|Our alarm goes off 7am we snooze it till half past then we are breakfasted and ready to roll by 9am a minor miracle for us. We carry on down this lovely stretch of coast road it hugs the shore line but the views are obscured by thick trees, on the back I get tantalising glimpses every now and then. We pause in Torere to view the magnificently Marae carved gateway to the school then resume our journey to Opotiki, this is our first major town since Gisborne and the first chance to check emails for a while so we frantically catch up. We have our first couchsurfing opportunity (check out couchsurfing.org for details) in Whakatane with Gaylene and Kyrill who have responsed to our request to stay.
We first found out about couchsurfing from Daniel who we met in Mongolia and he raved about it, since then we haven’t had much chance to try it out being new to it and having the language barriers so we were determined to try in NZ. We aim to arrive around 6pm so I plot a meandering route out via Ohope and along the spit. Meanwhile we stock up in town and have lunch. The route I have chosen is an easy but pleasant ride and we arrive in the scenic reserve on the Ohope spit. It has been a scorcher of a day and the water looks inviting. We are a bit hesitant until a local Maori family jumps in so we don our togs and do the same. At first it seems cold but once in it is lovely and being round the bay it is very sheltered and calm. We swim for an hour or so and relax in the sun before heading on to Gaylene and Kyrill.
They greet us like long lost friends and make us feel so welcome. We have quiche and salad for tea sat in the garden in the sun.
In the morning we attempt to work out a rough plan for the next few days and find via one of our contacts that there is a classic bike race meeting in Pukekohe at the weekend and with a bit of jiggling we can attend that and then go round the coromandel penisular the other way. Route and accomodation sorted we turn to enjoying today.
Kyrill kindly drives us to town so we can do a beach front and bush walk they suggested. We take sarnies with us the walk is fabulous going up to the top of the penisular and walking along the ridge so we can see vews all across the bay and down into town. It is a lovely sunny day and we can see for miles so we soak up the amazing views whilst having lunch. Having met back up with Kyrill at the bottom in town we treat ourselves to an ice cream before heading home. Gaylene wonders if we would be interested in going to an observatory tonight as they know the man who runs it we jump at the chance I know some of our stars in the northern hemisphere but the southern ones are all a mystery. Again Kyrill is a star himself and drives us around town first explaining all the history as he goes, he has a flair for storytelling and is a mine of information so it is a hughly enjoyable experience. We meet Keith at the quaint observatory on the hill. It is similar to a double garage and he has opened it specially for us once inside he unchains the roof and winds it back on rollers operated by a hand winch. The telescope dominates the room and Keith explains he used to come as a youngster and it wasn’t until quite recently they found out it’s full potential. He is passionate about his hobby and we are priviledged to experience his knowledge of the night sky. We see deep into Beetlejuice (part of the constellation Orion) which is the only constellation we recognise here except it is upside down !, at home the tip of his sword is below the three stars of his belt here it is above. Keith also showed us the constellations of Libra and Scorpio and we looked deep into stars systems that were light years away. It truely is mind boggling how much is out there, we looked at severals ‘stars’ which to the naked eye are just one star only to discover through the telescope that they are in fact thousands of stars The hours pass quickly and we are in complete fasination of this new unfurling world, we could stay for hours but people have work to go to tomorrow and its getting late.. Thanking Keith for this new understanding we walk away contented.
This morning the news is full of Australia’s floods it is hard to comprend the enormity of the scale covering an area of Germany and France combinedl.
We pack up and Kev writes an article for the local paper we have a Horizons Unlimited contact to stay with tonight Michael who spent 10 years travelling on his own with his trusty XS750. He actually did it in several stints he had a job which was very seasonal so he would work for 3months and travel for 9 months leaving his bike behind or shipping it to another continent while he flew home to earn some more money. It sounded like a great way to do it. He got so used to no electrity on his travels that he still lives without mains electic now. His house is interesting to get to and involves crossing a river via a bridge and a ford and climbing a hill on gravel. He says the river can be fickle and they sometimes have to use the tractor to cross it, they are cut off for a few days most years. In the morning we take a look around Katikati before leaving, it is famous as a Mural town and many buildings are richly decorated. Take a look on Flickr
We are heading for Pukekohe today but we can take a bit of time getting there so we stop a few times on the way one of which is Waihi beach and Bowentown which is a spit across the Katikati harbour looking out to Matakana island. The island straddles the harbour with it’s other side at Tauranga it is a good lunch stop before we resume our journey to Pukekohe. The weather is steadily deteriorating and by the time we stock up in town it is drizzling, we are hoping it will improve as we left good sunshine this morning.