Ben and Christine in NZ

Joined December 2016
  • Day149

    Windy Welly

    May 19, 2017 in New Zealand

    So after nearly five months in New Zealand we finally got round to visiting the capital! We'd visited the ferry terminal already on our trips back and forth from the South Island but thought we should take some time to explore the city. Although there is meant to be some awesome riding in Wellington, the weather was a bit wild and our bodies a bit tired after weeks of riding in Rotorua so we decided to go full tourist mode instead.

    We arrived late Wednesday afternoon after driving down from Napier. It's been a while since we've spent some time in a real city. Our stay coincided with the comedy festival so we headed out for dinner and a show.

    We found a real gem in the city centre, Little Penang, a fabulous little Malaysian restaurant. Spicy noodles, Malaysian curry and more with generous portions and bargain prices, delicious! After dinner we had time for a wander along the waterfront and a gigantic icecream before watching the oddest, most energetic, and totally messed up comedy show we've ever experienced. Wow the Kiwi humour is something else!

    On Thursday we spent the morning at Te Papa museum, we were both really impressed with the powerful Gallipoli exhibition and learned a lot more about the ANZAC contribution to the Great War.

    Then it was time to experience Wellington's infamous coffee culture. Flat whites and yummy cake at Espressoholic lived up to expectations.

    By lunchtime the rain had eased and blue skies started to emerge so we took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens, great views over the city and a lovely autumnal feeling with all the leaves falling from the trees. We walked slowly through the gardens and down to the parliament and war memorial.

    This morning having discovered that our ferry to the South Island had been delayed, we headed over to Weta Cave, the design workshop responsible for the visual effects in Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Avatar and more.

    Then we had some time to chill in the morning sun at the tranquil Scorcher Bay before heading for our ferry across the Cook Straight.

    A lovely few days exploring the city. We concluded Wellington is a bit of a mix of Edinburgh and Glasgow with something special added in and certainly lives up to its windy reputation!

    Onwards to Nelson.

    Christine
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  • Day143

    Giant 2w Enduro

    May 13, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today we both took part in the Giant 2w Enduro in Whakarewarewa Forest in Rotorua. This was my first ever mountain bike race and Ben's second race in New Zealand. I opted for the much easier 4-stage shuttled race (which included some shuttled assistance to the top of some of the hills), whilst Ben raced the 6-stage non-shuttled category (pedal-powered up the 1700m of climb!)

    After 48 hours of non-stop rain and strong winds we were starting to get a bit worried about race day. However, the Enduro gods heard our prayers and the rain eased off by the morning of race day, although the winds had caused some serious destruction in the forest. Luckily the race organisers had been hard at work overnight clearing the course of fallen trees and debris.

    Having spent a good few weeks riding in Rotorua since Crankworx we have made some awesome riding buddies who were also taking part in the race. Ben and Will were both doing the 6-stage race so set off first for a big day out on the bike. I was racing with Abby, who we met on the Trans NZ, her sister, Ella, and friend, Bianca.

    The race format allowed us to complete the set stages in any order and choose our own transition routes so long as we made it back before the 4 hour and 6 hour cut offs. Luckily we were riding with locals to help us navigate the forest.

    Our group of girls chose to start with 'Eagle v. Shark', the ultimate flow trail with minimum pedalling and jumps galore. However, we had been warned that this trail was known to claim the most victims on previous races. Luckily, none of us fell victim to the Eagle and made it to the bottom in one piece! After battling some pre-race nerves at the top I was happy to have stayed on my bike till the finish line, although I certainly could have attacked the trail a little harder.

    Next on to the stage we had all been dreading, the pedal-fest of 'Hot X Buns' into 'Be Rude Not To', 'Hot X' did have some cool rooty sections but a nasty pinch climb in the middle and a sprint down 'Be Rude Not To' had us all out of breath and cursing the cross-country nature of the stage! I learnt I really need to keep my head up after losing a good few seconds by coming completely off the trail and into the trees.

    'Gonna Gotta' into 'Paddy's Trail' was next, with a fair old amount of climbing snuck in amongst some wetter ruts and corners. This was my best stage, coming out 3rd in my category at the end of the day!

    Finally, the stage I had been most nervous about as I was racing most of it blind, 'Corridor' into 'Soakhole', 'Turkish Delight' and 'Old Exit'. Strong winds made the 'Corridor' jump section a lot wilder than usual, and then it was into the trees and roots, the race organisers added a few more pinch climbs and flat sprints before we entered the rooty drops of 'Old Exit'. Despite the climbing this was a super fun stage, with high 5s and hugs all round when we all reached the bottom!

    All that was left for us girls was to cycle back to the finish line to claim our victory beer and sausage rolls and soak in the hot tub waiting for the boys to finish their race!

    Ben and Will had two extra stages to contend with, stage E, a slick. rooty and wild 'K2' and Stage F, 'Team Line' into 'Tukonohi'. 'Team Line' consisted of a seriously steep, muddy rut, then on to the beautifully tacky flow of 'Tukonohi'.

    Ben and Will had a harder day with nearly 50k, 1700m of climbing, a couple of big crashes and a snapped pedal between them but still came back smiling.

    For me, I was really chuffed to survive, and enjoy, my first race. I even managed a very respectable 6th place in my category, with a cheeky wee 3rd place on one stage. A super fun day on the bike with a wicked bunch of girls. Congrats to Abby who got another podium finish with 3rd place. Maybe this will be the start of my race career... :)

    Now time for some pizza and a rest!

    Christine
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  • Day131

    Late Birthday Celebrations

    May 1, 2017 in New Zealand

    Yesterday our van decided to throw a major strop and left us stranded on the side of the road for the best part of the day, so we decided to delay birthday celebrations till today.

    After being towed to the garage this morning, we scooted off to Skyline Rotorua to have a go on the luge tracks! We spent an awesome few hours racing down the luge, even found some opportunities for some good air time on the advanced track (you don't get hurt in the air 😊).

    Then we thought it was time we sampled some more of Rotorua's geothermal hot spots so we took ourselves off to the Polynesian spa for some relaxation and lake views in the variety of different thermal pools.

    We ended the day by managing to find some wifi to watch the first Downhill World Cup before heading to Rotorua's Eat Street for a yummy Indian feast.

    Christine
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  • Day128

    Coromandel Continued

    April 28, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today we left Port Jackson at the very northerly tip of the peninsula and made our way back down the winding coastal road, with stunning views over the Hauraki Gulf. The Bongo took the gravel roads in her stride and we made it down to Hot Water Beach for the early afternoon low tide.

    Hot Water Beach takes its name from the fact a thermal stream runs out through an interesting rock formation at the central point of the beach, and digging in the sand between here and the sea results in beautiful hot water rushing to the surface. A short job with a spade is all you need to create your very own thermal spa to lounge in for a couple of hours. Just remember to get back out and along to the end of the beach before the tide comes in too far, as it's easy to get stuck and this coast has some nasty rips!

    After relaxing for a while we drove up the coast a short distance to walk down to Cathedral Cove, an incredible natural rock arch carved by the wild seas. We walked along the beach and through the archway as waves rolled in and started to chase us back the way we came. We wandered slowly on the way back, taking a detour down to the neighbouring beach at Stingray Cove as the sun set.

    We finished off the day with takeaway fish and chips back at Hot Water Beach before heading on to Tauranga to stop with friends for the night on our way back to the bright lights of Rotovegas!

    Ben
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  • Day127

    Coromandel Adventure

    April 27, 2017 in New Zealand

    From the moment we got here we were just in awe of the spectacular beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula!

    We drove up the west coast of the peninsula this morning, stopping in Thames and Coromandel Town on the way. From Coromandel town we nipped over the super windy road to the east coast to spend a few hours on the the secluded New Chum beach. We had read that New Chum has been rated as one of the top beaches in the world to visit and we would certainly agree. A 30 minute walk along the coast took us to crystal clear waters, pristine sands and rocky caves. After some swimming and body boarding we headed back to the van to drive up to the northerly tip of the peninsula.

    The views were simply stunning as we drove north past beautiful beaches, coves and cliffs along the gravel road to Fletcher Bay at the end of the road.

    We decided to spend the night at Port Jackson campground near Fletcher Bay where we were treated to a magical sunset over the beach. Pretty perfect night with our own campfire and the some of the most spectacular star gazing we've had so far. We even managed a swim in the surprisingly warm sea in the morning before heading south to Hot Water Beach.

    Very impressed with the Coromandel so far!

    Christine
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  • Day122

    Wine on Waiheke

    April 22, 2017 in New Zealand

    Today we borrowed Nicky and David's bikes and hopped on the passenger ferry from Half Moon Bay over to Waiheke island in the Hauraki Gulf.

    Waiheke is known as the island of wine with about 25 different vineyards situated round the island.

    We started the day off by cycling to Ostend for the Saturday morning market where we got some delicious homemade chorizo sausage rolls and a coffee to fuel our cycle to the first vineyard.

    We set our sights on Te Whau winery for our first stop as we'd been told of the exceptional views from the cliff top location on the Te Whau peninsula, on route we had our first experience of Waiheke's punchy hill climbs, we made it to the tip of the peninsula only to discover the winery was closed for the day and turn around.

    Undeterred we headed back inland, having fun on our borrowed bikes. I had Nicky's lovely Trek road bike which fitted almost perfectly but did lack a suitable gear for those steep hill climbs, standing up and mashing it seemed the best tactic. Ben had David's Marin touring bike, complete with kick stand, which he was having great fun trying to wheelie around.

    After a slight navigational error (the first of many) we reached Batch Winery for our first taste of Waiheke's many wines. Then onto Stonyridge Vineyard before heading over to the Spanish feeling Casita Miro for a delicious tapas lunch, very friendly hosts and some more samples of some of their best wines.

    After lunch we had a longer cycle to the other side of the island past Palm Beach and through Oneroa to the famous Mudbrick winery, we sat outside drinking wine in the afternoon sun admiring the views back across to Auckland before jumping back on the bikes for one final mad sprint across the island to the ferry terminal. We made it!

    Time for a final glass of wine and and an icecream on the ferry back to Half Moon Bay as we watched the sun set over Auckland city and Waiheke island disappear behind us.

    55km, 850m climbing, lots of wine, wheelies and laughter = another fantastic day in this beautiful country!!

    Christine
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  • Day121

    Piha

    April 21, 2017 in New Zealand

    Our final stop from our trip up north and we thought it was time we visited the west coast and those famous black sand beaches so we stopped in at Piha on our way back to Auckland.

    Not quite a day for swimming, with some pretty wild waves and messy currents, we were happy enough to walk along the beach and watch some mad surfers brave the conditions.

    Whilst completely different from the sandy beaches and crystal clear water of the east coast and Pacific Ocean, the west coast was beautiful in a more wild and rugged way. We spent quite a while watching the huge waves rolling in from the Tasman Sea.

    Now back to Auckland for another pit stop before we head to Waiheke island tomorrow.

    Christine
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  • Day118

    Bay of Islands

    April 18, 2017 in New Zealand

    As part of our trip to Northland we spent a few wonderful days in the subtropical Bay of Islands. Even as we come into winter here in New Zealand we were still basking in glorious sunshine.

    First of all we thought we would brush the dust off the bikes and we headed to the birthplace of New Zealand, Waitangi, to check out the tracks at Waitangi Bike Park. Compared to the rest of the biking we've done throughout the country it wasn't much to write home about especially as the clay-like surface had become extremely slick and sticky after the enormous amounts of rain in the past few weeks. After an hour or two of biking we decided to put the bikes away and enter full tourist mode!

    We were keen to get out into those famous crystal-clear turquoise waters so we booked a dolphin spotting cruise around the islands and out to the Hole in the Rock. We picked a fantastic morning with barely a cloud in the sky to explore and islands and to our delight our boat came across a pod of playful dolphins less than an hour into the journey.

    Then we continued our cruise round the bay out to the Hole in the Rock. Unfortunately the water gods were not on our side and the swell was too big for our skipper to take us through the hole, but we did get pretty close before he decided against it.

    Following a relaxing few hours cruising round the bay and learning all about the history of the region, we pulled into Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka island. After a walk up the hill to the viewpoint across the islands we had time for a paddle in the 21°C waters before jumping back on the boat and heading for Russell.

    Russell, one of NZ's earliest settlements, was once nicknamed the 'hellhole of the Pacific' due to the misbehaviours of the passing sailors who frequented the town. It certainly doesn't live up to that name now. We found a beautiful little township with some lovely cafes and restaurants dotted along the shore and great views out into the Bay. After a good wander and a leisurely lunch we headed back across the water to Paihia.

    We hadn't quite had enough of the tropical Bay of Islands' climate quite yet so decided to give stand up paddle boarding a go the next morning. After confidently assuring the rental guy we had paddle boarded before and didn't need a lesson, we were left to find our feet ourselves! Thankfully the boards are a lot more stable than they look and we didn't even fall in! We spent the morning paddling around the islands close to Paihia and even managed a swim in the gloriously warm waters off one of the islands. As usual we were just having too much fun to take any photos so you'll have to take our word for it that we are absolute paddle boarding pros!!

    Then sadly it was time to say goodbye to the Bay of Islands, and what felt like a little holiday within our holiday! Feeling happy and relaxed we headed south again, aiming for the west coast.

    Christine
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  • Day117

    90 Mile Beach

    April 17, 2017 in New Zealand

    Although 90 Mile Beach is technically a public highway and we saw quite a few vehicles zipping up and down, we decided to leave the Bongo in the carpark and take a walk along the beach instead. We were lucky enough to time our visit to catch the sun set over the Tasman Sea and it was spectacular!!

  • Day117

    Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes

    April 17, 2017 in New Zealand

    We've been off the bikes for a few days now and decided we needed a bit of an adrenaline hit so off we went to Te Paki for a spot of sand boarding on the giant sand dunes.

    Climbing the enormous dunes was easier said than done but when we reached the top we got our first sighting of the famous Ninety Mile Beach.

    Surfing down the dunes was fantastic fun, although a little daunting standing at the top of the steepest slopes, it's crazy how fast you can go.

    After a few hours of fun, and caked head-to-toe in sand, we headed off in the van to find Ninety Mile Beach.

    Christine
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