Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day 15: Ngongotaha to Lake Ohaopu

March 12th 2014
Distance cycled: 37 km
Total distance to date: 818 km

Today I left Dez and Sjors' place around 10:30. It was hard to get out of bed after staying up late and drinking a few beers the night before. I'm not used to that rhythm anymore! The boys had gone to bed after me and were up and out the door by 7 for work. Shows you what an old fogie I've become. 

For breakfast, I toasted my new favorite bread product: crumpets. Seriously, these things are so delicious. But only when toasted. I hadn't had access to a toaster for a while, so to be in a kitchen with a toaster made it possible for me to finally eat the crumpets I'd been holding on to for a few days. I could have asked random people if I might come over to toast my crumpets, but that sounds like a euphimism that I'd rather not invite. 

I got into town, had a coffee, then decided it was time for lunch. I had only cycled 6km and just had 4 crumpets for breakfast but I was hungry again. Plus the day before in the depths of the woods, I'd had visions of hamburgers, specifically McDonald's burgers. I'd even invented a slogan for myself: "Give me burgers and fries, or somebody dies." Luckily no one had to die. But I did somewhat shamefully go to Mickey D's for lunch. It wasn't as good as it had been in my daydreams. But they did have ice cream cones for 60 cents. 

Outside of the McDonald's, I met another local cyclist named Dave. He was 48, unemployed, alcoholic, and unabashedly racist. So naturally he wanted to hang out with me, because I tend to attract crazy people. He knew I was looking for the path out of town, so he offered to take me there. Then he said all sorts of weird things about the Maori not really being indigenous since they'd only been there 900 years and women being psycho (did he not know I was a woman?) and all kinds of out-there stuff. Thanks, Crazy Dave! I was glad when he left and I was on my own again. 

The path out of town went past lots of cool geothermal spots. 

I kind of like the smell of sulphur, which is good because Rotorua positively reeks of it. I wanted to do a mud bath too but they were expensive and dead opposite of the direction I was heading. 

I got to the turnoff for the Te Ara Ahi trail,
or at least what I thought was the turnoff. Apparently this section was only for mountain bikes. I should have guessed when I saw a pack of them exiting out of the steep entryway that I was about to go down. I asked one of the mountain bikers if the trail was OK for a fully loaded bike. 

He thought for a sec and then responded: "Yeah, it'll be a little bumpy."

I got about a kilometer in before I realized this wasn't the right way. I stopped for a snack and sat by the river for a while, and read my guidebook, which confirmed I had been going the wrong way. Then I turned back and went to the trailhead. The road I was supposed to be cycling on is in the background in this picture, which was taken after I returned to the trailhead:

Once I was back on track, I had a long cycle along a path that followed the highway. Not exactly communing with nature but at least there was a big expanse of grass between me and the logging trucks. It branched off from the highway and back again. After about 25km of this, I came to a volcanic visitor center that was closed and completely deserted. I really gotta get my day started earlier! It must have been about 6pm. 

Just down the hill from the visitor center was Lake Ohaopu. I stopped to rest and realized I was hungry. I ate a ton of food and considered whether I wanted to stay the night here or move on. It was a nice spot but a sign was posted that said "No Tents". But lots of campervans and at least one tent were set up. 

I decided to stay. I quickly made friends with an adjacent camper, Eamonn from Cork, Ireland, who had a passion for philosophy and religion. So we talked mostly about those topics and shared some tea together. The Swiss girls with the tent played some guitar and sang nearby, and the whole atmosphere was very relaxed and peaceful. I slept very soundly that night.  


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