Since Thursday we have been grinding our way up and over the hills between Wairoa and Gisborne and have now picked up the Pacific Coast Highway which will take us all around the East Cape of North Island. We are currently in Anaura Bay, a tiny settlement with a campsite on the beach. Hopefully it looks like we will avoid Cyclone Winstone, although we may end up with some rain over the next few days, so we shall see what happens. Rain would be a relief from the absolutely scorching days we’ve been having here.
Our last post left us in Napier staying with the fabulous John, who had insisted he drive us up SH2 to Wairoa on Wednesday evening. It was an absolutely beautiful road and were it not for the traffic I’m sure it would have brilliant to cycle. However, we got to see, from a car this time, the dreaded logging lorries on the road. They drive like maniacs. We had an empty one in front of us and he would sit on the bumper of any car in front of him until they pulled over and let him past. They take the bends in the road at terrifying speeds and eventually we lost site of him as he pulled away, faster than us in the car. I was super glad that John had offered to drive us up to Wairoa.
From Wairoa on Thursday we had the choice of sticking to SH2, or taking the slightly longer, slightly hillier option via Tiniroto. All the advice we had suggested Tiniroto would be the better (safer) solution. But this left us with the issue of where we might camp on Thursday night. Apparently there was a Gisborne District Freedom Campsite, Donneraille Park about halfway, but all we read suggested that we would need a permit (not an issue) and that we would also need to carry our own chemical toilet. Right. We enquired at the i-site in Wairoa and the lady we spoke to didn’t seem to think we did, was happy to issue us a permit, so we took it and said no more on the matter.
The Tiniroto road was beautiful. It lulled me into a false sense of security over the first 20km which were flat and I forgot the elevation profile Adam had shown me the day before. How hard could this be – we only had 30km to go so how much climbing could there be, really. Well, it turns out there was quite a lot. Over that last 30km we climbed nearly 900m. In blistering heat. Sweat was oozing from every single pore on my body and dripping down my face, providing me with my own drinking fountain. Lovely. We got through about 9 bidons of water, thankful that locals were happy to fill up our bottles whenever we asked, and, of course, at the Tiniroto tavern.
We climbed up the final slog before a very short sharp descent off the road to the campsite, chasing away the cows who would be our neighbours for the evening. The campsite area at Donneraille was stunning. A river to bathe in with a steep cliff opposite (with goats of course!). Another guy who was staying overnight in his van offered us as much water as we wanted from his 20L drum, so after plunging ourselves in the river to cool down, we were all sorted and watched the sun go down. And no-one mentioned anything about needing a chemical toilet (which was especially odd considering there were actual flush toilets on site anyway).
On Friday morning I awoke to the sound of munching and realised there was a cow right outside our tent eating the grass. I tried to wake up Adam to make him go and deal with it, but he just rolled over and I hoped that the cow would avoid our tent and move itself away. It did, and along with all his buddies, they decided to stand on the steep road that we needed to take us out of the campsite. So as we climbed the road we had to hope that us on bikes would be enough to scare/herd them all away. It worked more or less, the cows ran all the way up the road in front of us mooing loudly.
Friday was an easier day with a bit more climbing and then we got to the top of the Gentle Annie hill and had the long gradual descent pretty much all the way to Gisborne. At our campsite, someone came over to us to say that they had seen us on the road and were surprised at how quickly we had turned up at the campsite, which made me feel fast and strong.
We were still suffering with the heat and I decided it would be a good idea, economically speaking, to buy 2.5L of Fanta (I was craving cold, sugary drinks), which was the same price as 600ml. I’m not sure drinking 2.5L of Fanta in one evening was a very good idea though – orange wee! I’m not sure the orange cheese ball crisps helped either.
With the oppressive heat, we decided to set off early this morning (Saturday) to try and avoid some of the hottest parts of the day, and by 9:30 we had picked up food for the day and had covered 10km out of Gisborne along SH35. This meant that by noon we were actually already at Tolaga Bay, which was where we were going to stop for the evening. We knew we had already done all the climbing for the day and that it would be flatter for the next 30-40km, so consulted our maps and decided to keep going to Anaura Bay instead, a further 25km up the coast and down a dead end road.
The dead end road to Anaura Bay ended up going over probably the steepest climb we have yet done. Thankfully the road was empty so we zig-zagged up it, I was swearing (and sweating) on every zig and every zag. We’re going to have to go back up that tomorrow morning. Hmmm. But the campsite is great, on the beach, so we went for a splash in the Pacific Ocean to cool down and put the tent up in the shade of a tree. Some of the other campers have just given us some freshly caught fish that we have had for dinner. And the campsite owners have just come in off their boat and given us some fish they just caught which we can have for breakfast too. Yay.
We’ve probably got a long day tomorrow (113km) up towards Hicks Bay as the only campsite options before then are within 30km, so probably a bit close. And then, if the rain does appear as predicted we can hide up there for a few days.