90 Mile Beach stretches from Ahipara, where we are living, up to Cape Reinga, the northern most point of New Zealand. The beach is one continuous, hard-packed sand trail, used by horses, ATVs, and 4-wheel drive vehicles. We bought bikes last year to ride it, and retrieved them out of storage when we returned. We also found some great bike trails near us, and our favorite has been the Twin Coast Cycle Trail (Pou Herenga Tai).
Twin Coast stretches for 84 km between Hokianga Harbor on the west side of the Northland peninsula across to the Bay of Islands on the east coast. The trail winds through gorgeous farmland and pastures, with wild turkeys and numerous cows as spectators. Whenever we passed a herd, each cow stopped eating and stared, watching us intently until we disappeared. We did trail segments last year, primarily from the town of Okaihau to Kaikohe. Okaihau sits at a higher elevation and the trail to Kaikohe is ALL downhill. This means the trip back to the car is ALL uphill. So, we decided to see what the trail was like in the other direction. Although we had not seen many people headed west, we were curious.
Neither one of us bothered to look at an elevation map and a half hour into the trail towards Horeke, the next town, we found ourselves on the steepest hill we ever biked. Nonetheless, the day was awesome. The air was about 55 degrees and the sun was out for most of the ride. The trail had great vistas along Stone Creek and beautiful wooded areas. We never made it to Horeke because at one vantage point we could see the trail continue downwards. Facing that steep climb going back, we decided we had enough exercise for the day. The cows enjoyed watching us haul our bikes on the return trip.
The last mile of the ride, as we were returning to Okaihau, a light rain started and we raced each other back to the car. Starving after all the exercise, we loaded up and planned an early dinner in Keri Keri. As I backed up the car, we both felt it- the car had a jerky feel to it and a strange noise. Our front tire was flat. After a lame attempt to pump the tire, and some discussion, John sent me to the local hardware store a block away for a can of Fix-A Flat.
Russell, the store owner, had no such thing in stock. The hardware store was a jumble of shelves, with haphazard engine parts and second hand tools, more like someone’s messy garage. Russell offered to lock the store and come help my non-mechanical husband. He helped John change the tire out and put on the spare, which turned out to be a full size tire. As luck would have it, Russell had some medical concerns, so it was an in-kind moment.
At the tire store in Keri Keri, we discovered the tire had been slashed. The puncture was not obvious at first to even the tire guy. I remembered some local kids hanging around near the carpark- in a small town like Okaihau, teenagers are probably hard pressed to find something to do. That usually means trouble for some unsuspecting person. Because the hospital owns the vehicle, we needed approval to purchase a new tire. In the end, the tire was replaced, we had a spare for the ride home in backcountry, and we survived our first car vandalism in New Zealand.
Yesterday, we decided the car had been through enough excitement for the week, and we just rode our bikes on the beach.