Tuesday, November 07, 2023

The long road home

I was going to meet friends at the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market and then more friends in Auckland, but by Sunday morning, there is no denying that I have finally caught a southern hemisphere cold. I am hopelessly sick. I cancel all plans and load the rented tank with my bike and luggage.
I am struggling to stay awake on the windy drive to Taupo and elect to take a nap in the Huka Falls parking lot.
I stop again somewhere past Hamilton, where two horses are walking through town. I'm hours early for my flight. It's so much easier to sleep while driving than when stopped.
I had wanted to visit the Auckland Costco, but it's not particularly close to the airport, so I drive to the Sylvia Park Mall. It's probably not that big compared to a Mainland mall, but it's loud and crowded and I am overwhelmed. I have dinner at an In-N-Out knock off, which isn't at all terrible.
I have my own row on the next two flights, which makes trying to act not sick a little easier.

Day off in Hawke's Bay

I meet my oldest Kiwi friends, Norm and Vee (actually oldest Kiwi friend, Norm is American, but both are the first people we met on our first trip to New Zealand) in Havelock North for coffee. I again forget to take any pictures. I head over to Arataki Honey because everyone at home wants New Zealand honey. I again forget to take any pictures.
Havelock is buzzing. This must be a cruise ship excursion destination. Americans everywhere. I walk around looking for what used to be Jackson's Bakery. Vee, an accomplished chef, has warned me Jackson's was never very good. The tops are too flaky. I order a pie (and a cronut. Quit judging me, I was coerced.) and remember the coffee at Bay Espresso next door is better. The pie would have been great if I had not already been to the Queenstown Bakery. It is still good, though I now can't stop thinking about the too flaky top. I people watch. Hawke's Bay cafes are not Paris, but it's still a nice place to sit.I continue my search for a cycling jersey and find this one in an XXXL.
I meet old work friends for a pint at Hasting's best brewery, which is far more upscale than I remember.
I take a walk around Napier and contemplate whether or not I deserve another flat white, or perhaps ice cream.

Friday, November 03, 2023

A little Hawke's Bay Cycling

Distance cycled: 45 km, I didn't keep track of the driving
Time: 1 hour 58 minutes
I have big plans to ride from Napier to Havelock to Clifton and back to Napier, picking up some cycling friends along the way. My schedule doesn't quite fit anyone else's so I end up driving to what I think is Clifton, biking towards Havelock the hard way, running out of time/turning around early, getting my first flat tire of the trip, getting lost due to google maps thinking it's okay to bicycle through wineries/vineyards...where was I going with this? Anyway, the ride is at least as stunning as I remember.
The Clifton Cafe has changed names/hands, but is still in the same place. 
I rush back to Napier for my next engagement. I am booking things too close together.
I have a little trouble finding the stairs to our old house. There are about as many as I remember, but they have definitely gotten steeper. The house has not been improved, but the gardens across the street are immaculate.

My old coworkers throw a party for me. I thought I had taken more photos but I have very few on my phone. Most of them are wearing aloha shirts. I didn't pack one.

I lost count of days

Distance travelled: 980 km
Travel modalities: Bicycle, Airplane, New Zealand's biggest SUV
Time: 11 hours
I'm dreading this morning as I know it's bike packing day. I force myself to wait at the hotel until 8AM, so I can time my arrival to the opening of the Boat Shed Cafe in Frankton, convieniently located on the way to the airport.
I purchase a box from Air New Zealand and am directed outside to the bike building area. There are repair stands with hanging tools and pumps. I'm shocked. It takes 15 minutes to go from the first pitcture to the second and another 15 minutes to the third.
I try to shoot cool pictures from the air, but I'm sitting over the wing.

I rent the widest automobile I've ever driven. Most tourists start in Auckland and drive somewhere else to fly home, so there's often a rental car shortage in Auckland. If you're willing to pick up a car in Wellington (or probably anywhere) and drop it off in Auckland, it's practically free. I pick up some luggage I've left with my very generous Wellingtonian host and we go out to lunch at one of my old favourites. I almost order chicken and waffles.
The drive to Napier is excruciatingly long. The size of the car and being forced to keep it on the wrong side of the road ensures that the very annoying lane assist is constantly trying to take over. I debate turning it off for a few hundred km. I try to take a picture of a rainbow, but even with some filter enhancements, it's hardly visible.
I run into some old friends. While I've been away, Napier appears to have developed a nightlife.

Short relive video

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Day off in Queenstown

The majority of this trip was about the journey. Queenstown was about the destination. I can't remember why we never scoped it out prior to making New Zealand our home. Probably because even in summer, it's pretty cold. Also, way too many Americans.
After a laundry ordeal that put me into full caffeine withdrawal, I finally sit down to the best flat white I've ever had. I was looking for somewhere that served corned beef hash, which I thought would be popular, since you can buy it at Costco in Hawaii. I settle for corn potato hash, something or other.
I scour the town looking for a bicycle jersey. I've cycled over 1100 km. I am due. Most of the bike shops are rental outfits only. Each directs me to a different shop. Nobody rides road bikes in Queenstown. I find a silver fern in a women's extra small.
I sit on the shore and convince myself to paraglide. 
Instead, I decide on the seemingly safer jetboating. I ask the operator how much training driving a jet boat takes. 120 hours he replies. I do not ask if this is in addition to any other boating experience. A six pack captain's license in the US requires 360 days on the water.
I survive and wander into a pretzel bar. I am warned it will take 25 minutes to bake.
I then find myself in a biker bar. These are the first road cyclists I've met on this trip. Someday we'll ride together in Christchurch.
I walk around the town and the lake front for hours. It's beautiful everywhere.