Tour Aotearoa Day 5 – Auckland to Paeroa – A Social Day’s Riding

Motivation isn’t always easy to find, and today I had to dig deep. Yesterday’s adventures (and misadventures) had taken a lot out of me, but my challenging 24-day schedule demands a relentless pace. I can’t afford a rest day if I hope to see the whole of New Zealand. My first priority this morning was fixing my bike, which is surprisingly battered after only five days, and then I’d have 108 kilometres to cover to Paeroa today.

Don and Joyce, my kind trail angels, arranged to help me fix my tyre, taking me to the Specialised owned, Mount Eden Cycle Shop, where I was again greeted with an above-and-beyond level of service. The staff dropped what they’d been working on, to make a quick start on my bike. They fixed the tyre which had been slashed by a razor blade during yesterday’s dramatic arrival into Auckland, and returned it to a tubeless setup. They also noticed my cassette wasn’t working as it should due to a missing spacer so they replaced the cassette and chain. Within an hour, by 09:00, my bike was like new, and I was ready to roll.

Don cycled out with me during the morning, escorting me from Auckland along the network of safe cycleways which make cycling more pleasant in this city of nearly 1.5 million people. He turned back home after a little distance, and I couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude, for his kindness, and that of his wife, Joyce, which has been as unbelievable as it was unexpectable.

I wasn’t alone for long, because another friend, John who lives in Hamilton, had offered to come and ride with me for the day. We met in Clevedon and it was great fun to catch up with an old friend. He’d come with a gift for me, a Spot Tracker Gen 4, which will allow me to make emergency contact with him on some of the more remote and mountainous sections that lie ahead.

A pretty coastal road led us down the Firth of Thames – a name which made me feel much closer to home than I am. This is one of New Zealand’s most important habitats for coastal birds, and the wetland environment includes mangrove forests, mudflats, salt marshes and shell banks. The shoreline was alive with birds, up to 74 species apparently, many of which have migrated from the cold winter of the Northern Hemisphere – I suppose that’s a little bit like me!

The day was made more challenging by the heat. The sun beat down on us in heavy waves and reflected up from the road. The limited shade seemed to shrink around us and I couldn’t drink enough. Thankfully, a northerly tailwind blew in our favour, pushing us like a gentle hand on our backs and we arrived at Paeroa at 19:30.

Today’s sociable day continued as I enjoyed supper with members from an active cycling community group whom I’d met online from their Facebook group. It’s remarkable because I didn’t know these people a few weeks ago, but I’m making new friends every day. We eat a delicious dinner in a restaurant decorated with Buddha heads, while a group of barefoot Maoris roll joints outside. A bike is a great way to learn lots about this complex, multi-layered New Zealand.

I rolled my bike directly into the motel room, and leant it against the bed, quickly falling asleep beside it. An early alarm was set, I’m hoping for a 06:00 departure and a big distance tomorrow.