Cycling New Zealand Part 9: The Thermal Wonderland

Arriving to Hobbiton!

Arriving to Hobbiton!

Cycling New Zealand Part 9: The Thermal Wonderland

Country: New Zealand

From Taupo to Auckland

Lesson learned: Thermal waters aren’t friends to silver rings

Laughed about: Hobbit-Sushi

Most wonderful miracle: Hot Springs

Greatest challenge: Finding Last Minute Flights

Days on the bike: 4

Kilometers cycled: 228.84

Average Kilometers per day: 57.21

Total Kilometers cycled till Wellington: 19,043

Last days of Cycling in NZ

Last days of Cycling in NZ

Cycling New Zealand Part 9: The final part from Taupo to Auckland

We enjoyed Taupo so much, that we went back to town by the next morning, to have our breakfast near the lakeside. It was a grey and drizzly day and after a few rounds through town we biked along the Highway to the “Craters of the Moon” near the Mountain Bike Park, where we saw plenty of smoky volcanic craters.

The Hot Earth Beneath Us

The Hot Earth Beneath Us

Danger!

Danger Too Hot!

In Between the Steam

In Between the Steam

Roberto in the Craters of the Moon

Roberto in the Craters of the Moon

Hot Path Way

Hot Path Way

What we thought to be a nice short track, turned out to be several long detours, until we finally returned to the Thermal Explorer Highway. Well at least there was a honey shop along the way where we grabbed a few testers.

Putting ourselves in the honey bees' shoes.

Putting ourselves in the honey bees’ shoes.

Somehow we had spent most of the day finding the way, and when we reached a small rest area, it was already so late that we pitched our tent after only 35 kilometers. Daylight didn’t last long in May and sun set at 5.30pm. The cool thing about those long night was, that we were wide awake and ready to continue just before sunrise.

Good Morning Sunshine

Good Morning Sunshine

Boiling Hot Mud

Boiling Hot Mud

We biked up and down the hills and didn’t care too much for the drizzle anymore. In Taiotapu there was a park that was announced as Thermal Wonderland. But the entry fee was too pricey for us. Instead we parked our bikes next to a bridge, put our swimsuits on and walked down into the water. This was the place, where a cold river met a hot river and depending on how far left or right we went, we could choose our own comfort temperature.

Hot Bath in Natural Thermal Pool

Hot Bath in Natural Thermal Pool

Hot and Cold Thermal River between Taupo and Rotorua near Taiotapu Thermal Wonderland

This one is the hot river. In the background it meets the cold one. Right in between there’s a perfect temperature!

Parking by the Thermal Pool

Parking by the Thermal Pool

In here we couldn’t care less for drizzle or rain. When our silver rings first turned golden, then purple and in the end blue, and our fingers and toes went all wrinkled, we decided that it was probably time to move on.

We took the long road back to the highway and passed a large thermal mud pool, that bubbled constantly.

Cheap way to turn Silver into Gold

Cheap way to turn Silver into Gold

Sign in 4 languages that reminds people to drive n the left side

A clear sign that there’s many foreign tourists here

Bubbling thermal mud pool

Bubbling thermal mud pool

After Taiotapu we decided to follow the Te Ara Ahi bike path, also known as “Thermal by Bike”. It led us up and down some steep hills through quiet countryside roads and past sheep fields, until it continued parallel to the highway. From now on it was a long and constant downhill into Rotorua. The Te Ara Ahi took us through an easy part of the famous Rotorua Mountain Bike Park. While we worked hard getting our heavy bikes through the “easy” mountain bike hills, the shower turned into a heavy rain.

Te Ara Ahi - Thermal by Bike

Te Ara Ahi – Thermal by Bike

We were wet and hungry so we stopped for a sandwich, soaking as we were. Then we started searching for the hostel that we carried vouchers for. Roberto had called them the previous evening, trying to make a reservation, but the girl on the phone said there was no need to reserve anything, there were plenty of cheap dorm beds.

Cycling the Te Ara Ahi Thermal By bike from Taiopatu to Rotorua

Cycling the Te Ara Ahi

When we arrived, the receptionist was the same girl from the phone, but she didn’t remember the phone call at all. She was very disinterested and didn’t even bother faking any memory of the call. The beds in the cheap dorm were all booked after all. So we decided to spend the first night in a double room. But the prices weren’t the same as the ones she had promised on the phone. “It’s weekend”, she announced, not even bothering to look up. There were some more people making a line behind us and we felt that she wanted to get rid of us “difficult” people, to attend the others. We had to hurry.

Autumn Leafs

Autumn Leaves

Never mind, let’s take any bed for tonight, tomorrow we’ll see.

When checking in, she refused unwaveringly to accept the first-beer-free-vouchers, that we had brought (“Nah, we don’t use those anymore, they should have told you that”), we decided that this was enough, grabbed our bikes and went right back into the rain. But luck was on our side. Just around the corner we found the Planet Backpackers.

A Road for our Own

A Road for our Own

My Sumo Man

Roberto’s Sumo Man

A little Rest

A little Rest

This place was a mix of hostel and long-term accommodation, mostly for international students, but also for interns, visitors and working-holiday people. We were welcomed in the friendliest manner. We asked for the price of double-room and dorm bed. There was no double room, but so many dorm beds, that we could have an entire dorm room for ourselves. Awesome – more space to hang wet clothes!

Planet Hostel

Planet Backpackers

There was neither a spa pool, nor free rice and pasta, nor pancake-Sundays, but we felt so very well taken care for that we didn’t mind a bit. The kitchen was full with people, food and pots. There were students from all parts of this planet and the air smelled like curry, peanut sauce, pasta, mashed potatoes and all kinds of spices of a lot of dishes I had never seen or smelled before.

Blue Pools in Rotorua

Blue Pools in Rotorua

Christmas tree made out of bicycles

Merry Christmas?

Rainy day in Rotorua? Time for one of the many hot pools. The Blue Baths is the cheapest, but just as hot as any of the luxury spa pools in town.

Rainy day in Rotorua? Time for one of the many hot pools. The Blue Baths is the cheapest, but just as hot as any of the luxury spa pools in town.

Despite the even heavier rain, we went for a walk to meet Mark and King, who had arrived just one day earlier. Believe it or not, but weather got even worse by the following day. It rained heavily and didn’t ever stop. We spent the afternoon relaxing one last time in the thermal blue pools. It would be a long time till we’d see natural hot pools again.

And Yet Another Hot Pool

And Yet Another Hot Pool

Maori Art Work

Maori Art Work

The day of departure was – who would have thought – sunny. We followed a nice and quiet bike path for the first 10 kilometers, before we climbed another 10 on the highway. Up there it was grey, windy and cool, but it stayed dry. We were surrounded by farmland, hills, grass, sheep, cows, horses and tractors.

Munch Time

Munch Time

We stopped in the first pub of the first village. Roberto wanted a quick beer, I just wanted to use the bathroom. The owner was very unfriendly and would only allow me to use her toilet, if I also purchased something. A nice man, who had entered the pub at the same time, mentioned that he wasn’t quite sure about how legal it was to refuse somebody the use of a toilet.

NO WATER FOR YOU!

No toilets for people in urge!

Now the lady’s face turned angry red and she yelled at the nice man. Roberto’s mood for a beer had long been gone, when we left the pub, thanked the man, and cycled another 13 kilometers to Matamata, where I used the public toilet.

The Tourist Information Centre in Matamata is a hobbit home

The Tourist Information Centre in Matamata is a hobbit home

Matamata Tourist Information Center

The town of Matamata was situated so close to the movie set of Hobbiton, that Hobbits were the town’s main attraction. There was Hobbit-sushi being sold, the tourist information center looked like a Hobbit-home, and there was a Gandalf-shaped seat with a Gandalf-style walking stick to sit down and take pictures.

You Shall Not Sad!

You Shall Not Sad!

After a brief visit to the center, we cycled straight to Denise’s house. Denise was a friend of Nick, who we had known online before we met him on the South Island. She started reading our website and Facebook and one day offered that if we ever happened to be around Matamata, we could stay at her place. Dear readers, as you can see, you should only invite us, if you really mean it, because as you can see, we might really show up at your place someday.

Our Iron Lady Denis and her sister

Our Iron Lady Denise and her sister Viv

Denise was a very tough power woman. Every year she ran marathons, swam races and cycled all the way around Lake Taupo. Back in 2010 she signed herself up for an ironman race. She trained very hard, and successfully finished the race one year later. We were absolutely impressed.

Denise’s sister Viv had come for a visit. She was a traveler as well and likes to join races abroad. Her favorites were a Marathon in France, where all participants had to dress up as animals, as well as a forest run in Slovenia.

Denise prepared a delicious Lasagna, a roasted vegetable-salad, steamed broccoli, delicious apple crumble and a raw chocolate cake. We went to bed very happy and very full.

Denis Husband

Stephen

The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady

Arriving to Ken Farm

Arriving to Kevin´s Farm

Viv had offered us to spend the following night at her husband Kevin’s place just outside Hamilton. It was a sunny Sunday and Denise and her husband Stephen decided to join us on their road bikes. It was our last day of cycling New Zealand and I really enjoyed the endless up and down through the fields.

Kevin lived on a farm with two miniature horses, 27 cows, some chicken and three cats. We petted the horses, watered the chicken and enjoyed the calm life so close to town. Denise and Stephen biked all the way back home in the afternoon. They were able to ride on about double our speed.

Annika wants a horse

Annika wants a horse

By the following morning, Kev gave us a ride to Hamilton bus station, where we took the bus into Manukau in the South of Auckland. We really didn’t want to ride into town through the traffic. It was barely 9am when we reached our destination, so we had breakfast and chilled in a park in the neighbouring neighbourhood of Manurewa. I could not understand, why the south of Auckland was called a “rough neighbourhood”. There were many Kiwis with migratory background from the South Pacific, India and China, as well as many Maoris. That meant that food and culture were incredibly diverse! A Tongan hair saloon, a Chinese takeaway, a halal butcher, an Indian pastry shop. And the prices were the best we had ever seen in New Zealand. I didn’t feel unsafe for a moment, not even when we biked through the streets at night one day later.

Picture Portrait

Picture Portrait

The Farm

The Farm

We stayed in Manurewa with Fabi, a friend of Roberto’s cousin Sussy. Fabi’s sister Astrid had moved to New Zealand some years ago, where she got married to a Kiwi with Austrian migratory background. Fabi joined them soon, and now the three of them lived in a big and beautiful house. We cooked a lot and had great talks.

The following day was cold and very rainy, but Roberto had promised his former colleagues and bosses from World Vision Auckland, to come for a visit. We put the bikes into the commuter train, had a chat with everybody and then biked on towards the center, where despite the rain we wanted to do plenty of touristy things. Instead we stopped at a flight center, where we added bags to our flight tickets, so that we wouldn’t have to use our credit card.

World Vision Colleagues Rule!

World Vision Colleagues Rule!

And just to be on the safe side I decided to ask if they thought that we needed any return tickets. Thing is, that entering the United States the border officer might ask for return tickets. But as we didn’t plan to fly anywhere, but leave the USA by bike, we didn’t see the point in buying flight tickets that we were never going to use.

What they told us, was that Air New Zealand might not even let us board if we couldn’t show them our tickets. Because if we were to be denied the entry, they would have to pay for our flight back, plus a fine.

David signing our panniers

David signing our panniers

So now they were rather making us make up stories and tell lies? We spent more than an hour in the Flight Center’s offices, where two of the new employees were happy to have found “a cool new challenge”: finding cheap fully refundable tickets from somewhere in the USA to somewhere outside of North America. In the meantime, Roberto called Air New Zealand and explained our situation. Again we were told that it didn’t matter. We would not be allowed to board if we weren’t able to present our return tickets.

The cheapest tickets, the girls found cost hefty $800 each. Non-refundable. Our mood was terrible. The rain didn’t help. We thanked them for their work, but decided to have a look ourselves. Later in the day we met Roberto’s former colleague Rebekah and her friend Sayaka for some pancakes. They were young and full of energy and boosted our dark mood right up again. Everything was going to be alright somehow.

Annika, Rebekah and Me

Annika, Rebekah and Roberto

By the following morning, Roberto had just been online for half an hour, I heard a yell. “Look at this!” It was €500 flights, refundable except for a €60 fee. We bought them in an instant. Afterwards we took the bus to the Manukau shopping center, where we bought ingredients for dinner, and had a last visit at Burgerfuel, where we ate the second best burgers and the very best Kumara fries in the country (number one is in Queenstown and this is what we undertook in order to get them). Then we asked in a bike shop for bike boxes. We got the only ones that were half way intact. The bus drivers were rather surprised when we asked to enter the bus with all those bags and the huge boxes. But while I believe that in any other country they would have gotten angry or maybe even refused us to enter, here one driver showed us to an easy place to get in and out, and the other even helped bring in the second box. We were seriously impressed.

Moment of blue sky in Auckland City

Moment of blue sky in Auckland City

We have fallen in love so much with New Zealand, we could not believe that we were going to leave it now! And I wasn’t even half way through my New Zealand bucket list (follows below)! Well, reason enough to come back some day. And I believe there are worse places to fly to, than the warm and sunny Pacific Island of O’ahu, Hawai’i!

Yet, New Zealand, you haven’t seen the last of us!

To-do list New Zealand:

Shear a sheep

See a live kiwi

Walk the crater of a volcano ✓

Swim in the sea ✓

Swim and the sea and not be cold

Ski in the Southern Alps ✓

See an Aurora Australis

Bath in thermal waters ✓

Eat one more Ferg Burger ✓

And anotherone

Eat one more Burgerfuel Burger with Kumara Fries ✓

Eat once more Fish n Chips ✓

Eat Bluff oysters✓

Eat Hangi✓

Eat Whitebait ✓

Celebrate Christmas or New Years on the beach

Learn surfing

Learn Fishing

Learn Maori

See the Milky Way ✓

 

 

2113 Total Views 4 Views Today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*