New Zealand trip Day Five

[Monday 31st October, 2016]

I’ve been trying to get this done for days, obviously more than a week even but my computer has started down the slow walk to death after various bad treatments over the not so long period that I’ve had it. You know, dropping it on the floor while carrying it in one hand and food in the other (I mean tough choice, which do I save?), accidentally letting it fall off the bed while it was balanced on the edge trying to connect to the wifi while I’m upstairs (the wifi connection keeps getting weaker!), lugging it in a suitcase or carry on luggage or hand bag around the city and the world, letting it fall down the stairs while carrying it one hand stacked with all kinds of things that need to go up or down the stairs; all the way down the stairs! Balancing it on the laundry sink while doing the washing and maybe it slipped in…carrying it in the washing basket maybe getting it a bit damp, tripping over the power cord and tugging it off the couch, it all comes out! Obviously I live a bit too closely with my laptop, but that’s another issue. What have you done to your laptop?! says hubby. Oh nothing, why, it’s fine! But the toll has started taking its grip with a screw falling out, then another screw, then the backing coming off (but you can put it back on!) and finally a loose wire poking out! Oops! I do regret the amount of damage that I do…it’s becomes one long line of sorries! I never mean to do it, I never plan on it, and it always comes as a surprise somehow even though in hindsight obviously it wasn’t the best plan. Am I just clumsy? Hubby thinks more like careless or thoughtless or something. Either, either…well that doesn’t work well as text, but you know what I mean. The point of this gibber gabber? My computer which was never strong on finding wifi connections right in front of its nose has now almost ceased to find them at all! I stick the wifi right under its nose, it’s right there, but it secures the connection without internet, or connect to the internet but so tenuously that as soon as you want to actually USE the internet, it all falls down and drops out! So I’ve been trying on and on to upload a photo for this blog and I can’t! Jolly annoying since all the photos are on my computer only. And of course being away from “home home” I don’t have a USB to transfer the photo to hubby’s laptop. They are still on my camera so by some lengthy process involving cables and memory cards and installing software I’ll figure it out, but now my internet isn’t even sufficient to save this draft. Blah blah blah excuses excuses. On to the actual matter at hand!

Today is the last day of our cycling tour. It has gone really fast!! So far 78 kilometres, oh my. 78 kilometres of beautiful scenery, great food and birds; oh and nice company. Today is going to be our longest day, but plenty of stops so let’s do this! We started from Havelock North at 9.30am with the plan to cycle back to Napier, then onwards to the next part of our holiday. My quads are really stiff today! Maybe due to getting very wet, then very cold then huddling inside getting warm with no stretching yesterday blah blah. So I’m feeling a bit sluggish from that, then the first 3km are a small grinding gradient uphill making my legs feel totally feeble and useless. I hate grinding gradients! Although I am not a fan of hills, I’d rather go up and down sharp hills all day then grind slowly upwards. But after that 3km the rest of the day was lovely and flat so…besides at the end of that short 3km was an absolutely gorgeous winery, Black Barn Vineyard! I mean this was the epitome of a beautiful Tuscan vineyard set on a sloping hill with olive, fig and citrus trees, a private estate for rich people at the top of the hill with ocean views then a stunning winery including outdoor dining under the vines and…gee, am I gushing? It also has a cute boutique food and gift shop. It was so nice! BUT…it was before 10 in the morning so no tastings. It’s just a bit early. Besides, we’re not exactly starving for wine, hey? Next stop: Te Mata cheese factory! Oh yeah, much more interesting; I LOVE cheese! Tastings, tastings, tastings but sadly no purchases; just too difficult to get back to Aus. But seriously: Takina Gold, Camembert, pink and white terraces named after the now-extinct landmark, sheep hard cheese Sleeping Giant, young sheep cheddar, drool, drool, drool! Aahhh, but sadly no. But instead we had a drink and snack and I discovered the amazing New Zealand creation of berry smoothie in a bottle! Delish! Now back on the bike. We could sit here all day but…gotta get back on the flood levee bike paths and follow the Tukituki river out to the coast and check out the lovely wetlands around the mouth of the river. What a lovely ride once again, so pretty and what a fine day today; fine, warm, excellent! Then through the cute little town of Haumoana and along the coast on a gravel track to the stunning Elephant Hill winery for a tasting. It’s another beautiful vineyard and a unique winery with the outer building completely made of copper, designed to look like the ocean; and it really does, sea blue with an infinity pool, very posh eating, all the drinks back lit with blue lighting, and very professional staff. Actually by the time we got there I was a bit in the zone. 3 days of riding, of socialising, of new experiences, new people, new scenery, and I am a bit washed out. Plus its our last day in the north island and I’m not at all sure that I’ve seen enough birds yet. A tasting or two in and I’m over it. Instead I’m going to wander around outside in peace and quiet and solitude and talk to the birds and get some photos until the others are ready.

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Next up is lunch at the Te Awanga winery up the road (literally, like 300 metres) and a tasting at the table there. Much better than standing around tasting. Another beautiful lunch and a lovely lady who brought us tastings with sea views and a gorgeous cottage garden. Actually I’m over tastings, well not the white ones but reds have gotten on my wick, I never liked red much to begin with but tried them anyway and a couple were alright in that they weren’t very red-like, but I’m done with them now, unless its a sticky dessert type thingamebob. It’s odd, with the last tour I didn’t get sick of tasting over the 5 days, but here after 2 days I’m done. Well after filling our faces, off back to Napier. After some issues with wind, it’s meant to be a tail wind all the way home! YIPPEE! And what do you know? A lot of the way home is along a wetland between the shore and the levee, YAY for me! Birds and more birds! So 47km done today bringing our grand total to 126km with the group, and another few kilometres around town. Unfortunately my grand plan of doing the 1 hour walk around the boardwalk on the estuary in town didn’t really eventuate. I mean let’s be realistic: 47km today, 134km all up and I thought I was going to do a walk? With no way to actually get there once the bike was returned? No, no. A shower, a spa to repair my legs and wait for it, the best is yet to come! Dinner at the Mission winery! Exceptional 3 course meal! Truly amazing! Crayfish bisque; superb! Absolutely divine pork belly, which nearly everyone at the table chose. And vanilla and peach schnapps creme brulee with the most amazing super thinly sliced pink lady apple flash frozen and super sweet! Fantastic! Definitely a recommendation. No sad goodbyes, just glad that we got to do the tour and on to the rest of all our holidays.

New Zealand trip Day Four

(Sunday 30th October, 2016)

Well I’m trying to catch up on this blog bit by bit, sorry for the delays. I’m sitting in Wellington airport with brilliant wifi on Tuesday 1st November so let’s go! Okay well it’s 3rd November, but let’s get this done.

We had a really nice room at the Colonial Lodge Motel for last (Saturday 29th October) night. A lovely place with well kept gardens of roses and friendly staff. Breakfast was room service continental but if you wanted a hot breakfast you just paid the difference. It’s quite nice really, having breakfast brought to you! So eggs in bed 🙂 We planned to get going at 9.30am and today we were ready in time, not 10 minutes late like yesterday! Getting packed up everyday isn’t the most fun but its all to a good purpose. After riding for 10 minutes yesterday with rain falling on and running off my bare arms, the lovely tour guide Jenny brought me paniers for my bike so I could stow my vest and jacket for possible future use; just as well, cos we got caught in rain again! My jacket isn’t waterproof but at least it takes the worst of the rain so it isn’t landing directly on you. And I can tuck my camera into it. Theoretically. I ended up tucking it back in every few seconds! Turns out my comfort level for exposure of my camera to drizzle is a lot higher than to rain; when it’s “tipping down” as Jenny says, having it half covered isn’t really good enough so I was fidgeting with it for the last couple of kilometres! Should have stowed it in the paniers like hubby said as soon as it started spitting but spitting doesn’t always turn into raining and I’m loving taking pictures of our trip. In another life I think I’ll be a photojournalist. If anyone would actually pay me for it! The other thing Jenny brought me this morning was gloves. I never wear gloves. I dunno why, just never started. Nearly everyone else at Wheel Women wear gloves, but I’ve just got the one pair of fleece gloves in case of freezing weather, and I forget to wear them half the time! On a multi day tour the heels of your hands can get a bit sore from vibrating on the handle grips but I’ve never been bothered enough by it to do anything about it. However yesterday was different. The rain was tipping down, my arms were soaked and water was running off my arms and hands, and I lost my grip on the handle bars! They were proper rubber handles and super grippy to start with, but the water made them as slippery as anything and I was battling to hold on! So lucky that Jenny had some in lost property! And that she’s such a generous soul. So I was better prepared today, and off we go. It’s nice to just ride out from where we’re staying, and not need to be bused about.

Today was only 4km longer than yesterday, we ended up doing 41km compared to 37km but it felt longer and more difficult! For starters I was a bit stiff and sore today from yesterday. I’m wishing I stuck to that training plan now, and that riding 40kms was a bit more of a routine thing. Anyway, let bygones etc. Most of the difficulty was due to the windy conditions that we were battling through but also to the fact that we rode almost the whole distance before stopping for anything. Yesterday we had several stops: the old bridge, the estuary, Mission estate, Church Road winery etc, every few kilometres. Today we stopped for coffee after 17km, and that was only at a coffee cart, then we rode through to lunch, the full distance done. It was a bit tough ploughing through the wind but still lovely and sunny in the morning. Up on that elevated bank, originally a flood levee, and you’re just so exposed. So we were glad to get off it onto flat roads through the orchards and vineyards and heritage listed avenue of trees around Havelock North. Except that no sooner had we gotten into that bumpy patchy path than the it started spitting! But spitting doesn’t always turn to raining right? Wrong. Argh. The last couple of kilometres were going to be tough anyway for me especially with a cross wind but now rain is pelting down and unlike yesterday, it isn’t warm! It snowed overnight!! Within sight of where we stayed! You could definitely feel the chill so I’d been wearing my jacket all day, me, and now cold rain and wind to make it colder! Not a lot of fun. We’d had a shower earlier too, apparently there was hail in it but I didn’t notice. That was kind of fascinating because it was clearly a front. It came from behind, gave us a short sharp blast then with a swirl of wind it had passed through, over and done with in seconds. Not this rain, it was settling in to go all day! Thankfully we got to the winery for lunch and didn’t have to contemplate getting back on our bikes again that day! I don’t think we could have!

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So we’re at the winery. 1.30pm on a Sunday and we come in like drenched rats! Everyone else is dressed up and out for lunch and we’re in wet runners and sports clothes! Well I’m in my cleats actually cos I’m so used to them now, even if I’m not used to the pedals on my hire bike; so far no mishaps! Even those with waterproof coats had wet hair from the helmet vents, and some had wet necks and backs, and all had wet pants. Not really fun. My hair was satched so I thought I’d use my neck scarf to cover it, but it was wet. Sitting down was kind of cold. I did change out of my wet jacket and scarf and into my dry vest but it wasn’t really cutting it so we asked the maitre d to turn on the heaters. Apparently my lips were purple! Those who know me or read this blog will know that I’m almost never cold, and certainly not this cold! But wet cold is very different to dry cold. We had an AMAZING lunch! THE best lamb I’ve ever had, just ahead of my grandma’s. 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder with a subtle glaze that just fell off the bone it was served on! We all absolutely LOVED the lamb and I think most of us are going home to try to replicate it. We also had a lovely antipasto platter of prosciutto, mustard, pickled veg, terrine, a couple of salami types and a gorgeous fresh salad which gave new meaning to green salad by being literally all green! Uber finely sliced cabbage, fennel, mint with barely any dressing if any and such a fresh taste. A yummy fish dish with calamari, tasty dressing, so kinds of tasty its and bits and some kind of black pappadum.

Not so many photos today, I was too busy turning one leg over the other and battling with myself, the wind and then the rain! It was beautiful scenery again, and lots to remember, just not so much recorded. Is that okay? Probably its all I could physically manage at the time, but I do love having my photos to remind me as my memories rapidly fade!! “Home” to Havelock North to crank up the heater and warm up and dry out our clothes for packing. It’s free night tonight, no group activity, so we head to the recommended Mamasita Mexican and love it! Delicious tacos and Mexican drinks, ahh ready for bed!