An unusually quiet night last night. Sawmill seemed to be off. Even so, despite a good sleep, we woke early at 6.30 and decided to get up and pack up. We had breakfast and made some sandwiches, and were on the road just before 10. The weather was clear, sunny and hot. Packing up was hot work and I reckon the temperature was in the mid twenties by the time we left. Fortunately the wind was light, and from the west.
We knew the first part of the road to Rotorua, as we'd cycled it in reverse on Monday. We decided to go on a minor road, rather than the highway, mainly because of the traffic of course, but also because it seemed to be less hilly. In fact we were anticipating a hilly ride, but amazingly the countryside that stretched out ahead of us after the first couple of miles was pretty much hill-less and even more amazingly, pretty much downhill! In fact we did 20 miles with – dare I say – ease! It was still 20 miles of course, so not a walk in the park, but it was good riding.
We stopped at about 25 miles for our sandwiches and to fill our water bottles. Then our minor road joined with the highway and things started to get a little busier (lots of huge logging trucks) and a little hillier.
Almost immediately however, we came to our first goal of the day, the volcanic area Wai-O-Tapu, about midway between Taupo and Rotorua, fortunately located just of the main highway.
It was about 13.00 and absolutely baking. We parked our bikes in the bike storage area, and took advantage of the large lockers to store our other gear, then took just under an hour to tear around the formal walkways that weave in and out of different types of thermal features. Geysers, amazing coloured lakes, bubbling mud, steaming water and sinter terraces. The whole area was amazing, really moon like. It really brought home to me how fragile the world is – especially New Zealand. It was like a direct link to the centre of the earth. For me the highlights were the lakes – Champagne Pool is a clear blue-green, and then around the edges bright orange sediment shows through. The other one, can't remember the name, was a fluorescent green/yellow colour. Sort of the colour you'd expect contaminated water to look. Really amazing.
The smell was quite pungent, but quite bearable. There was a lot of steam and, given how hot we already were, that was quite hard. There were also a lot of steps, which was a nightmare, given we'd already cycled 25 miles and still had probably the same amount to do again. I was hoping the walk would be a bit of a rest and a cool down, but it was neither. Absolutely worth the visit though. Annie you would have loved it!
Unfortunately it looks as if something in the air wrecked Nick's Oakleys (sunglasses). He spent a long time time photographing the Champagne Pools which meant standing in a head of arsenic/sulphur/selenium steam which seem to have left blotches all over his lenses.
So just over an hour later it was back on the bikes and back on the road. With hindsight I should say that the rest of the ride into Rotorua was not too bad. A few easy hills, lots of flats and a good deal of downhill. However I went through a bit of a bad patch after the walk. I think it was the heat. I think the ambient temperature was about 27'c. At times the breeze was quite strong (and for once, even though it was often a head wind, very welcome). The real heat though came from the tarmac. It just seemed to be burning into me. From 30 to 40 miles I really struggled and my speed dropped down to about 7mph. Then, fortunately, the road started it's gradual descent into Rotorua. It wasn't steep enough for a free-wheel, but it certainly made things a lot easier. The cloud cover increased too, and that meant a cooler ride.
We stopped at 42 miles for the last of our sandwiches, a peanut bar and a banana, and then at last I started to feel better. We hurtled over the last few miles and into a slightly pongy Rotorua. At first glance, it looks like a very nice city – maybe the nicest city we've been to (although small by city standards).
For the record, today was one of Nick's favourite rides. Over the last bit, he was really flying. In fact, just outside Rotorua, we came up behind a day-cyclist on a road bike. No luggage, probably only done a couple of ks. Nick caught up right to the back of him. If it wasn't for his baggage (read: me :o( he would have easily whipped him.
After a quick stop at the Information office, we headed out about a mile to our campsite, which is quite small, but seems very nice. 51 miles altogether. Total journey time was 7 and a half hours, but I guess we stopped for about 90 minutes altogether. Longest ride yet and we're both quite chuffed with that!
Nick's just off to the supermarket now to find something for dinner. Tomorrow we will explore Rotorua. We plan to be here for a few days. We're down to 3 weeks to go now :o(