Tour Aotearoa Day 4 – From Dargaville to Auckland – Across the Kaipara Harbour

Today’s crossing of the Kaipara Harbour has been a logistical headache since I first started planning my Tour Aotearoa adventure. Rather than veering east around a vast coastal inlet of watery fingers stretching up the estuaries and rivers, I wanted to ride down the quieter, more picturesque Pouto Peninsula. If all went to plan, I’d be in Auckland by 8pm tonight.

I left Dargaville at 07:00, rolling down the Pouto Peninsula, glimpsing the Wairoa River, which separates it from the mainland, on my left. My sights were set on the little village of Pouto Point at the end, from where I was led to believe a ferry was waiting for me at 14.30. I had plenty of time to cover the 69 kilometres, all but 15 kilometres of which are on paved road, so I kept a slow, low-intensity pace to allow my body to recover. Now on day four, I’m noticing a slight fatigue in my legs that wasn’t there before. I reached Pouto Point with plenty of time to spare. My guidebook describes it as a ‘timeless Kiwi town, where visitors often stay longer than originally planned.’ I’ll admit I was tempted by the scenic location and tempting waters of the bay, but I was lucky to have a space on a ferry, and Auckland was calling me.

The ferry is such a challenge because it doesn’t run according to a schedule. It was too expensive for me to charter the whole boat on my own, but I was fortunate to bump into five cyclists who had booked it, and beg a position on board, in return for a contribution. It turned out not to be the large ferry I had imagined, but a instead, small fishing boat, a tiny red speck against the brilliant, glittering blue waters of the Tasman Sea. I wasn’t the only one to negotiate a spot on the boat, as there were nearly 15 other cyclists taking advantage of this rare opportunity.

We rolled our bikes down onto the sand, leaving a sandy trail of tyre prints that stretched up the beach and would lead back to Cape Reinga. I joined the group of cyclists, who in normal life were ultrarunners, ironmen, doctors, and accountants, but here were just adventurous cyclists exploring New Zealand. Everyone’s on their own journey; some were finishing in Auckland, some were doing the entire north island, and I was one of six hoping to complete the entire Tour Aotearoa.

This trip is often slower and more adventurous than I’d bargained for when I’d planned it, and the fishing boat was no exception. We chugged the 45 kilometres across the harbour to Helensville, navigating the currents of this tidal stretch of estuary, holding our breath as we spotted sand banks perilously close on either side. Fortunately, the skipper was very experienced and used to this challenging crossing, and we made it across without incident by 17:30.

Rolling off the boat, the large group of cyclists disbanded, waving goodbye but certain that our roads will cross again soon. For me, it was 30 kilometres to Auckland, and I hoped to get there for 20:00, because I had friends – new-friends – waiting for me there. On the long-distance hiking routes in America, there’s a phenomenon of ‘trail angels’- people who supply a little trail magic by offering hospitality to those who need it. When I arrived in New Zealand, I’d connected through Facebook with my own wonderful and generous pair trail angels. Don and Joyce had done the Tour Aotearoa last year. They’d found it challenging but been amazed by the hospitality they’d received, and now wanted to pay it forwards. They’d been kind enough to help courier my bike to the start-point of the tour, not accepting any money for it, but making me promise I’d stop with them for the night when I made it to Auckland.

I was making good progress, flying up the hills and ticking off the kilometres, when suddenly, disaster struck, and a razor blade carelessly discarded on the road sliced my tyre. My tubeless setup is great at fixing small punctures but is hopeless for such a large gash. Under high pressure, the tubeless sealant erupted out and the tyre was flat within seconds. I tried to pump it, but it was clear the sealant couldn’t fix it.

I patched the tyre enough that I could put a tube in, and with this setup I limped into Auckland at 22:30. I received a warm welcome by Don and Joyce who offered to help me fix the tyre tomorrow. I sunk into a comfortable bed, utterly exhausted but satisfied after another day of scenic cycling, fishing boat charters, and friendly people. With this bike touring lifestyle, you just never know what’s going to happen next!