After finally spotting a gap in the never-ending curtains of rain in Auckland, I escaped in a fast boat to avoid the next batch of showers. I’ve been taking my first tentative trundles into New Zealand since. And, apart from the dodgy weather (and let’s face it, as a Brit, I’m not exactly un-used to that), and now two iffy knees, it’s been a delight so far.
I’m struggling a little to make sense of how long it takes to get anywhere over here. The roads are sometimes fairly straight and smooth, and sometimes wickedly twisty and steep. So what looks like an easy day’s ride on the map can end up being anywhere between about forty miles (and three hours) and seventy miles (and too tough for a day).
Still, the payback is phenomenal, with mountains dropping into the sea or disappearing into the clouds, and downhills on the bike which are more than worth the climb beforehand. And this is supposed to be the less attractive of the two main islands…
I’m even pushing my boundaries to discover the local food. Never was a country more in love with pies. Even the most tired and run-down garage in the smallest village has a warming rack full of them. And a bewildering array. Pastry-topped pies filled with beef, or chicken, or veggies. Or a whole breakfast. Pies topped with mashed potato or sweet potato. Pumpkin pies (maybe Halloween specials). Sweet pies and savoury pies. Fresh pies, and pies that may well have been sitting there since God was a boy. And other pastry-and-meat-related delights like pasties and sausage rolls.
I really don’t mind pies.
But what I’ve missed is decent, old-school chip shops, and New Zealand has loads of them. And they sometimes still wrap their ‘chups’ in newspaper. Which is so quintessentially British that hardly anyone in the UK does it any more.
Anyway, I digress slightly.
I’ve meandered a little way across North Island, reaching Rotorua this evening. This has meant crossing hobbit country, and, in fact, within just a few miles of ‘Hobbiton’ (film set / tourist attraction). Unfortunately, my luck with exotic wildlife remains unchanged; no bears spotted in the US, and no hobbits, orcs or wizards here. Yet. There’s still time, I suppose, but I don’t hold out much hope. They’re quite elusive, apparently.
Rotorua looks nice, and the legs feel like they deserve a day off on Sunday before pushing on southwards and slightly westwards. Hopefully, the weather will hold for a while, so I can appreciate NZ properly. Fantastic so far, and a long way still to go…