Planning a Cycling Route on New Zealand’s North Island
Following up on our decision to alter the Trans-Oceania route to include New Zealand, we recently sent Kiwi and 2015 North American Epic bike mechanic Liam Stroud out on the road to check out the proposed route. Here is his report on the North Island from Auckland to Wellington. Watch for Liam’s follow-up on the South Island from Picton to Queenstown to appear shortly.
This isn’t my first time through Auckland but for some reason it looks different to me this time around. After a few moments pondering the feeling, it occurs to me why. Instead of just passing through, taking a rather cursory glance from the highway on the way to somewhere else, this time I’m going to be digging a bit deeper into the biggest city in New Zealand. Having called New Zealand home for the last 3 years, I’ve been able to ride my bike throughout the country and can only attempt to fully explain the beauty of it’s varied landscapes. You really just need to come here yourself to experience it! Like a chef planning out their restaurant’s menu for the first time, there is a pressure to present the best of the best of this country to the riders that will soon be arriving here on the tail end of the Trans Oceana cycling expedition. So as the maps and notebooks come out, the GPS track begins and the route comes to life day by day, the New Zealand section of the Trans Oceania scout begins.
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and so the first stage of this section does involve a bit of sharing with other vehicles but it’s not long before we leave the metropolis behind and find ourselves cycling into gorgeous countryside toward our first night in Miranda where life is a bit more quiet. The next day’s journey continues with the rural theme as we make our way down towards Paeroa and onwards to Tauranga. Before we get to rest for the night there is a few hills to conquer in the second half of the day, just to make sure the legs still work from all that flying!
Our next goal and first night off occurs in Rotorua. As you cycle into the town, the thought may cross your mind that you really smell like you need a shower. Fear not, this odour is not just your fault but also due to the hydrogen sulphide emissions in the air. There is a reason they call Rotorua the “Sulphur City”! Despite the smell, Rotorua is truly an amazing place thanks to its extensive geothermal activity. Geysers, hot mud pools, hot thermal springs, along with world class mountain biking opportunities (within easy biking distance of town) make it an amazing place to spend a rest day.
Leaving Rotorua, we make use of separate cycle paths and back roads to stay off the highway as we make our way down to Taupo, where we get our first glimpse of Lake Taupo and the volcanoes off in the distance. These volcanoes, Mount Tongariro, Ngaurohoe and Ruapehu serve as our landmarks for the next day as we continue along the shore of Lake Taupo, eventually getting close enough to the volcanoes to see the steam venting out of them! The contrast of these soaring volcanoes off to our left and the sprawling plains to our right make the miles float by all too quickly as we eventually pedal into the small town of Ohakune for the night.
A good night’s rest is essential on this night because the next stage is arguably the most difficult of the NZ section. In contrast to its difficulty, the reward is continued views of volcanoes and of a variety of different landforms that have been created over millions of years of volcanic activity. If you like hills, this stage is perfect for you! Kuripapango is home for the night and then it is onwards to Napier, the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand and a beautiful coastal town with lots to explore. After a rest day, the route then makes its way down the east coast of the country, occasionally heading inland, only to make its way back out to the coast. The route makes a final turn inland as you pass by the place with the longest name in the world – “Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapiki-maungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu”. First rider to be able to pronounce this one probably would be owed a few beers I’d reckon!
As we pass through Masterton, Martinburough and Upper and Lower Hutt, it’s not long before the capital of the country comes into view across the Wellington Harbour. Thankfully for us, Wellington is nowhere as busy as Auckland and it’s an awesome ride alongside the waterfront to our hotel for the night. There is plenty to do in Wellington; mountain biking, hiking and countless tourist attractions including the “beehive” parliament buildings and of course a great waterfront to explore. All of this is bolstered by the sight of the ferries travelling to and from the South Island. It won’t be long until you are out on that ship looking back – saying goodbye to the North Island, and South Island here we come!