Saturday February 27
I impressed myself by setting a new record for packing up tent, bags and bike this morning, even though I faffed around a bit because this was my first night back in a sleeping bag and tent in almost a year since the end of the Tour Aotearoa – 50 minutes, all by the light of my head torch in the pitch black morning.
But I did cheat on breakfast, because we were due at the Cape Egmont for the 6:37am start…which apparently was the official time for dawn (sunrise was half an hour or so later. There were some 15 of us due at the start of the Kopiko this morning.
So it was a 5 minute, stand up breakfast…consisting of a pear and two figs from Kennedy’s food forest in his back garden in the suburbs of Auckland, plus a One Square Meal cranberry muesli bar.
We set off at 6am down the coastal road from the Boat Club, surprisingly tarmaced, probably because for the tankers picking up from a couple of dairy farms along it. It then gave way to a good gravel road to the narrow and shallow river. With socks and shoes off we pushed our bikes over the stony bed with water up to hubs and cranks. From the other side it was less than 1km to the lighthouse car park, where we KA riders gathered. We covered the 4.5km in 25 minutes.
Some people had ridden long distances to the start – a small group had spent five days on backroads down from Auckland; another had ridden over from Pahiatua; and one fella had left his home in the Hokianga, ridden down the North Island and a fair chunk of the South Island before heading to the lighthouse…a 3,000 km warm up for the main event.
It was a low keyed send-off. A fella from TrackMe said good luck, tooted his car horn and we pedalled slowly down the road past the lighthouse with a beautiful view of an unclouded Mount Taranaki drawing us to it. Over the first 30km we headed straight inland past Parihaka,, the community which was an inspiration to a very young Gandhi for its passive resistance but Crown’s cruel treatment of its inhabitants.
(It’s now Wednesday evening, and after five long days I’m finally getting back to the blog. So from here on, I apologise it will be very brief, with lots of photos. And when I get home, I’ll fill out each day’s entry. The Kopiko is definitely harder than the Tour Aotearoa to keep up an average of 100km a day. It is far hillier and more off grid – more camping than motor camps with all mod cons…so housekeeping takes longer.
So, on Saturday, our first day, we rode 100km in 6 1/2 hours ride time plus stops, climbing a mere 1,308m (later days will be hillier). And we camped at Pukeho, a tiny community with a beautiful domain, old hall and even a swimming pool. A local couple were very thoughtful hosts, making sure we had enough drinking water etc.
I was asleep by the time the announcement came that evening that Auckland was going back into Level 3 lockdown. The Civil Defence message on Kennedy’s phone somehow got through the intermittent and very weak signal to wake me up in my neighbouring tent. I thought, well we’re out of Auckland…so we’ll ride on…