Thursday, April 19, 2012

Days 66-68: Kerikeri to Cooper's Beach to Pukenui to Cape Reinga!

Monday was "back to work!"  Fun was over and we had to keep focused on what we had to do ;)  We didn't actually leave town until after noon because we went to some newspapers and met with Owen, who is our contact for the Northern Crossing Race that we'll be participating in...Did I blog about that?? Ok, just sort of mentioned a race on Saturday...Well ya!  That's it!  So by the time we made it back and started out on the road, we were a bit behind schedule. 

We made it to Cooper's Beach just before sunset, and we noticed along the way how people were starting to get more and more friendly as we got further and further north!  We had 2 offers for a place to stay on that day, but we turned them down as we were put up by the Taipa Beach Resort for the night!  We were lucky enough to stay in the Suite at the resort, where we were on the beachfront with everything that would be in an apartment, including our own private spa and a king size bed!  THANK YOU SO MUCH to the TAIPA BEACH RESORT for your kindness and generosity, and for letting us recharge our batteries before the end of our trip!

Tuesday we got an earlier start and arrived at our next destination in Pukenui quite early!  So we had time to enjoy the sun.  We were put up once again by a wonderful place called the Deep Water Lodge.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  It was a perfect place to relax and unwind.  We read our books, then went into town, had some dinner, met a friendly man named Michael who invited us to breakfast the next morning, and then headed back home and went to bed early.  It may have been our excitement for the last day, or the amazing sleep we had the night before, but Sheree and I couldn't get to sleep at all that night, so we spent hours chatting and giggling, and divulging lots of stories and secrets to each other, in a game called "Never have I ever..."

At Michael's for Breakfast
Wednesday was the day!  The day we were to make it up to Cape Reinga and call this trip completed!  But first, we decided to keep our promise to Michael and join him for breakfast.  He may have regretted inviting us over, as he eventually found out what crazy girls we are :)  He made us some of his famous dip to take with us for our lunch, but we forgot about it, so he came to drop it off to us at the Deep Water Lodge, and he was in for quite a surprise...

For our last stretch, we decided to dress up!  It's not every day that 2 girls get to complete a trip across a country on a why not get a little bit dressed up for the occasion??  We had found some hula skirts and lei's at the $2 shop in Kerikeri, so naturally we just made some coconut bras to go with it and complete the outfit!  When Michael arrived to bring us our dip, he was a bit shocked to see what we were wearing!  We were lucky enough to leave our bags at the Lodge, so we didn't have to worry about carrying everything up to the end.  So we just had our little backpacks on the back of the bikes and we headed off towards the Cape!  There were quite a few shocked looks and anyone who was not in a car asked us what we were doing... Sheree had stopped and arranged with a Postie to give us a ride back, and when we got to Cape Reinga, he was there waiting for us, and had spread the word a bit, because were greeted there with a round of applause!  The actual ride there was one of the most challenging ones!  Maybe because we wanted to just get there and be finished, but it seemed like it was hill after hill, and they kept getting bigger and steeper!  We were dead tired by the end, and we were amazed that we could still be this tired after biking 2600 kms.  Shouldn't we be in shape by now?!  But nothing mattered when we got to the end.  We were so happy to be finished, and the sight was amazing!  It was a gorgeous sunny day, with the water sparkling from the sun behind it and the lighthouse as the symbol that we were imagining as we dreamt about getting to the end... We walked our bikes down the long walkway as we took in the beautiful scenery and chatted with all the people along the way, as the wondered where we had come from and why we were wearing hula costumes :)  Lots of people even wanted to take our pictures!  So we sat and ate our lunch (Thanks for the dip Michael!) and took some photos and chatted with some people, and they even gave a donation!  And eventually we headed back up the hill, and our postie gave us a ride back to Cooper's Beach...

We were able to relax and feel a great sense of accomplishment as we stayed at the incredible SANCTUARY IN THE COVE for 2 nights of absoute paradise!  Bruce not only put us up in his amazing luxurious cabin, but also made us feel so proud, by treating us like queens and constantly told us how great of of thing it was that we had done!  He even took us around town and introduced us as the famous girls who cycled the country for charity!  He just made us feel so good, and it was the best way we could have ever imagined the end of our trip could be!  Thank you so much to Bruce! 

So this is it... My last blog entry for this trip.  It has been an amazing ride.  With lots of ups and downs, both literally and figuratively :) We've both learned so much about ourselves, about each other, the country of New Zealand, cycling, fundraising, people... It has been such a great experience in so many ways.  The one thing we know for sure, is that this trip never could have happened without the help and support of the countless wonderful people that we came across during this trip.  Thank you so much to each and every one of you who supported us along this trip.  From the Couch Surfers and accommodations who hosted us, to the friends and family who sponsored us with donations, to the strangers who stopped on the side of the road when we were in trouble, to all of you who gave us an encouraging word, to the businesses who gave us what they could to help, and even to those of you on the road who tooted their horns to push us to keep pedaling... We appreciate all of you so much, and we really couldn't have done it without you!  I know that this world is filled with both goodness and badness, but after this trip, I am confident that the goodness if far more prevalent than the bad!  I am so proud to have met such wonderful people along the way.  You will always be remembered :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Days 62-65: Takapuna to Mataia to Ruakaka to Kerikeri

Getting Ready to Ride out with Dylan!
Thursday morning, we were delighted to get a text from our beloved Dylan, who is our World Vision contact, who has been our support and help throughout this entire trip... He was going to join us for part of our day going out of Auckland!  We always get excited when people join us!!!  So when he arrived at Tomas' house, we started north, which happened to be through the area where Dylan had grown up, so he knew the area well and was able to guide us around and we didn't have to worry about getting lost :)  He rode a little way with us, but had to eventually turn around and get back to work, and right when he did, the rain started!  But luckily it didn't last long.  There were about 5 sun showers throughout the day and we couldn't complain because they were basically enough to just cool us down, and then the sun would come out again...
Beautiful Rainbow!
The ride was quite an abnormal one.  We had 2 punctures, both on Sheree's back tire, bringing our puncture total to about 7, all but one of them being on that tire!  Then we stopped off in a small town, where they told us to look out for the multimillionaire's house on the way, where he has giraffes and water buffalo as pets!  We eventually found them, after staring at a giraffe statue way out in the field, wondering if in fact it was a giraffe or not... It turns out it was a statue, but we eventually saw the moving ones!  And then on the other side of the road, was the most perfect and beautiful rainbow I had ever seen! 
Mataia Homestead
After that, we got to our destination, which was called Mataia Homestead.  A wonderful lady named Jenny had given us this gorgeous house to stay in for the night.  It was surrounded by a beautiful garden and orchard, where we could help ourselves to the fruit and stay in separate bedrooms and even play the piano!  We watched "Once Were Warriors" which is classic Kiwi film that I had heard I had to watch, and we both bawled our eyes out for about half the movie, then went to bed early and woke up nice and refreshed and ready to hit the road again!

Friday we headed to Ruakaka, where we stayed with friends of Sheree.  It was a lovely family, that welcomed us and made us feel at home right away.  We had a great meal and relaxed and watched another movie that made us cry yet again (Sheree and I have both noticed that we've been extremely emotional on this trip!) and got to bed early again :)

Beach Day!
Saturday we kept on going to Kerikeri, where we were greeted by another Couch Surfer who was hosting us named Tom.  It was one of our longest days yet, riding 115kms from Ruakaka to Kerikeri, so we were dead tired when we finally got there.  But Tom made us feel right at home, and knew exactly how to treat us after a long ride, helping us relax and then we just chatted and had a nice dinner.  We enjoyed relaxing and chatting with Tom so much that we decided to stay another day, and give our legs a bit of a break.
Enjoying the water by the Stone Store
Sunday, our day of rest, we went to the farmer's market, then headed to the beach with Tom and his friend Garth and his son, where we attempted to go surfing!  But the waves weren't great and getting wet in the freezing cold water on a windy day didn't seem worth it if we couldn't surf the waves, so we just went for a walk along the beach and enjoyed the beauty of it.  Later, we went back to Garth's house, and had a nice coffee, and chatted about desserts for a really long time now that I think of it!  We invited them over for dinner, went home and then spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen, making up a nice big feed!  When Garth and the kids came over, we ate until we could eat no more, then played BOGGLE!  Boggle, if you know my family, is a favorite thing for us to do, so I really enjoyed it!  Then it was time to head off to bed again, so we could get back on the road again...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Days 59-61: Waiheke Island to Takapuna

Beautiful Waiheke!

Monday and Tuesday were very tough days.  We had to work oh so hard at being on vacation on Waiheke Island!!!  Ed and his two boys were excellent hosts and kept us well fed and showed us around the island.  We enjoyed the beach, saw the beautiful views, relaxed in the hammocks, listened to music, drank lots of wine, and even played some cricket!  It was a perfect way to avoid the crazy Auckland roads and get in some relaxation time at the same time.

By Wednesday, we had made a new plan, which was to get up to Cape Reinga early, in order to be back in Kerikeri on the 21st, so that we could participate in a bike race on the Saturday.  So, to be able to get that done, we had to leave paradise a bit early to have enough time to get to Cape Reinga and back by then.  So we spent Wednesday morning relaxing at Ed's place, and then we rode out to catch the ferry back to Auckland, and landed on the northern side of the city, where we met our next Couch Surfing host, Tomas!  Tomas is one of the Ambassadors for CS Auckland, and he was going to a CS meeting that night in town.  So we finally got a chance to go out for a night and meet some other Couch Surfers.  Our trip has revolved around Couch Surfing so much, but we had yet to make it to one of the meetings...well, besides the one we attempted to go to in Wellington, but we couldn't find any of them!  So we had a nice night out in Auckland, where we met tons of CSers, and even got to play some jumbo jenga!  But we had to call it an early night, because we had to ride again the next morning...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Days 56-58: Morrinsville to Bombay, Bombay to Waiheke

Riding with Mom from Morrinsville
After 2 straight days of fundraising in Matamata and Morrinsville, we took Friday to relax and enjoy some home time.  We thought about going to the beach, but by the time we had any motivation to do anything, it was well past noon.  So we just relaxed, had some internet time, did some cleaning up and rearranging of or stuff, downsizing even more so that our bags were absolutely as light as possible, and we had a lovely dinner out with Sheree's mom and bro.

We made it to 2000kms!
Saturday it was time to get back on the road.  Sheree's mom decided to join us for the first leg of the trip!  It was fun having her with us, and really cute to see mother and daughter riding together :)  But eventually she had to turn around and go back home, and it was back to just Sheree and I... It was a pretty flat and easy ride, until we got to the last 5 kilometers or so, and the hills started!  We had been so spoiled with flat and easy rides, that it was a new challenge to get up the hills, even though it was nothing compared to what we had done before.  We finally got to our destination, staying with a Couch Surfer farmer, in the middle of nowhere, but conveniently placed for us to have a place to stop before going to Waiheke.  Simon was a great host, and we enjoyed a nice poker/pizza/movie night with him.  Thanks Simon for a great night!
With Simon!

On Sunday, we didn't have too far to ride, so we took our time.  Sheree decided to go back to her roots and help Simon milk the cows :)  And I decided to go back to mine, and book some plane tickets for some more traveling when this is all done!  When we finished with that, we all came back and attempted to make eggs in a hole (or eggs in a basket?) for breakfast.  We said goodbye to our new friend Simon, and then headed off along the back roads towards the ferry to get to Waiheke Island.

On the Ferry to Waiheke
It was another hilly and windy ride, but we were more mentally prepared for it, so it wasn't that bad.  Well, except for one hill which was probably the steepest that we had had on this whole trip, and we had to walk it for a little bit.  But it wasn't too big, so not so bad.  The ride only took about 3 hours, and we got to the ferry where they had graciously donated us some tickets to get across!  THANK YOU TO SEALINK!!!

Once we got across to Waiheke, we had a few more kilometers and a few more hills to go, but we eventually made it to Sheree's friend Ed's house. And here we'll be taking a bit of a break from riding, as it is so beautiful here, and we might as well have a bit of a vacation, right??  So that evening, we enjoyed the view and the company of Ed and his son Charlie, as we looked forward to spending some more time and getting to know these great guys!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Days 52-55: Rotorua to Matamata, Matamata to Morrinsville

Hot Pools in Rotorua
In Rotorua, we tried to see if we could put together an on the day fundraiser, but it just didn't work out.  But Louise, our host, gave us a great option.  She had one of my Thai massages, and then donated the money to the charity!  It was simple and gave us the day to enjoy Rotorua!  We walked around town, saw some hot pools, then went home, and got a bit of a taste of farm life, as we collected pine cones for fuel for the fire, and then enjoyed a nice hot coffee with the family.

Matamata, AKA Hobbiton!
That night, looking at the weather forecast and seeing 3 days of constant rain coming up, we decided to change our plan of going to Tauranga, since it's not much fun to go to the beach in the rain.  We decided to go home...well, to Sheree's home at least!  And that way we could do a couple sausage sizzles in the small towns, and not have to worry about the policies of the big towns.  So we rode to Sheree's Dad's house from Rotorua on Tuesday.  Wednesday we did a sausage sizzle in Matamata, and Thursday we did another one in Morrinsville.  It was nice and easy, and we made about $360 at the two of them. 

Out in Hamilton!
Apart from doing sausage sizzles, this has mostly been a time of just relaxing, recharging our batteries, and having family time!  Thursday night we got all dressed up (taking advantage of the access to a wardrobe!) and went out on the town in Hamilton with Sheree's brother and sister, and her friend.  We danced the night away, and just enjoyed doing something different for a change!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Days 49-51: Taupo to Rotorua

So, Sheree and I were getting pretty sick of doing just the typical old fundraisers like sausage sizzles and raffles, so we decided to spice things up a little bit and do something different.  For Taupo, we decided to put on a Speed Dating night!  We contacted a few places, and PLOUGHMANS bar and restaurant was wonderful enough to let us use their upstairs, and gave us a discount on some drinks to help us out.  Friday was all about advertising.  We got straight to work... The first thing we did was to join a bunch of NZ dating websites, hoping to be able to send messages to singles in the area to invite them to our event.  But we were disappointed over and over again to realize that we had to fill out enless information about ourselves before being able to send messages, and not only that, but some sites wouldn't even let us send any messages without being a paying member!  So in the end, after a heck of a lot of work, we had only sent out 4 messages, and we were now members of countless online dating sites!  The next plan was to make up flyers and post them around town.  We put up posters in gyms, stores, and we even stopped people in the streets to invite them and gave them some flyers. 

With Terence, our CS host in Taupo!
The next day was the 100k flyer, so we took the opportunity to do some advertising there.  We made up a big sign with a heart on it saying "Single?  Speed Dating Tonight!" with all the details, and as we stood at the finish line, we danced to the music while getting lots of looks and laughs and comments, but it was quite a lot of fun.  We were also there to see Terence, our Couch Surfing host, cross the finish line!  It was quite impressive, as he was feeling sick that whole day, and still managed to finish the race!  By the way, he is training for an Iron Man competition in about 9 months.  Good for you Terence!

One of the hot pools on the way to Rotorua
As the night progressed and it was nearing the time for Speed Dating to start, we were getting a little bit nervous.  We had no idea how many people, if any, would show up.  We stood and watched at the window for people who looked like they might be single and might be coming up.  In the end, there were only 2 people who showed up, a guy and a girl.  We felt terrible for them, because they expected to meet lots of people, and really only got to meet each other and us... but we played some cards and chatted and had some drinks, and in the end we all had a great time!  It wasn't exactly speed dating, but it was fun!  So finally, we only made $40, so it was our worst fundraiser as far as how much, but it was our best fundraiser as far as how much fun we had!  Thanks to you guys who came out and made it so much fun!

Sunday it was time to get back on the road, as we headed to Rotorua.  It was a nice day, but a smelly ride, as we started to get into the sulphur area of the country, with all the hot pools and steam coming up out of random pools and holes in the ground.  It was pretty cool to see!  We stayed with some family friends of Sheree, and they were absolutely lovely.  Lorence and Louise are a sweet couple who live on a farm on the outside of Rotorua, and they made us feel at home right away. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Days 46-48: Ohakune to Turangi, Turangi to Taupo

Us with breakfast at Powderhorn Hotel
Since we had such a long day on the way to Ohakune, we decided to take a day to rest and recuperate, and we might as well do it in a place as nice and beautiful as Ohakune. We looked into doing an impromptu fundraiser there, but with the amount of people out and about on a Monday, it didn't seem worth it. So we just took some of the scenic walks around town and by the hotel, and then we went back to the wonderful Powderhorn Hotel, where they put us up for two nights to support us on our journey! THANKS SO MUCH! The staff were incredible, the heated pool was a heaven for our sore muscles, the food was more than we could eat (and we can eat A LOT!) and it was just so nice to live in a bit of luxury before heading back on the bikes.

Saying goodbye to my World!
We got back on the road on Tuesday morning, heading to Turangi, and we had quite a nice ride with lots of sun and not so many hills! The only sad thing that happened was that my world, which I was unable to let go of since the lantern parade, got ruined by the wind as a big truck wizzed on by! I guess it was for the best though, because there was no point in me carrying it around...

Cycling around Mt. Doom!
When we got to Turangi, we were greeted by another wonderful Couch Surfing host named Johanna.  She was one of those seems like professional hosts, as she had hosted hundreds of couch surfers, and was very good at making us feel comfortable and welcomed us with an amazing vegetarian meal.  It was perfect!  She also hosted a couple from Slovenia, so the 5 of us had a nice tea and conversation, sharing lots of Couch Surfing stories!

Couch Surfing with Johanna
In the morning we took the opportunity to go white water rafting, and since it was a beautiful day, we decided to take up that opportunity!  It was one of the most beautiful things we had seen on our trip.  The water on the river was so clear, and the walls along the gorge were green and flowing with water dripping down, and the sky was blue and the company was great!  We even jumped out over a waterfall into a freezing cold pool, where I almost hyperventilated because of the cold, but they warmed us up with some hot chocolate.  It was great.  After that, we had some lunch with Johanna, and hit the road again.

Arriving at Lake Taupo
We got into Taupo pretty quickly, as it was one of our shorter days.  We had a nice ride, and arrived full of energy.  50km days are great!  We stayed with another Couch Surfer named Terence.  He was preparing for a 100km bike race from Rotorua to Taupo called the 100k flyer.  So we had lots in common with him, and we chatted about bikes all night after sharing a nice dinner, and brainstormed about how to do our next fundraiser...