Given Auckland has been my home for more than 20 years, I think I know it reasonably well. After all, it is the smallest of the seven cities I’ve called home over my nearly seven decades to date. And I cycle around the city a lot, often covering long distances.
Today, tho, the Tour took me to some places I knew of but which were largely unknown to me. So it was good to get to know them a bit, such as Totara Park in Manukau. Yes, there were the totara trees I assumed were there. But they were far bigger, older and more abundant, and the park was much larger than I expected.
But another aspect of the day was a little disconcerting. For long stretches my ride took me through parts of the city I know well but from different routes. So I sort of knew where I was…but didn’t. But likewise I learnt a bit about those places.
More of today in a mo, though. First, there’s more to say about last night. By the time our boat across the Kaipara Harbour had docked late and our bikes unloaded, it was almost 8pm before Kennedy and I set off on our ride to our homes. We set a cracking pace to make the most of the last of the evening light.
But by the time we got to Kumeu, about half way home, we were hungry. So, we stopped at a pop-up Hell Pizza and shared a very good 12 inch satay chicken pizza. But for drinks we chose 500ml Mango Locos from the Monster Energy Drink Company. Man, were they full of caffeine, sugar, artificial colours and perhaps other stimulants. We flew to our homes.
Once we were in the new suburbs of the city in the northwest, we joined the newly extended cycleway into town. Along the way, our routes home diverged…and we took one last photo of our trip together.
I arrived home at 11pm, having started riding at 7.30am, with, of course a seven hour break waiting for the ferry, then the crossing. All up, it was 128km, my longest day so far on the Tour.
It was very restful being home and seeing Lynn. I didn’t leave ‘til 11am this morning because I had some work to do and a bit of kit sorting out for the bike after the four-day shakedown stage from the Cape. The first stop on today’s journey was Mount Eden, one of our volcanic cones about 5km south of the city centre. It is one of the required photo stops along the route, with our submission of those photos as our proof of progress.
As I was about to start the climb, a young woman called out offering me an ice block. Gemma spotted I was a tour rider, as it turned out is her husband. She was there with her young son Alfie to give us all passing riders a treat. The two of them, with a daughter in school today, had been on the dock at Helensville yesterday evening, waving a banner welcoming their husband/Dad.
And, of course, the view from the top of Mount Eden, which is one of my favourite cycling climbs in the city, was as beautiful as ever.
The next landmark was the Manukau Harbour, the third of the three big harbours down the west coast of the upper half of the North Island. While there are some beautiful and wild places out by the heads and to the south, as you’ll see in my first blog post of the Tour when I described my last training ride which was to camp at Whatipu beach, Auckland impinges on the rest of it. The photo below, taken on my ride today is the remnant of the old port of Onehunga, now part of the city, looking out to the heads and the Wild West coast.
Later, as I was entering Totara Park down in the southern part of the city, I saw a Tour cyclist resting under a tall totara tree. I was due for a break so I joined him. Harley is from Wellington, and after chatting a while we set off together. He said some relatives were tracking him on the Tour’s live online GPS system. And sure enough, on the outskirts of the city Kylie had parked her car on the verge and with her young children Jesse, Layla and Vida, they had set up a welcome for him.
After very welcome cold apple juice, and cookies and a good chat, Harley and I continued on our way. A while later we began our climb up into the Hunua ranges, an area of moderate hills to the city’s south east. I know the area well from some years of Sunday rides with a local cycle club. But again it was slightly disconcerting because the Kennett brothers are such excellent route pickers. We climbed up to Hunua village on very quiet roads I didn’t know. It was hard work – they were steep and I think I was suffering the after effects of Mango Loco overload.
From the village, we cruised mostly down hill, with occasional minor ups, before swinging from south to east to head over to the Firth of Thames and today’s destination, Miranda. This last 45km leg of the 117km day was delightful, particularly as we neared Miranda with gorgeous views in the early evening light over to the Firth and the Coromandel peninsula.