheltered spot. It would have been a good spot for my tent, but instead I setup about 75ft away in a empty corner.

After getting my tent up, I see an older guy walking by who was fishing in the river. He sees me messing with a tiedown strap, trying to find a way to secure my bike to a post so it does not get knocked over.

[at this time, I should explain that 4 days before I was due to take off on this trip, Wellington's notorious marine weather decided to blow my bike over, causing some random damage. I dont have a garage at my flat, so I park it on a parking deck under an oxford cover. Bike covers usually turn into sails when the wind picks up, and I had successfully combated that by clipping an anchored hook onto the sidestand, preventing it from tipping over in the wind. Well for whatever reason, I didnt have the hook attached, and the wind blew it over.



No pics of the bike laying down taking a nap in its blankie(bike cover). I needed to straighten the twisted handlebars, replace the bar-end bolts, and tweak the exhaust so it does not contact the swing arm. This left me paranoid that the bike will tip over again while on my trip, and I was not about to allow that to happen.]

Enter Hobo Carl. Setting down his fishing rod, he insists on showing me a fancy ratcheting knot to secure the bike. After getting a sailor knot lesson (this man must have worked a fishing boat at some point) he says he has been living out of his car for 8 years, but it died three months ago and now has been walking the past three months. He is the king of minimalist living, sleeping under a tarp at the campground, fishing for food. We chat about people living materialistic, excessive lives. He then listens to my planned route and is quick to suggest I change it completely to avoid backtracking...yeah nah, I think I'll stick to my ride thanks.

As night falls, Carl crawls into his tarp as I heat up dinner, all the while convinced Carl is homeless and could really use some help...one of his sandles was made from a piece of foam he found on the side of the road. I light up my pipe and watch the stars come out. I see three shooting stars and hear a little hedgehog rustling nearby before going to sleep.

Next morning I offer Carl a coffee and some of my eggs, he declines food, says most people give him tobacco (i don't offer any), but accepts a cuppa. Carl then goes into a long speech how he is empowered by his simple life, but then it turns to rants about how other people live their life, how the rich should change their ways (ie, redistribute their money), how the govt doesn't do enough, etc etc. I see where things are going, and do the "uh-huhs" for an hour while breaking down camp, packing up the bike, and ole Carl is not slowing down (I start to feel part of his rant is to people like me, who work instead of wait for a handout). Next I have my bike gear on, I sit on my bike and say "OK Carl, time for me to head off" but his still is going on and on. I put on my helmet, start the bike, and ride off as Carl is still yammering............thanks for the company Carl, the road awaits.

sgtp screwed with this post 01-06-2015 at 07:33 PM
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:47 PM   #4
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Day 2: Head south, cross the central plateau, then cross the "Gentle Annie" Route, 230km

I pull out of my campsite and ride the 20km to the small town of Taumaranui. I never been here before, nice cosy town. I gas up, refill my water, and pick up a small flask of bourbon. I am still ok on food.



South on SH4 is cold and grey. I'm not sure of my altitude, but behind the clouds to my left are 3 mountians and Im sure are still covered in snow. My heated grips are on. I pass through the ski town Ohakune and carry on to Waiouru where I top off the tank again. I tend to only get about 330km till reserve on this little bike with its 16 liter tank (sidenote: how long will it take me to get used to miles/gallons measurements again when I'm stateside? lol) Pulling out of the petrol station, I catch a glimpse of the mountian in the rear view...



I carry on, then take my left onto what is the west end of a 150km route called the Gentle Annie. This route has 2 sides, sheep stations with endless green grassy hills, and the other side which is forestry and reserve areas. I am camping in a remote site somewhere in the middle.



erehwon sheep station





Here is a bridge, must be historic? As this ride continued, I soon saw a pattern: Waterfalls and bridges where reoccuring points of interest. Oh, and caves.





Right a round this area, I am humming along at 70km, just enjoying the scenery when I feel a pop on the back of my helmet. What the hell was that? How does a rock or bumblebee hit the back of my helmet? It happens again and thats when I see in my rearview that a fecking magpie is flying behind me! These birds seem to be found on every country road in NZ, I always see 2. I called on all 26 hp of the tiny ninja to carry me away from this damn bird. Well, thats a first for me.

Carrying on into reserve/forestry land




Once I was sufficiently far from any civilization, I see my turnoff.

[For navigation, I had a route all planed out and printed up with maps and notes on where i must refuel. I would just review the next days route and was fine for the day. I did start using offline maps on my iphone later on in the ride, but for the most part its really easy to find you way in NZ. In my previous south island trip, I joked to my parents not to worry about me getting lost, there's often only one road that goes to many of the places I am heading!]

Before heading down a fire road into the middle of nowhere to camp, I stop to have a walk through a reserve near the main Gentle Annie road.



The sun finally came out at this point but the wind is picking up. How do you park up a bike loaded with gear that likes to fall over? I don't know? let paranoia take over and see what happens?



That picture makes me laugh, No one else was there but I made it so it would be a challenge to steal my jacket. In that pic you can see my helmet pretty well. I guess it might look like a huge magpie flying down the road. Anyway, the reserve has many trails to chose from, I opt for the easy one to see some caves. The story goes that way back when, a Maori
family lived in these caves for a generation or two.







Back at the bike, I begin my 8km ride deep into the bush to the campsite. I am on a gravel fire road winding up and down ridges, passing signs pointing to water sources every so often. About 1km from the end, I see a sign saying "4x4s only from this point forward". "No biggie, I'm going for it", I think. I soon find myself going down a very steep section, riding in first gear, trying not to lock the rear as I struggle to control my speed.

Aside from some trout fishermen and hunters that came and went, I am all alone out here. This was one of the more isolated places I will be in on this trip.







This road end is also a trail head for bush walks in this area, hence the swing bridge being here. They hunt red stag out here.



I spot some limestone in the river that shows that at one point this was all seabed. That is pretty astounding considering where I am. Check out the Google map.




Link to google map location where I camped: https://goo.gl/maps/QxYvc

While the hunters are out, I start to wonder if I can ride my loaded bike out of here. I suit up and find that riding up is easier than down, so that's good to know.



I light the camp fire, then ponder life after NZ as I have a few sips of bourbon before turning in for the night.

sgtp screwed with this post 01-07-2015 at 08:15 PM Reason: embeded google map not working
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Old 01-07-2015, 04:21 AM   #5
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This is an awesome Report , New Zealand is an incredible place, keep the good stuff comming !!! Why are you returning to the USA ??? I was under the impression you would stay in NZ permanently.

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Old 01-07-2015, 06:11 PM   #6
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Glad you guys are enjoying the story. I did this tour in Nov 2014, and am enjoying reliving each day of it as I write it up.

True, its a long story of how I ended up over here and why I am leaving, but this is it summed up:

My GF and I left to NZ back in 2010 thinking we'd only stay a year. We decided we liked it enough to look for was to extend our time here. We could have gotten work visas and have to renew them yearly (and pay dearly each time) or go the route of a work-to-residence scheme that was cheaper, and would result in earning permanent residence, meaning we can come and go and live/work without restrictions for the rest of our lives in NZ. That suited us better, but now that we have achieved permanent residency, we want to move back stateside to get married around family; there's just too many family members to ask that they fly out to Wellington for a wedding down here. We have been engaged for the past 2 years and its time to seal the deal, and honestly we are just ready to go home. The current plan is to go home, get married, get settled, buy a house, raise a family, and perhaps return to NZ to retire (or return sooner if all the doom and gloom stories I hear from America are true...I hear you have free healthcare now, eh?).

...and since we are leaving, I had one last chance to do a tour on the ninja before selling it and all are stuff so we can fly back to the states.
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Old 01-07-2015, 08:09 PM   #7
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Day 3: Head to Napier, then north past Wairoa/Gisborne, 350km

Today I have another long day ahead of me. My destination is another DOC campground up the pacific coast highway in quiet, isolated East Cape. The fireroad back the the pavement was a cinch; I no longer fear the gravel.




I pass through farmland on the way to the port town Napier, where I stop for fuel, water, and chean/lube the chain. Ive been to Napier several times at that point, so I didnt get a single photo of all the art deco archetecture it is famous for (after an earthquake, they rebuilt everything art deco style)

The next piece of road between Napier and Wairoa is pure bliss. I have been a passenger in a car on this section a few times, and was happy to finally ride it... very technical with twisting turns and lots of elevation changes. By this point, I have grown well accustomed to riding the ninja loaded down with gear, and had a lot of fun on that section before stopping for fuel and lunch in Wairoa.



The main row of shops fronted up to a river that passed through town. I sat and watched whitebaiters on the river. They were just standing on a platform with a huge handheld net and would skim the water hoping to net the tiny whitebait fish which are smaller than you pinky finger. I still don't see whats so special about them, but kiwi's love them.

From there, I took the coastal road to the town of Gisborne. There I send 1.5kg of extra clothes home, leaving me the bare esentials. Remember guys, dont overpack on clothes! With the extra space, I went shopping for food before heading north out of town up the east cape. Heres my first peek of the Pacific.



and I had to stop and get a shot of this road named after me ;)



Further north, I take a rest stop on the beach at Tolaga Bay. The town is so barren. I think you live on "island time" if the east cape is your home. Some kids walk outside to see who is coming coming down the road as I get near the beach, they look timid as they watch the outsider invade their paradise. What a sleepy town, what a beautiful bay





Back on the bike, I have a short 30 minute hop up the main road till my turn off to Anaura Bay where the DOC camp ground is. I climb up a narrow twisting road up and over a hill leading down to the bay, and find the campsite which is nothing more than a padock up against the beach... no toilets, 6 dollars a night, just drop the money in a box. Easy.

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Old 01-08-2015, 04:52 AM   #8
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The current plan is to go home, get married, get settled, buy a house, raise a family, and perhaps return to NZ to retire (or return sooner if all the doom and gloom stories I hear from America are true...I hear you have free healthcare now, eh?).
.
Personally, I would stay in New Zeland. Yes, the doom and gloom stories are true. Remember 2008 , everyone worrying the financial system would collapse ??? To get out of it, the US borrowed and printed even more money... And has not done anything to correct the original problems that led to such financial weakness in the first place. A housing crises should only be a bump in the road for a sound economy in good health, BUT, the economy is so weak, with so many problems, that a normal problem can now result in a collapse. No one was worried about Chinas economy collapsing, they produce, and a problem like 2008, is just a bump in the road for them. That is the difference between an economy based on real production, and one based on borrowing ever increasing amounts of money.

This is not politics, it is economics. You look at the borrowing, the debt approaching levels of Greece, the lack of production in the USA, and the outcome is assured. The USA will not have the option to print unlimited amounts of money next time around, as the dollars world reserve currency status is going away. If simply printing more money worked on a long term basis, there would be no poor countries in the world... Its no different than a person living on borrowed money and credit cards, they will live like kings, have new cars, impress all the neighbors, BUT, the really bad outcome is assured.... 99 % of people are dumb, clueless, and don't pay attention, no one is really addressing this in a serious way. The average American knows an incredible amount about sports, and nothing about something as important as the economy, and their futures. They will pay the price one day, and blame everyone else for their own ignorance, its just a matter of when...

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Old 01-08-2015, 02:05 PM   #9
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Nice ride report so far man. Enjoying the read Good effort on the gravel. I can't do it on my little CBR without shitting bricks.

Good luck with the move back. My parents immigrated to NZ from Ireland so I understand the desire to be around family. There's no right or wrong choice, it's your life and direction to choose.
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Old 01-08-2015, 02:15 PM   #10
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I recall joking with my friends in 2009 "yeah, I can not wait to leave, this country is going down the tubes", referring to the insane deficit spending, idiotic leadership in DC, all the waste from that 900 billion stimulus bill (remember that one? all the ppl that got the big O in office had their payday and the taxpayer has little to show for it) and on and on. I think about the shifting social climate in the states how its now racist/insensitive to state a fact, or its grounds for dismissal if you do not embrace and endorse depravity. I dont like knowing that the US govt now negotiates with terrorists. It bothers me that new yorkers will elect a self confessed communist (really?!?!?) and damn that SC justice that said ACA is legal as it is just a tax! Its enough to give me a migrane, and sometimes it actually succeeds in doing so when I read whats going on back home.... and that's all before I turn my attention to the feds/bankers and their magic show they perform on the fiat dollar and the markets

So yeah, there's that.

NZ isnt perfect. The cost of living much is higher. I pay about 400 per year to register a motorbike for the roads. Food and goods are expensive(want the latest iphone? expect to pay 1150), gas is 2.00/liter (about 8/gal?), a bigmac combo is $11, and house prices? forget it... theres so much demand and prices are so bloated right now. A three bedroom in good areas of wellington tend to go for 550-700,000. I pay almost 19,000 a year to rent a 2 bedroom flat 10 minutes from the city center! My yearly rent in Chicago was 9000 for a 2br. My income tax bracket is 30% whereas in the states i think it would be about 18%. We have something called ACC here (accident compensation corp) that everyone pays into. Have an accident of any kind? crash you bike? you are covered for medical, lost wages, etc. This doesn't cover health problems, so you better have a health ins plan, too.

But there are great things about NZ: obviously the big one is that every inch of this country is beautiful. Exploring it on a bike is the most satisfying thing I have done here, only second to walking the amazing bush tracks that take you into the hills, reserves and national parks. NZ has an impressive and extensive back-country hut system with over 950 huts...I have visited about 30 so far.

My fiance does not read the news and is an eternal optimist, so she is not concerned about moving stateside, but at the same time she knows we "could" be returning to NZ sooner than we thought. Anyway, with that said, I try to stay on topic of the ride.... I had some silly observations from my stay at that campground on the east cape, more coming soon...

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Old 01-08-2015, 02:58 PM   #11
BashOn
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... idiotic leadership ... waste ... big O in office ... now racist/insensitive to state a fact ... grounds for dismissal if you do not embrace and endorse depravity ... US govt now negotiates with terrorists ... self confessed communist ... damn that SC justice ...enough to give me a migrane...
Oh my. If you felt that way in 2009, you really wouldn't like it now. Perhaps you should stay there.

Nice report, BTW.
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Old 01-08-2015, 04:42 PM   #12
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I know bashon...all that stuff makes me grumpy, sorry I brought it up but I feel I share the pain of my fellow Americans even though I am overseas

Anauru Bay observations:

As I rolled into the campground, I saw a cow roaming freely up and down the side of the road eating the grass, that's a little different. (you can sorta make out the cow in my tent pic above). While setting up camp, I hear a horrible noise, like a car running with no oil and about to seize the engine any moment. Next thing you know, a beat up geo tracker type car hoons through the campground with two local kids inside. The car is missing a door. The younger one sitting shotgun yells out "Maori's Rule!!!" and then they escape through a gate leading to the beach.....well that's a bit weird. Afterwards, I go for a walk on the beach. Off in the distance I see all these tiny black and white puppy's mobbing around two locals walking on the beach acting. Heading their way to say hello, I am attacked by 15 puppy's jumping up on me and biting my ankles. They ask if I want one, I tell them "no room on the bike", chat for a while and say my goodbyes...that was fun. Right when the puppy's ended their attack, the geo tracker hoons by again on the sand, I give them a big smile and thumbs up, the younger kid starts cracking up as they pass......and 20 seconds later a guy holding a long stick gallops past on a horse in the other direction. WTH just happened? heh, honestly though, kiwis will tell you that's east cape, bro.



One night here and I ride north up the cape.
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Old 01-08-2015, 04:42 PM   #13
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I never expected my 3rd post on ADVrider would be my story....my ride report, but here we are, so lets get the backstory out of the way.
Amazing report and story! Keep it up
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:14 PM   #14
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Day 4: Anaura Bay to Opotiki, 270km

The next day, I rose late and do not set out till 10am. I am starting to get fatigued from these long days on my little ninja, buzzing along at 8-9k rpm, getting worn out by the wind that has been blasting me around the road the past 3 days. Today was no differnt, windy, but nice and sunny. Today will be good. I had to do a gas stop in Ruatoria. The cape is 330km from Gisborne to Opotiki, and with my sidetrips I would not make it end to end on one tank. In Ruatoria, i roll up to what is a boarded up, abandoned building...with no pumps. "That's not what i saw on google streetview", I think to myself. I ask a local who says there's a pump behind the grocery store. 2.40/liter later, I am topped up. TIP: don't rely on streetview being accurate and up to date... duh.

Back on the road, it becomes clear that the pacific coast highway is not in great condition. Every so often, I am passing roadworks. Microwave ovens in this area are not in great condition either...several are demoted to serve as mailbox duty outside of houses.

Iron horse:


Real horse:


In the town of Tikitiki, I stop to visit the ornate Anglican church dedicated to a WWII battalion made up from men of Maori decent from the surrounding area.









baptismal font



here's streetview of this settlement https://goo.gl/maps/ZSkxW

Further north, I reach Te Araroa, where you can continue east down a gravel road for 20km to reach a lighthouse at the eastern most tip of the island. I am too tired from to want to battle the wind on that coastal road, so I don't go far:







Ever seen the move BOY? If so, these next three should be familiar:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1560139/







As the cape road turned westward, I started passing some huge pahutakawa trees. And it was afternoon, so the kids were leaving school. I got many waves from kids walking home barefoot. Soon my sunny skys disappeared.



I really do not want to ride on to my planned campground, or camp in the rain, or sleep on that crappy pad that I brought, so I found accommodation in Opotiki.
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Old 01-09-2015, 04:37 AM   #15
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My fiance does not read the news and is an eternal optimist, so she is not concerned about moving stateside, but at the same time she knows we "could" be returning to NZ sooner than we thought. Anyway, with that said, I try to stay on topic of the ride.... I had some silly observations from my stay at that campground on the east cape, more coming soon...
Thanks for posting about New Zealand also, it is interesting to know what is going on in far away places, even if it is a bit off topic

Being an optimist is not good... That is called denial, and bad things tend to happen to those that ignore warning signs ! Being a pessimist is bad also, just ruins your life and makes you bitter, as evidenced by the crazy hobo guy in the campground earlier... Gawd, I bet you could not get away from that lunatic fast enough. I have been exposed to those kinds of losers often enough that I just immediately make it very clear from the beginning that I have no interest in talking to them. I try not to be rude, but I do not let them " USE " me as their place to unload all their personal crap. It seems like you have a real good head on your shoulders, and good balance in life, good for you !!!!

Back to the program, awesome pictures and narration, keep the good stuff coming.

Mike
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