19 January 2020 – Hauraki Rail Trail, New Zealand Day 4 – Waihi to Te Aroha

It was to be our final day of riding of our 4 day Hauraki Rail Trail adventure. After 3 long days in the saddle, we were all looking forward to some riding free days but first there was the final section to conquer, and it wasn’t going to be short, easy or cool!

With tired legs and some warm temperatures forecast for the day, Anto and I were up late re-packing and doing a timing schedule to make sure we could get through the required kilometres at kid riding pace, and meet our pick-up at 4pm in Te Aroha. With experience we knew what pace we could expect the kids to ride….. and how slow the second half of the day was going to be with hot weather, little shade and very tired kids, so we were trying to plan accordingly. Miss Zinnia again decided that she needed to sleep in our bed rather than her cot, so not a lot of sleep was had by the adults!

We started the morning at our hotel (the Goldmine Motel, Waihi) with a quick breakfast, which involved as many calories as possible from our food supply to fuel us for the day ahead. Anto then frantically did the tidying and got bags sorted while I suited up the kids and kept them outside playing on the motel playground equipment while Zinnia ran around being a menace by trying to find the resident dog and cat and saying hello to any other hotel guests she came across.

We’d decided to start the days riding with a trip on the Goldfields Railway historic train which was to take us from Waihi to Waikino. We’d ridden this section the day before, in the opposite direction, but had left the train journey for the last day as it cut approximately 8km off the ride for the day. The the final day was to be a long day of riding even with the first section via train!

We were checked out, luggage deposited and on the bikes just on 9am for our quick half a kilometre ride down to train station.

We loaded our bikes onto the train (along with a lot of other excited kids) and got ready for boarding. When you are Soren, there isn’t much better than trains, but bikes on a train may just beat it……. until he got asked if he wanted to start the train. That made his year!

Once we were on the train, Zinnia reverted to being over-tired (she was due for her morning nap) but was happily distracted with the passing scenery and the souvenir tickets. The ticket masters even came to punch holes in them, but Astrid was disappointed that even that wasn’t quite the same experience as the high speed trains all over Europe!

High-speed train travel it wasn’t, but we were doing it for the kids and they certainly enjoyed the ride. The train departed Waihi station at 9.45am, and meandered very slowly the 8km through to Waikino. The kids enjoyed going out to the open section to wave back at passing cars (who were happy to toot their horns) and other riders on the trail.

Happy to rest our legs a little for what was to come, we weren’t complaining about the slow pace. The train pulled into Waikino a little before 10.30am. It was already pretty hot, but we were glad that the first section of riding took us back through the Karangahake Gorge and was both scenic and quite shady!

Soren was riding the morning solo and did well. We all started at a good pace, retracing our route from the previous day. We knew the first section out of Waikino was very loose gravel, and slow going but Zinnia didn’t seem phased by the bumps and was asleep quickly.

Having a camera with a working battery today we stopped past the Owharoa falls for me to get some decent photos. I left Anto and the kids having drinks and a snack while I raced up the steep hill for some pictures, no time for a freezing cold dip today!

Next it was a pleasant and fairly fast-paced ride down through the Gorge. It was cool and shaded with the temperature only in the mid-20s. It was also blissfully slightly downhill with a good surface so we were flying along at not much under 20 km/h.

It was over those giant bridges again and then through the 1km, very dark tunnel once again. Today we had a few extra pictures and remembered to take off our sunglasses before we got into the tunnel and had to come to a grinding halt! The tunnel was a little less crowded today, so there wasn’t quite as much dodging of walkers and dogs but it certainly still took some concentration. The cool was a welcome relief from the hours out in the sun riding.

The Gorge section of the ride was probably our favourite of the whole trail so it was nice to do it back in the other direction. We made great time to other side of Gorge and then had another 8km through to Paeroa, past more cows and along the scenic river.

Zinnia had been asleep from about 5 minutes after we left Waikino, off the train. She continued to nap as we rode, even through the stop to say hello to the trailside friendly goats. Astrid and Soren were happy to have some pats of the goats and would have stayed all day if we let them!

The kids made great time riding, but we still stopped frequently for drinks, trying to stay hydrated for the long afternoon of hot riding. We made it into Paeroa just before 12, and ahead of schedule! With Zinnia having happily napped through the whole morning’s ride.

Our lunch plan was to have take away pizza on the grass in a repeat of our dinner from 2 nights ago. There was a lovely grassy spot opposite our Paeroa motel, which just happened to be next to the trail, and right near a great takeaway pizza place. It was also near McDonald’s for cold drinks and clean toilets.

We parked our bikes on the top of the hill, just off the trail, and Anto ordered the pizzas, got us cold drinks and the kids enjoyed a run around in the shade and some delicious (and again cheap) pizza. We earned those cheesy calories and knew they were going to easily be burnt off during the afternoon’s ride!

The cool of the shade and the food had us feeling better, but despite wanting to lay around all afternoon we knew there was still more than 23km of riding to go, on very exposed trail. With tired kids we expected it wasn’t going to be a fast afternoon of riding, so tried our best to motivate them into getting back on the bikes. There was another reapplication of sunscreen and then we had to psyche ourselves up for the mentally hardest bit of the 4 days, knowing it was going to be hot and slow!

We hooked Soren onto the trailgator as he had ridden well all morning and we needed to keep the pace up. We were a little worried about Astrid’s legs that had 115km or riding in them but with promises of lazy beach days to come, off we set…… We said goodbye to Paeroa for the last time and set out into the hot sun.

The trail between Paeroa and Te Aroha is very exposed and had very few stopping places for food, drink and water refills. We’d carefully mapped stopping options and were trying to both encourage the kids to drink and conserve water between refill stops. The trail was indeed exposed, and plenty of long stretches of gravel in front of us………

…… and more of those cattle grids, many, many more! We even spied a few roadside cows!

The first hour after we departed Paeroa we were already recording temperatures of 35 degrees on our GPS’s. It was very dry, dusty and we scarcely saw another person out riding, unlike previous days.

We found a few toilet stops along the trail, but none had suitable drinking water so had to make do with our bottles we had refilled at lunch until we stopped at a teahouse 9km from Paeroa. The kids were already flagging so Anto ran in to refill water and buy some juiceboxes for the kids that did the trick as far as energy! While waiting at the teahouse we had a lovely chat with some other riders who were impressed at how far the kids had ridden and that Zinnia was so happy spending hours in the chariot.

With water and juice onboard we were making much faster progress, the odd lolly every few kilometres kept the kids motivated.

As we moved closer to Te Aroha the scenery changed. There were still plenty of farms but it was definitely drier and less trees. We started to encounter more cyclists heading in the opposite direction, all looking hot and tired. We often compared distances we had left for the day and we were now on the right side of the ledger, being closer to Te Aroha than they were to Paeroa or Waihi.

Hot doesn’t even to begin to to describe the afternoon’s riding. A lot of motivational chat was required to keep those kids legs turning. We were trying to only stop to have a quick drink and boost their energy with a lolly. We’d expected the decline in pace over the afternoon but it was definitely slow going and we really needed to be in Te Aroha by 4pm!

At times the trail stretched out in front of us seemed endless. When you can just ride at adult pace we could have been done fairly quickly but we had to keep those kids legs turning. It was a struggle at times but they never stopped (even if there was the odd complaint between lollies)……

Zinnia had slept from leaving Paeroa at 1pm through until around 3pm. With the heat we’d had a muslin strung over the trailer which helped but upon waking she definitely was starting to feel the heat. Luckily a cold bottle of milk helped, and some cows to wave to.

We passed plenty of corn fields, many higher than our tiny riders and I think I only had to push the bike and trailer through about another 50 or so cattle grids, slowing us even further.

With the extreme heat and tired kids it seemed like every kilometre was taking longer. Finally we were counting the kilometre in single digits and some lolly power was keeping the kids legs turning as we counted down towards the finish.

As we spied the outskirts of Te Aroha we knew we were going to make it. Unfortunately the trail signs took us on a bit of a random loop through town and over some very tight but pretty bridges and then a short section on the side of the road! The last bit added close to 2km onto the ride and we could have taken a shortcut from the trail to our pick up spot at the Te Aroha i-site had we had either used google maps or followed our noses. But, in the end we made it to our pick up only 10 minutes late and all sweaty and rather exhausted.

Miss Zinnia, who had been a trooper, spending hours a day in that trailer, generally having a good time (aside from the first day when we didn’t have her seating/pillow arrangement sorted) had most definitely had enough the last 20 minutes and screamed pretty much non-stop. I could hardly blame her, it was hot and we were all tired!

Here we are though, by the pick up van, 140km of Hauraki trail done in 4 days with an 8 year old, 6 year old and 1 year old. Kudos to Miss Astrid who rode the whole thing solo, a feat many adults wouldn’t have managed and she did at just 8 years old. Soren clocked up over 50km solo and I didn’t see him ever stop peddling even when being towed.

Anto helped our driver load the bikes and the big kids sat in the shade, Zinnia and I dashed over to the supermarket to grab some cold drinks and grapes which were pretty much the best things we’d tasted. It took half an hour to load all the gear into the van and then 50 minutes to drive back to Thames. Astrid, exhasted, was asleep almost instantly. That is the picture of 1 tired 8 year old!!

Soren and Zinnia were still inhaling cold grapes and enjoy the airconditioning while we passed much of the scenery we’d just ridden past over the last few days. It certainly flies past quicker in a car, although we didn’t follow the whole trail back and took a direct route on highways for sections of the drive.

Soon we spied Thames once again. Our van and driver deposited us and the bikes at the Jolly Bikes store where we were met by Luan, happy to see us return and impressed at how well the kids had done.

We removed all our personal items from the bikes and bike trailer and were happy to leave the filth and mud for someone to deal with. Zinnia, after now having 1.5 hours out of the trailer was reluctant to let it go and kept trying to climb back in!

Our hire car was waiting, so after re-installing the car seats and jamming all our filthy stuff from the bikes into the car, it was a short drive over to the nearest shopping centre for some food and a change of clothes. We had smartly prepacked a bag of clean clothes near the top of the car boot when departing Thames several days earlier. The concept of spending another few hours in sweaty bike gear was not a good one. A wash down with some cold water and a change of clothes in a shopping centre baby change room never felt so good!

Being Sunday night, quick food options were limited. We decided to grab some McDonald’s for Anto and the kids (there wasn’t much vegetarian for me) and some cold drinks while Anto ran to the nearby supermarket for supplies before we drove further up the Coromandel Peninsula to our stopping place for the next few days. We decided to turn a blind eye to the amount of rubbish the kids had eaten today, they had burnt plenty of calories…….

We were in the car at about 6.45pm. The younger 2 kids were asleep quickly as they were well past exhausted. The drive up to Hahei was 1 hour 15 on extremely scenic but rather winding roads.

Astrid, who is prone to car sickness, made it most of the way to Hahei before we had an emergency pull of the road. She has gotten better at warning us about feeling sick so we had stopped before we had another vomit in hire car incident in yet another country.

With vomit successfully avoided, we wound our way into Hahei, arriving at around 10 past 8 at the Hahei Holiday Resort. The Resort is part caravan park, and part cabins…. and is half the size of the town of Hahei. With Summer in full swing it was absolutely packed and there were kids on bikes and scooters everywhere.

We found our cottage not far from reception. It was total overkill in size for the 5 of us but we didn’t have a lot of options, even when booking a couple of months earlier. After all that riding we thought we deserved a little luxury for a few days.

With the car unpacking done all 3 kids were well and truly activated despite the late hour. Sunset was rather late in this part of the world so we still had plenty of light. The Holiday Resort has onsite food vans and after not much dinner I decided I was lacking calories, so Anto obtained me a delicious veggie burger and some popcorn chicken for the kids from the van just opposite our cottage.

All feeling much more relaxed with riding done and in such a beautiful setting, we thought we’d make the most of the last bit of light and explore the beach we could spy from our cottage.

Less than 100m walk and this was our view…….

Hahei Beach is just amazing, photos do not do it justice! We let the kids have a quick run and enjoyed the magnificent sunset before dragging them back for well needed showers and sleep.

It was well after 9.30pm before the kids got to bed, but it had been an epic day and we had a couple of days of beach time ahead so we didn’t care one bit.

The only downside was that reception had forgotten to leave a portacot out for Zinnia. Given she’d ended up sleeping in our bed every night so far on the trip, we figured she could have the bed again tonight and sort it out in the morning. She made herself quite comfy!

Anto and I sat up to midnight, enjoying a night with no ride planning, no repacking and listening to the noise of happy campers, while we discovered our beds were rather soft and comfy.

Daily statistics for Sunday the 19th of January 2020

The temperature range for the day was 14 to 26 degrees between Waihi, Paeroa and Te Aroha. Although, again, our GPS’s both recorded temperatures coming off the gravel at 35 degrees, while riding. It was a beautiful 23 degrees when we arrived in Hahei by that evening.

Our total riding for the day was 38.02km with 106 m of elevation. The moving time for the day was 3 hours and 25 minutes and an elapsed time of again around 7 hours. We had made a lot of stops for the train ride, lunch and water stops.

Again Astrid rode the whole day solo, she didn’t want to but had no choice!!! Soren rode the first half of the day and trailed, peddling for the afternoon.

Here is our ride summary from Strava…..

Hauraki Trail Stats….

Our ride of the Hauraki Trail was complete and we rode a total of 139.75km with 432m of elevation over the 4 days. Virtually all of it on gravel, some of it extremely loose gravel so it was slow going.

Astrid at 8.5 years old rode the entire thing solo! Soren at 6 years old rode approximately 50km solo and peddled while being trailed for the rest. He could have ridden more but we needed to keep our speed up when possible. Zinnia at 14 months had the easy task of being towed by me but was very well-behaved for most of the trip, having a ball in her comfy pillow fortress.

Strava indicates we had a total moving time of 12 hours and 46 minutes and an elapsed time of over 24 hours over the 4 days. That is a lot of time in the saddle and a lot of time out in the sun for little kids! A pretty impressive effort by everyone.

Our total walking for the day was  4km.

Here are our google maps of the distance we covered for the day, first by bike from Waihi to Te Aroha and then car back to Thames and then onto Hahei, with around 126km of driving.



Up next…..

After 4 huge days on the bike, it was time for some relaxation, beautiful scenery and beach time. Not ones to sit around too much, we also did a hike to the world famous Cathedral Cove, accessed from Hahei Beach, where we were staying. It didn’t disappoint with amazing views and some iconic photos.

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