Before we moved on from the Whakamaru Reserve we wanted to get the bikes out and complete part of the Waikato River cycle trail we had done two years ago. By riding back from our position we could finish the route between Whakamaru and Mangakino. One of our fellow campers who appeared quite the experienced cyclist asked me about our intended route as I wheeled the bikes out of the back of the motorhome. When I told him where we were headed he gave me a heads up about some rather steep parts of the trail.
I had left Sarah a little in the dark about our intended route, she thought we would be riding to Mangakino on the road. So when I turned off onto the cycle trail although somewhat surprised she followed bravely. I say bravely because her bike is much more suited to road going conditions than a trail like the one we were about to ride. With narrow smooth tyres it’s not ideal for the gravel and dirt path we encountered. Like usual I powered ahead in reckless disregard for what might be happening behind me. Only stopping occasionally to ensure she was all OK.
The further we rode the rougher and steeper the track became. Both of us dismounted a couple of times to walk the bike up or down some very steep parts. I am sure that some experienced cyclists will be laughing at this but we felt much better being safe than sorry. Eventually we reached a point on the trail where a road intersects and there is a nearby motocross track. Sarah, whose battery was getting low after not being properly charged last time, was concerned about having sufficient power for the return journey and got me to check Google Maps to see where we were, it showed we were still back at the camp. For whatever reason it didn’t appear that it could locate us. So we decided that while Sarah had battery power left, we would follow the road back to where we thought the main road was and then return to the motorhome. Later on we found out we were just shy of the swing bridge over the river. Had we ridden to that point we would have completed that part of the trail.
As we rode towards where the main road, should be we passed some public toilets, obviously I thought for those using the motocross track. I later discovered that this was also another freedom camping area. You can locate this place on Google by following this link. There wasn’t much there and given the other choices to stay in the area I don’t imagine its too popular, but if everywhere else is full. (Sorry no photos)
Two years ago when we first visited Mangakino we met a number of cyclists riding the Tour Aotearoa ride. This ride runs from Cape Reinga to Bluff with cyclists having thirty days to complete the three thousand kilometre journey. This year the ride was again underway (Although Covid has reduced the numbers) and a couple of really helpful riders pointed Sarah and I in the correct direction when we found ourselves a little lost. I am always a little nervous riding on the open highway with vehicles screaming past at 100 Kph and more, but for most of the way there was quite a decent of space inside the white line and little traffic.
It wasn’t long before we were back at the motorhome and time to pack thing up ready for the move to Mangakino. First stop once we had driven a whole thirteen kilometres was the excellent dump station. With two freshwater taps, a large turning circle and easily accessible dump it really is well thought out. From there it was down to what is locally known as Dog Island. A freedom camping area located on the lakeside with plenty of space to stretch out.
We arrived to find the place, not deserted but certainly with plenty of space available. We could have parked right next to the water instead we chose to park back a bit. That is because last time we were here the locals came to use this spot for their swims and we decided with Fat Cat on board we didn’t want her spooked by strangers. Later two other vans did arrive, parking up between us and the water. Not being next to the lake didn’t stop us taking advantage of the easy access and having multiple swims.
It turned out that Fat Cat had her own holiday and exploration ideas. We had her in the harness that you can see in the photo above which was also attached to some rope to give her a bit of freedom. Somehow she managed to slip out of harness and disappear into the bushes behind us. To make matters worse her colours blended into the bush in an almost the perfect camouflage. Once we had located her Sarah went in to retrieve her, of course the cat moved every time Sarah got close. To eventually retrieve the cat meant fighting her way through thick blackberry bushes and dense scrub getting very scratched legs in the process. Someone was in the naughty books after that little escapade. Although from the look on her face I don’t think she cares.
With Fat Cat safely locked back inside the van and since it was such a glorious day we decided that we would walk down to the Bus Café which is located on the lakefront. It’s only about 500 metres from Dog Island and serves a wide range of food including our choice for the day, ice creams. We had just purchased these when another couple who were enjoying theirs turned to us and said “John and Sarah, how are you?” Continuing our trip of meeting people we had met through motorhoming it was Christine and Colin who we had met in Whakatane the previous year. Like me Colin is a cancer survivor and a member of the Cancer Hero’s Facebook page for motorhomers with cancer. Click on the link if you are interested and would like to join the group or get more information.
We spent two days having a very relaxing time planning our onward journey. So relaxing in fact that I didn’t really take any photos. Although two days of brilliant sunshine did give us the chance to get the bike batteries charged. Then just before 8pm on our second night we got a phone call letting us know that there was a bit of emergency back at home. Not so bad that we needed to leave immediately but we were underway at 6am the following morning. So if you were one of the few campers there and we disturbed you with our early departure I am truly sorry. Back home plans have changed and those talked about destinations will need to wait for another day and another blog. While we are home I am working on the second book in my planned trilogy if you would like to read a sample of the first book click here.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can then click the link to read the blog about that area.