16 January 2020 – Hauraki Rail Trail New Zealand, Day 1 – Miranda to Thames

Here it was, our first day of the Hauraki Rail Trail adventure. It was going to be the longest day of riding of the trip and while the hopes for a good nights sleep were high, we had another night of a not well Zinnia and she decided she wanted to sleep sideways in our bed. So Anto was booted to the couch and no one got much rest!

The big kids were up by 7.30am and we had a quick breakfast of cereal in our hotel room. From experience with bike tours, it’s important to get everything ready the night before so you can make a quick get away in the morning, so Anto had most of the gear and supplies for the day organised the night before. Once the guest laundry opened for the morning he took our already growing mountain of laundry over to be dealt with while I had promised the kids a visit the beach across the road from the hotel.

The beach had looked fabulous the previous night at sunset and the kids were happy to run and explore (although the copious shells made it a shoes on activity)……..

Even Zinnia was impressed with the views (if not with the fact that she was restricted to the ergo due to all the rocks and shells!).

Soon, it was time to get the days riding underway. We were due to be at Jolly Bikes in town by 10am for our shuttle out to Miranda, where we would ride back to Thames, for the first leg of the Hauraki Trail. For once we were organised, and early, and got into Jolly Bikes by 9.45am. But….. by the time we checked the trailgator set up and got bikes loaded onto the shuttle van it was a 10.30am departure to Miranda.

The drive was the same way we’d come from Auckland the previous afternoon, and we could see a lot of trail out the window and a few bikes zooming by. It’s slightly disconcerting knowing you are going to have to travel the whole distance back under pedal power!

An already tired Zinnia was quickly asleep for a short nap, while the other 2 kids chatted excitedly during the 40 minute drive. Originally we had planned to start the day at the Miranda hot springs, which the kids were excited about. However, we’d decided the night before that due to the likely late departure with a shuttle on the first day, and knowing there were plenty of hot springs to visit later in our New Zealand trip, it was better to skip the springs and start riding. We’ve learnt from bitter experience that everything takes longer with kids, and long days of riding somehow become even longer than anticipated! We had opted to be dropped at the slightly closer Miranda Shorebird Centre, still making it over 42km of planned riding for the day.

Bikes unloaded and the trailer set up and the kids were roaring to go. The only problem was that from the shorebird centre car park we couldn’t see how to get to the actual trail! A bit of a ride by Anto solo and he found the gate in and were off and rolling……… at almost 11.30am…… not ideal with such a big ride to come!

Miss Zinnia was very excited to be in her trailer and ready for day ahead and could’t understand the delay in getting moving. She loves riding but wasn’t sure why we had to spend so much time in the car first……….

Soon we were off and riding along the very gravelly trail. The gravel was definitely looser than we anticipated and it wasn’t fast going but the big kids were making pretty good time….. Meanwhile it was hard work for me pulling the trailer!

We passed plenty of farms and cows, and the riding was indeed very flat, you could see for miles…… all the way to Thames in the very far distance!

Our first planned stop was an ice cream stop about 7km from the shorebird centre. It should have been a quick trip of no more than 20 minutes, even at kid pace. However, once we were off and riding it became apparent that Zinnia was a bit too small for the strap arrangement on the trailer as she kept slipping dow,n and side to side, making her rather unhappy and requiring me to stop frequently. With a couple of blankets shoved around her to make her more comfy she eventually fell asleep but was happy to awaken when she heard the word icecream!

We were already very hot and sweaty and ice cream seemed like a great idea. As a bonus the giant fresh fruit ice creams were only $2.50 each and there was no way we could get through them all. Zinnia was in heaven!

Somehow it was now after 1pm, we were only 7km into the ride, and it was getting very hot out on the trail. Things went from bad to worse with Zinnia continuing to have issues staying upright in the trailer, and slipping down constantly on the bumpy gravel. She was happy when sitting up but we couldn’t keep the straps in the right position despite plenty of improvising and shoving anything and everything we had to hand around her to try and keep her in position.

Luckily the other 2 kids were having a much better time, Astrid happily riding along and Soren also making good time and both coping well with the very loose gravel.

One of the things that caught our attention on the trail this day was the number of boxes containing an egg off to the side of the trail. We guessed they must have been some sort of trap, as they all only seemed to contain a single egg and didn’t really appear to be nesting boxes, which was our inital guess.

Meanwhile I was trudging along with the unhappy Zinnia, starting to get rather hot. As you can see from the pictures there wasn’t a tree to be seen and while it was supposed to be a maximum of 21 degrees for the day (perfect riding weather) our GPS’s were already recording 30 degrees as the heat coming off the gravel was intense.

Despite getting hot, the kids were doing really well with the gravel. We had 15km from our icecream stop through to our planned lunch stop (and there was really nowhere to stop in between). Soren had been making good time but we decided to hook him up to the trailgator to save a little time. Although in the end Astrid and Soren and Anto were sent ahead as I had to frequently stop to attend to Miss Z.

With Zinnia’s increasing unhappiness we weren’t sure if we were going to even be able to complete the ride for the day. She eventually fell back asleep and was comfy enough propped up which allowed me enough time to get through to the very funnily named ‘Bugger Cafe’, our planned lunch stop.

It was now 3pm, we were all tired, dirty, thirsty and sunburnt. Despite repeated applications of sunscreen it had well and truly sweated off, our water had run out and tempers were short. It was only 23km into the days riding and the remaining almost 20km, at kid pace, seemed a tall ask. We ordered some food and grabbed some cold drinks and water and everyone felt better out of the sun and sitting down for a bit. Miss Zinnia immediately cheered up at the sight of chips!

While at lunch we called Jolly Bikes to advise we wouldn’t be back before closing, so they could send someone to meet us, and worked out which points we could be picked up if Zinnia continued to be unhappy. We decided we’d push on for a bit with the option of calling for collection at the next town (10km away) if things weren’t going well.

Back out on the road at 3.45pm, we had tried yet a new combination of padding around Zinnia to see if we could make it through the day. It wasn’t working all that well but she was pretty quickly back to napping, which kept her quiet at least. With Zinnia asleep, and food on board we were finally making good time. This section of the ride had us going past quite a few wetlands and more farms, with plenty of birds to look at.

Astrid was powering along at over 17km/h for sections and we were finally feeling like we might make it. Despite me having to still stop every kilometre or so to sit Zinnia up, fix her padding and give her snacks to keep her entertained. With Anto keeping the other two up to pace we burnt through 10km fairly quickly, although the kids legs were tiring with the continued loose gravel but they were doing really well, especially with the odd lolly every few kilometres.

Despite being hot, a breeze had come up in the afternoon which helped cool us a little, and the pretty scenery and bird life to look at did help, as did the sight of Thames in the distance…..

Thames sits at the bottom of those mountains in the distance. We’d been heading that way all day but were finally getting close enough to make the outline of the town.

Despite trying to pad around Zinnia with everything we had onboard, she was still slipping down and getting (justifiably) unhappy when she did so. Luckily she was happy to nap on and off and watch the scenery when she was sitting up.

After 35km our legs were feeling it with the sloshy gravel. With the trailer on I felt like I was peddling through wet sand much of the time and I wish I had of had a power metre as I’m sure I was putting out some watts at times when the trailer was going one way and I was trying to drag it the other!

We finally spied the Kopu bridge (and some paved bike bath). We knew it was only a bit over 7km back to Jolly Bikes and our car and we figured we’d be OK to make it there despite the days challenges. Even Astrid, now in the territory of her longest solo ride ever, had a smile on her face!

The last bit of the ride from Thames to Kopu was a little easier with a few sections of pavement and firmer gravel although quite a few bridges to negotiate with some steep sections. A tired Astrid was slowing but she did well with encouragement. We weren’t even stopping for photos at this point (we were riding this section in the opposite direction the following morning) so were intent on getting to the car! We kept
Zinnia kept amused on the final section with a bottle and some dried fruit and she was hanging in there, literally, after the days dramas with the harness in the trailer.

We finally made it back to Jolly Bikes, and our car, just before 5.45pm, sweaty and tired, after 42km of riding for the day.

We left the bikes to be locked up, with a request to sort something for Zinnia with regards to the trailer for the following 3 days of riding. It was then off to the nearby wharf for a fish and chip dinner.

At this point we were all hungry and tired, having burnt more than a few calories during the day. While we waited for our food to be cooked Zinnia had fun talking to the seagulls and checking out the view…..

It turned out to be pretty good fish and chips and we replaced some of that calorie deficit by fried products and soft drink……….

We even relented and figured the big kids needed some replacement sugar via cold soft drink. They had their first L&P ever, which was a hit.

Back to our hotel at the Coastal Motor Lodge and the rather tired kids were all asleep by 7.30pm after well needed showers and copious amounts of aloe vera being applied for the sunburn we’d all managed to acquire (despite having used half a tub of sunscreen).

With the kids sorted for the evening we watched the sun set over the water again, and had a good couple of hours of luggage sorting and repacking to do before the next days riding. The next day we were off to Paeroa and staying in a different hotel, and after a long day in the saddle we had plans to be away much earlier the following day.

Thames had been very pretty and we had enjoyed our visit. We hadn’t even explored the town area as much as we’d hoped, mostly only visiting the beach near our hotel and the local supermarket for supplies, but we hoped to see a little more on our ride out the following day.

Daily statistics for Thursday the 16th of January 2020

In the Thames area (from Miranda to Thames), Waikato region, New Zealand – the temperature range for the day was 15 – 24 degrees, with our GPS’s recorded a temperature of 30 degrees on the gravel.

The total riding for the day was 42.1km, with 177m of elevation. We ended up with a moving time of 3 hours 43 minutes and an elapsed time of 6 hours. Astrid rode the whole thing solo – 42km is a long way for an 8 year old and her longest ride ever! Soren rode the first just under 10km solo and then was on the trailgator for the remainder of the day but peddling hard. I didn’t see him stop peddling once!

We also managed over 40km of driving and an additional 4.5km of walking during the day. Here is a map of where we were in the Waikato region, driving out to Miranda and riding back.

Up next…..

Day 2 of the Hauraki Rail Trail took us from Thames through to Paeroa. It was a much better day with less riding and drama, a working trailer and the highlight being a visit along the way to the Matatoki Cheese Barn, for fabulous food, and cute animals!

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