Finally with all our gear stowed in the panniers, booted, helmeted & suited we hit the road at around 9.00 for our days run down to Dougs' sisters place in Palmerston North. The weather is clear at around the 20 degree mark.
Our first stop of the day was the Waikite Mud Pools about 30km out of Rotorua. There is a pervasive odour about the town reminiscent of fireworks or gunfire, the sulphur fumes emanating from the thermal activity around the place comes and goes with the wind direction. As we neared the mud pools you could see clouds of steam appearing from the ground at random spots, very wierd to be riding along and see a plume of steam by the side of the road.
At the mud pools the surface looks like a grey watery porridge that is on a slow simmer, blooping, plopping and bubbling away. Certainly not that inviting for a soak (or par-boil).
Back on the road we head down the highway to Taupo, for a quick coffee and sausage roll at a service station. I must say though for service station fare the offering was quite passable. From here we start a long ascent up to the Desert Road, a quite scenic run. Although it is called a "desert" it is actually alpine grasslands with great views to the mountains and hills in the distance. The NZ Army use the area as a training range, in winter I'd reckon it would be quite challenging, little cover or shelter from the elements.
The highway is well maintained with a nice smooth surface and sweeping bends, very tempting to crack on a bit, however Doug had warned me of the eternal vigilance of the local police. Sure enough it wasn't log before one patrol car went past and soon enough another was assisting a motorist to make a contribution to the nations coffers.
At one point we were trailing a truck with Doug leading and myself trailing along at my customary three seconds, when there was an explosion of wood fragments from underneath. I'd seen the odd plank of pine lying on the road before and it looked like the truck had run over a couple of them, blowing them into kindling and launching them into the air. Bits of sharp pointy wood flew past Dougs' head and landed on the road in front of me, all the stuff I've been teaching bike students came to the fore "look at the gap, not the obstacle, countersteer", quick flip-flop and we were clear.
By this stage we had covered around 300km so it was time to look for fuel, Doug had arranged to meet his Brother in Law, Brent, at Fieldling for the run to his place for our overnight stop. Brent is a busy guy and doesn't get out on his bike as often as he'd like so it was a welcome opportunity for him to give us a bit of a tour of his backyard. After fuelling (the warning light came on just as I pulled up to the pumps) we headed for a look at the Te Apiti wind farm.
The road out to the site is a cracker, oodles of bends, up & down, great fun. At one point I was cranked over through a bend when I hit a small patch of sand/gravel, just had time to register an "ooh sh......." as the front skipped and bit again. All praise to the German engineers, the little BMW didn't even shake her head, just kept on doing her thing.
The wind farm is way impressive, these power generators are huge and there are lots of them marching across the landscape, with their blades turning in a stately fashion. Funnily enough I had this mental image of the Pink Floyd video clip for their The Wall album of the hammers marching along, sort of half expecting these things to uproot and stalk off across the hills.
Up close to these it is even more impressive, you can hear the wind vortices coming off the blade tips as they swoosh past above your head, latent power.
Next stop was our overnighter with Dougs Sister Wendy and Brent, who were most charming hosts. I didn't update the blog whilst there as it would be a bit disrespectful to have my nose buried in a screen while being entertained as guests in their home.
As the next day called for us to be on the road by 5.00am it was an early night, in bed by 8.45. After just nodding off I was woken by the sound of crying, this was a bit disconcerting as there were no children in the house, thinking it was probably something from outside I shrugged it off and tried to get back to sleep. Again the sound of crying, louder this time, "what the..?" On with the light and here is one of their cats making a fuss about wanting to get out, the thing must have been hiding under the bed when I turned in. Wendy had warned to keep the door shut if I didn't want visits from her cats, so I had done so, my quick search of the room beforehand though obviously wasn't thorough enough. Back to sleep.