Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 0: Auckland to Kaitaia

Feb. 24th 2014
Distance cycled: 2km
Total distance to date: 2km

After bidding farewell to my more-than-gracious hosts Morgan and Dom in Auckland, I boarded a bus to Kaitaia via Kerikeri. The station was conveniently located only one city block away from their centrally located apartment. My bike was stored securely in the luggage bay for a $10 transport surcharge, with the driver ribbing me a bit for not riding the bike instead of taking the bus. I assured him I would be riding it back down. He said north to south should be all downhill anyway. I found this amusing. Even more amusing was his rundown of our itinerary once we were underway. He gave us an overview of all the stops along the way, how many people were getting off or boarding at each stop and how many were continuing on to other destinations and what those destinations were. It felt very much like the tour guide song that Flight of the Conchords does, with lots of uninteresting/unnecessary information, but also a lot of character. 


My seat mate on the journey was a lovely Kiwi woman who taught me a little bit about Maori culture and language. I found out from her that pipiha is the word the Maori people use describe the geography and landscape features that are part of their ancestral home and symbolize a sense of belonging. She mentioned this after seeing my Mt. Rainier tattoo. I like having a word for this concept! She also walked the Camino some years ago, so we had that to bond over as well. She offered to host me on my way back down the coast. I may just take her up on that, since I'm scheduled to pass through her town at the end of day 2. 

We switched buses in Kerikeri. The bus driver assured us that though we were 15 minutes behind schedule, the other bus would wait for us. He and the other driver would just switch the luggage from the big bus to the minibus and we were to wait on the curb for the minibus to pull up and take us away. Shouldn't take but ten minutes. I took the opportunity to scarf down a PBJ sandwich (no food allowed on the bus) and ran into the public library "for a wee" (as the Kiwis are fond of saying). As I came back out to the street, I saw the minibus had pulled up and the driver was just boarding. I skirted over to the entrance and checked in. Thanks to the last bus driver's ├╝ber-informative updates, I knew that the minibus should have six passengers, all of them transfers from the last service from Auckland. There were 4 onboard, so I knew immediately and with some relief that I was not the last person to board. 

No sooner had I settled into my seat than the minibus rattled to life and started away from the curb. I heard the driver say into his radio: 

"Hey, I'm about to leave Kerikeri. I'm leaving a passenger behind. His bag's probably in the boot but we're 15 minutes behind schedule, so I gotta go."

I couldn't believe it! That poor passenger, left behind after having been reassured by the last driver that we wouldn't be left behind! And then the thought occurred to me - if I had left the library even just a moment later, the driver would have left me behind too, taking his bike and 15 kilos of my gear with him. The nerve! I thought it was quite cheeky, especially given the breakneck way this guy drove so that we arrived ahead of schedule - I might as well have been back in Thailand. He must have been orchestrating a longer break for himself.

By mid-afternoon we'd arrived in Kaitaia, where we were dropped off behind the public library. I loaded up my bike, put the pedals on and took a picture so I could upload the start of my trip to Facebook using the library's free wifi. Then I promptly cycled 2 kilometers to the Main Street Backpackers, where I checked in for the night. Guess I won't be sore from that journey tomorrow!

I'm glad I decided to stay at the backpackers, though. I met a German woman here who is doing the same tip-to-tip trip as I, except that she started in the south headed north and is just wrapping up her trip. She said I'm only the 2nd solo female cyclist she's met in those two months. It was encouraging to talk to her and get some tips. It was also nice to cook a tasty dinner in a fully-equipped kitchen, knowing I'll be eating a lot of camp food cooked on a tuna can stove in the next few days.

Part of me did want to cycle up to Cape Reinga today, though - a 113km journey from Kaitaia. But Mike, the guy who runs the backpackers, said he could arrange a lift for me for $30, quite a good deal. Plus, the other part of me wants to officially start my cycle tour at the northernmost point in New Zealand - at the lighthouse at Cape Reinga. So tomorrow morning, a local guy named Ollie will pick me up at 8:30am and take me for a 2 hour drive up the peninsula. I will immediately turn around and bike right down Ninety Mile Beach. It's really only sixty-some miles but OMG! Beach biking!!! So cool! And flat! With swimming breaks, if I want!! At the end of the day, I'll be in Ahipura, which is only 14km from where I am now... OK, so it's kinda silly, but hey! It's a cycling adventure. 

Sorry for the lack of pictures. There will be plenty more in the next posts, I reckon. Rest assured that the bus ride through the Bay of Islands was beautiful and idyllic, with lots of sheepy farmland, tranquil coves, pretty beaches and lots of sunshine on this 23C/75C day. So far, I like Northland!

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