Thursday, January 14, 2016

2016 Northern Odyssey

The Northern Odyssey is a Ulysses Club organised ride of 1,000 kilometres and the idea is to follow a prescribed route and answer on route questions posed by the organiser. This year it was a loop of the East Coast/East Cape starting in Taupo . I waited until most of the holiday traffic was off the road, picked a window of promised fine weather, zeroed the trip 2 metre and rode out of my drive. Because of my geographical location in respect to the start I did some of the last questions first which avoided the need for me to double back at the completion of the ride. So in the first day I picked off the questions at Wai-o-tapu, Reporoa, Taupo, Tarawera, Eskdale and Havelock. I grew up in the Hawkes Bay and hadn't been to some of the areas in 30 years. The road to the top of Te Mata Peak that I remember as gravel is now sealed though no wider than I recall. The view from the trig station, that as a youth was lost on me save for the recognition that if you fell off it was a long way down, now presents as the most gorgeous picture of farmland and the Tuki Tuki river. In the other direction is what once was the small village of Havelock North and the city of Hastings. Havelock is no longer that small village. Clifton was another surprise. Clifton as a child was firstly a seaside camp ground and secondly, the place where a tractor and flat deck trailer would take you out to the gannet colony. I remember an uncomfortable ride along the foreshore, legs dangling over the side of the trailer and hanging on for dear life in fear of falling off into the sea as we bounced our way out to the birds. The other thing I remember is the smell. Well the tractor and trailer experience still awaits the intrepid tourist though I note that the trailer now has soft seats but legs still dangle over the sides in time honoured fashion. I bet the smell hasn't improved. The big surprise however was that the surf has all but eroded the road to the camp grounds. A few more wild winters and the road will be gone. I spent the night with my Harley riding brother and his wife and had lunch the following day with my sister. One of the nice things about being retired is that lunch can start at 11.30 and last 'till 1.30 and no one cares.
Lunch done so I head north and tick-off the clues posed by the organiser until Wairoa. Now there is a pie shop in Wairoa that is a must do destination. Oslers pies are legend but when I get there it is mid afternoon and there are none left. My diet is saved once more. After Wairoa the route takes me through Frasertown and Tiniroto or, if you like, the back road to Gisborne. I've been to Gisborne from Wairoa many times but never this way. I've been to Frasertown before also because it is on the way to Lake Waikaremoana and is a great ride if you don't mind the gravel. I had in mind to stay overnight in Gisborne but at 5 o'clock it seemed a little early so I filled up and pushed on. At Tolaga Bay the route has us go out to the wharf. You can read about the wharf here.  There was an inviting camp ground next to the wharf and since I had my camp gear with me I was tempted but there was a howling wind blowing off the sea so I moved on. Besides I knew of a pub with accommodation 40 kilometres up the road at Tokomaru Bay.
Tokomaru Bay was a thriving place at the turn of the last century and boasted it's own wharf, a freezing works, a wool store and two banks. WWII robbed the area of it's manpower and improved roads robbed what was left. The works closed in the 1950's and even the banks have gone. The wharf is fairly dilapidated and the ruins of the freezing works give a glimpse of the size of the once prosperous operation. An enterprising couple have bought the ruins of the freezing works and have installed some cabins they rent out to tourists; me included. A totally unique experience. The rest of the evening was spent sitting on the balcony of the pub, beer in hand, gazing out to sea and watching the Maori kids riding their horses along the beach.
It rained during  the night and the morning was overcast; so much for watching the sun rise. By Te Araroa the clouds had lifted and the ride to Te Kaha for lunch was just a delight; this coast is so beautiful. At Matata the route has us cut inland to the forest towns of Kawerau, Murupara and Kaingaroa. I can't recall ever riding the road that connects these towns but what came next came as a shock. While Kawarau seems to have survived the others not so. Murapara is not a town you want on a tourist brochure and Kaingaroa looks like an abandoned military base. These were once highly important towns associated with the giant forests of the area. The forests are still there but I didn't stop long enough to ask why the decline and to think I once considered taking a job around here. For me, this was the last of the questions to be answered so once on the main road I turned north and headed home, chain and sprockets all in tatters. And to think these items were replaced only in May, albeit in Bogota, Colombia.
The fishing wharf (and cafe district) Napier

Napier wharf from Bluff Hill

Tuki Tuki river from Te Mata Peak

Capt Cook arrived here in Gisborne in 1769

NZ Shipping Co wool store 1921. Tokomaru Bay

Tokomaru Bay Wharf

My cabin at the ruins. Tokomaru Bay

The slaughter pits in the old freezing works

The country's largest Pohatukawa tree