Yet again weather, the wind, dictated a change in plan for the last day. The route map had us heading south from Mangawhai Heads towards Wellsford, down Highway 16, and our Auckland destination. From Wellsford the road follows the Kaipara Harbour coast and climbs to some exposed ridges. This is a secondary highway but there was concern the strong south easterly crosswind would be pushing cyclists into the traffic flow.
So we headed north from Mangawhai Heads but, in my case at least, not far. It’s been ages since I last had a puncture on the road and never with Adventure South. After eight trips — at a guess 4,000km? — it was my turn. I found a chunk of glass in the tyre and fixed it (with the tyre change timed by “B”!) before the chase bus appeared. However I didn’t do a very thorough job as a few kilometres down the road another small splinter, still stuck in the tyre, made it puncture number two!
Once I got going the riding was great. I have driven this road several times but never seen the sort of seas whipped up by the past week’s easterly gales. Once beyond Langs Beach & Waipu Cove we had a fast, tailwind assisted, ride into Waipu township where the bus was waiting. It was to shuttle us over the Brenderwyn Hills for a short reprise of the first few kilometres of the Day One ride.
We rode as far as Paparoa before turning off the main highway north towards Maungakaramea and Whangarei. The last time I travelled this road was in the 2 Litre Ferrari chasing WRC Rally New Zealand 2010.
It passes the finish of the legendary, in NZ rally circles at least, Swamp Road stage. It has railway over-bridge guaranteed to give a good view of rally cars in flight (right) and they run a spectator train from Auckland to take advantage of the location.
One benefit of a lousy summer was seeing Northland lovely and green. We were relatively lucky with the weather, especially the first few days, as just a week before major flooding had closed many highways. Although there were a few wet days, even more windy ones, it was still reasonably warm (for the time of year) so even when drenched the riding was ok. We could have done without the wind but flexible ride planning — aka the Guides nightmare — made the best of that. A gale isn’t so bad when it is a tailwind!
I don’t know if it was the end of trip factor, or the climbs and headwind on the ridges but I found this ride the hardest of the trip. I stopped & took a photo on the last hill (right) kind of hoping the bus would go past so I could catch a ride!
That didn’t happen but it was only a few kilometres, including a good downhill, to the final pick up point. I didn’t have a bike computer and only found out the end of the day that the two parts of the ride totalled something like 120km.
As mentioned we had two Whangarei locals on the tour and it made for a very special finale. We bussed to their home, up steep driveway we thankfully didn’t have to ride, for a shower and had the last dinner, Hell Pizza, there. It was very generous to be hosted and great way to finish the ride.
The evening drive back to Auckland was pretty swift with light traffic unlike going other direction. It appeared most of Auckland was heading North for Easter and following school holiday break. Adventure South trip eight was fun, if a little different for me. It was the first where I was really familiar with the area and had ridden a fair bit of the route. It was great to revisit it with a great bunch of people. Unless they dream up another NZ trip, I suspect my next Adventure South journey may have a Japanese flavour.