with Rod Oram


B to B 2024

B to B 2023

Tour of NZ 2023


Tour Aotearoa

Day 6 – Floating on air

Feb 22, 2020

My paddle in the children’s warm pool straight after breakfast was the highlight of my day. Even better than the cycling, which was very good.

Perhaps I should explain. Over breakfast with half a dozen Tour riders in the campground kitchen, we were asking each other the usual questions…How’s your ride? Where’re you heading today? What’s up with the weather? How’s your bike? Often the answers are more interesting than you might imagine, well, at least for other cyclists.

I said I was going to Matamata, a 120km away across the Hauraki Plain along a very flat old rail bed. As indeed were most of the other riders, tho some were planning to push on further. But that, I allowed, was only my second most important goal for the day. The top priority was to find the leak in my air mattress.

“How bad is it?” asked Geoff from Whangarei.

“Flat as by 3am,” I replied.

“Oh, bad!” another of the riders commented. Indeed, the ground beneath me had seemed particularly hard and lumpy in the middle of the night.

I said my plan was to ride quite quickly today, hoping I could find a large water tub or similar in the campground in Matamata to see where the leak was.

“There’s a good pool here,”Geoff suggested.

So straight after breakfast my mattress and I headed for the children’s pool, which was pleasantly warm from the local hot springs. As soon as the mattress and I were in the water, I saw not one but two leaks close to each other. Very small, impossible to see or feel without the bubbles. But big enough to empty the mattress in five hours.

With my prime task of the day done by 7.30am, I lounged in the equally warm main swimming pool for a while easing some tired muscles after yesterday’s strenuous ride.

Today’s ride was possibly the easiest of the whole Tour, given the wide plain we traversed. This was a huge wetland before European settlers arrived in the late 19th century and drained the land. It is now an intensive dairy farming area, but it is increasingly threatened by rising sea levels and the heavy run off of nitrates from fertilisers and cows into the nearby sea, the Firth of Thames.

The following photos give you a feel for the place. As you’ll see it was overcast all day, with three periods of showers, just as Jim Salinger, my good friend and climate scientist, forecast. A meteorologist early in his career, he is sending me highly localised forecasts each day.

Cow underpass. Some 300 cows, I estimated, were walking themselves in for their afternoon milking. This could have been the middle of the herd, with more either side

Having got quite wet three times today, and more rain promised for tonight after a long drought, I made the same decision as quite a few other cyclists. We’re staying indoors here in Matamata, rather than camping. An added treat on this, a relatively easy riding day, before we get into some much harder terrain in the south Waikato the day after tomorrow.

I’ve added another bonus. I’m sitting writing this over dinner in my favourite cafe in the Waikato – Workman’s, named after the proprietor not the clientele. Over the past 20 years, I’ve been here often because the town has many interesting agribusinesses nearby and it is a good place to break longer journeys from Auckland to Tauranga, Rotorua and Taupo.

Back in the day, it was quite a staid, quiet country town. Since then, local dairy farmers have had a big couple of decades and tourists flock here because Peter Jackson built the Hobbiton set nearby for his Lord of the Rings films. One of the photos below is the tourism information office with Hobbitesque elements to its architecture.

And this being a Saturday night Workman’s and every other hospitality place down the main street is pumping. But as soon as I’ve posted this, I’m heading to my motel bed just down the street.