Four water crossings play crucial roles in the Tour Aotearoa. They are important links in our journey, but also a demarcation between quite different places. And, of course, they give us a break from cycling.
Today was our first, from Potou Point at the north head of the Kaipara Harbour to Helensville, a small old town which is rapidly becoming in part a distant dormitory suburb of Auckland at the southern end of this vast body of water. With some 3,200km of coastline, it is the largest enclosed harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. Even more remarkably, the bar at its entrance runs for 7 nautical miles out to sea from the heads.
Our embarkation beach at Potou Point is the southern end of a long , very rural peninsula down from Dargaville, where Kennedy and I camped last night. Along the peninsula to the west is the Tasman Sea and to the east initially the Northern Wairoa River which runs through Dargaville before flowing into the Harbour.
We had a fine 68km ride this morning from Dargaville to Potou Point, though we had to contend with the heavy traffic of logging trucks, empty in our direction and loaded coming back in the opposite direction from the mature radiata pine plantations at the far end of the peninsula. The gravel road shook as the loaded trucks and trailers thundered by. Needless to say, they also inflict heavy wear and tear on the road surface, which made our ride harder.
We had a couple of hours of R’n’R at the old, wooden Potou Point community centre overlooking the Harbour before the Kewpie Too arrived to take some 60 cyclists, today’s ‘catch of the tour’ to Helensville.
There were more cyclists than spaces on the boat so there was some anxiety from those of us who’d booked (in my case in November) about getting on board. But the family who run the boat were very organised in a friendly but firm Kiwi way. So only half a dozen late comers had to wait for the next sailing at 6am tomorrow.
The photo above gives you an idea of the embarkation procedure with the bikes being hauled up to the top deck. We had a very jolly crossing, with a surprising amount of lively chat among the cyclists after their first 400km of the Tour.
Once we were underway, I was head down writing my weekly column for Newsroom. But I was fast running out of battery in my iPad. I asked Gay, the skipper’s wife, if I could plug it in somewhere. “Sure!” she replied. She went to the bridge, opened a hatch in the floor just to the right of her husband’s captain’s chair, and climbed down out of sight below deck. She emerged momentarily with a long extension cord, which her son plugged in on the bridge and fed through a window into the cabin. She then presented it to me at my seat.
So, I not only got my column written and filed with photos thanks to a mobile signal, but I’m also able to write and post this.
It’s a three hour crossing, and we’ll land about 7pm. It could easily take half an hour to unload the bikes, then Kennedy and I have a 70km ride to our respective homes in Auckland. We’ll probably stop for a takeout along the way…so it might be well past 11pm before I get home — just for one, very welcome night with Lynn and for home comforts — before I continue the Tour next morning.
Sadly, though, without Kennedy. His plan was only to ride home to Auckland for a taste of the Tour. He has been a delightful companion, And you’ll miss him too. My posts from here on will lack his deep knowledge and wonder of nature he imparted along the way. And thanks for the blackberries, Kennedy!
PS some more boat photos!