Day one went pretty much to plan other than it started raining as soon as I got into bed, it was not hard rain and it lasted only for an hour or so but it was sufficient to remind me that my raincloud is always with me, no matter the season, no matter the continent.
In the morning it had mildly improved, lead sky but no rain. The temperature is good and I guess not having the sun bearing down on me while cycling might be a good thing. This part of New Zealand is surprisingly highly populated and that bothered me quite a bit all through the day. Free camping requires some empty space to be used and it looks like it will be much later in the trip before I find myself in proper free camping territory.
Pretty much at the word go I was faced with a hard choice, go for the make inroad strategy or stick to the side roads. Considering the distances that I have to cover the choice was pretty straight forward and I got on the Waikato Expressway heading south. Despite the name, and the fact that this is a dual carriageway road, I was positively surprised by the presence of a bicycle lane. I suspect this is so as the roads are not plentiful and therefore it is assumed that any traffic will use the roads that are there.
I survived and in approximately twenty miles the expressway ceased to be so and become just a normal main road and, while it did not have a bike lane anymore, the hard shoulder was good enough to make me feel safe.
The rest of the day was pretty eventless, the description of New Zealand as just the UK but with good weather does the country a big disservice but it is easy to see why many Brits come home with it in their mind. The syntax of the place is very British, it feels like New Zealanders have managed to expand all the good trades of Britishness and eliminated the bad ones. I stopped around 13:00 to buy some fruit and promptly parked in the neighbouring cemetery for some rest. The bench was very comfortable and with the belly full of delicious fruit I even had a ten minutes micro nap.
I managed a few more miles than yesterday and that was good, the legs are still getting up to speed and the new saddle is working a treat. I decided I was going to try and find accommodation more or less 10 miles short of Cambridge, which is a place I’d like to visit. The rational behind that is that if I get going pretty smart in the morning i can have a long stop there after an hour or so of riding.
It goes without saying that there was no place to free camp so I took the plunge and rode down a very nice path adorned with amazing marble carvings and knocked at the door (Paddy is the hobbyist artist http://www.mmarble.co.nz/). Nobody was coming but I sow a lady move in the drive next door and I asked if it was possible to pitch the tent somewhere out of their way. Maureen got her husband “Paddy” and he took me around the back where their blueberry business is based. He showed me the bathroom and the kitchen and he came back after a while with some blueberries which, as the fruit before, were delicious.
Are these people fabulous or what? Mrs Quinn came back too a little later to both warn me about a chap who would come around to do some rabbit shooting, and to get my details for her son. This proved to be one of the occasions when the business cards come really handy. Maureen came to see me once again just to warn me that her son Paul would be coming early in the morning to spray the berries and she also left me a slice of delicious fruit cake which tailed the evening perfectly.
The shooting gentleman stopped to talk too, both before and after the shooting, and, while I was really tired and eager to go to sleep, he proved to be another amazing chap who gave me good tips on what to expect from the route tomorrow. Apparently there is “only” a 10 miles steep rise twenty miles or so from Roturoa but I have to be very careful as it’s a narrow road and people go very fast. If things continue like this and I do not decide to have too many days off on route, I might well be out of the north island within two weeks of departure.