The road to Wellington became a much quicker one than I’d imagined. Shortly before leaving Rotorua, my video camera followed the lead of Lola (my bike) and decided it was time to cause a little trouble. The camera is a Sony HVR-A1 – a HD camera which is perfect for documentary filmmaking due to its small size and weight (relative to it’s very high quality.) However, in order to make the dimensions smaller certain manual switches have been sacrificed, and as such a lot of the functions are operated via a touch screen. As you can imagine, when this touch screen goes dead then there are problems. This is the situation I am now in. I can still adjust focus, iris, white balance and zoom, but most other adjustments are now out of the question. The main issue is that I’ve had to switch to recording on the internal microphone as I can no longer change the audio level of the external mic. What this means is that I’m making a significant loss of quality in the audio. The problem is not yet resolved, so if anyone has a solution I’d love to hear it - a right royal pickle.
Morning view from my tent
Knowing only that I needed professional help with it, upon leaving Rotorua I decided to hotfoot it for the capital in the hope that they could provide me with the good news I was looking for and present me with a fully working camera again. On the first day I made it through Taupo and spent a glorious night on the shore of the great lake. The wind blew off the glassy water and left me freezing in my tent, but the views were spectacular. Around the lake’s edge the land rose and fell in cragged jumps, making for an enjoyably unpredictable cycle.
The following morning I was left rather lethargic from a cold, relatively sleepless night and tried to use the scenery to motivate me onwards. It seemed to work and by midday I was well on my way to the Desert Road. This forms a very significant part of my trip; ever since arriving in New Zealand I have heard frequently about it, and mostly in negative terms regarding cycling. It is the road that typically engenders the response ‘You won’t want to cycle that one then, oh no.’ As such, it became key for me to tackle it. And of course it was spectacular. Riding from North to South I first spent 20 kilometres climbing up and down a steep, curving road through the forest. That eventually led me up and out of the dense bush onto a plateau from which the view was northing short of breathtaking. The snow-covered peaks of Mounts Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu dominate the landscape here, the latter climing to a height of 2797 metres. Intimidating though they were, it was an awe-inspiring experience to ride alongside these monsters of the earth. It does not take long to realize your place on this earth when exposed to such sights of true beauty.
The town of Waiouru sits at the southern end of the desert road and should a competition exist for prettiest backdrop, it must certainly stand a strong chance of success. I paused only briefly, eager to push on down the country. That night I slept beside the river a couple of kilometers from the road, disturbed only by the crashing of rocks which fell from the gorge-like walls into the rushing water below. It is a shame I did not get to see more of this region, or indeed to reach the coast around Napier and Gisbone. But, for that matter it is also regrettable that I could not reach the East Cape, the Corremandal, Taranaki, Wanganui – there is so much in this small country to allure the traveler, intrepid or otherwise, and for me it is simply impossible to see anywhere near as much of it as I would like. So I must just do my best with the time that is given to me, and at this stage of the journey it seemed like hightailing my way to the capital was the most appropriate course of action.
My final night before Wellington was spent in Levin with Angus and Carole, a couple who took me in and graciously shared their house and lives with me as so many have done before them. I realized I have been isolating myself a little on the road in New Zealand, keen to experience the remote parts of a country where it is not hard to remove yourself from view for an extended period of time. This still holds a strong appeal, but chatting with the Morison family it became clear that I’d been missing these chance encounter which were so nourishing mentally and physically. I was left feeling energetic and refreshed to tackle the road which wound around the coast until it reached the bottom of the North Island.
By Thursday afternoon I’d covered the remaining 60 miles into Wellington and cannot say much of the ride there other than it happened. Traffic on SH1 was heavy and loud, and it was with much relief that I arrived at my destination. A weekend off culture and excitment awaited me in the capital.