Recovery Road

Last night was awesome, but I’m paying for it this morning. After breakfast, a lot of water and an aspirin I’m feeling better. I decide to go for a walk into Paihia to see what was going on. Turns out not much, it’s a really small town. However most of the tours and activities leave from here into the Bay of Islands. There is even a helicopter parked on the beach waiting to take people for rides!

I have a swim in the clear blue water to wash off the rest of last nights hangover. There is a pontoon floating just offshore, so I head for that. Climbing on, it’s a good view back to the beach and along the coast but I soon remember why I don’t go on boats very often. I quickly dive in and head back to the hostel to get ready for the days ride.

Today I’m heading back to Auckland. Many people I have spoken to are shocked that I’m not sticking around in Paihia longer but this journey is as much about the riding as it is about the destinations. I can always come back and do the historical stuff another time… maybe when they have some more history to share. It’s only about 250 years old this country!

I’m heading directly west to start with, out to a beach head that looked good on the map for lunch. Here I find a small shipping container that has been turned into a community art gallery. It’s got some cool bits and pieces in there but nothing that would travel well on the bike. The Toi Box is sitting in a cafe carpark opposite a beautiful view across the bay to a huge sand dune hill. I’m not surprised the owners are inspired to create art.

Moving on, I’ve been told of the amazing forrest out this way. The road now passes directly through it in what can be described only as THE BEST MOTORBIKING ROAD YET! It’s a seamless flow of good quality tarmac through a really dense jungle that follows the contours of the hills. Hard on the power, hard on the brakes, tipping into each corner was amazing! I wish I had stopped to take a photo but just before it started I remember seeing a warning sign for squiggly roads for 24km – Bliss!

This was finally also where I got a good feel for the bike. It’s such a different machine to my Versys that I hadn’t felt properly connected to it till this point. On the Versys the steering is so light you can just sit back and turn the bars and it responds pretty quickly. The Ducati forces you to get more involved as the steering is heavier. You have to shift your body forwards in the seat to the narrow part so you can move over when approaching a corner. The change of weight turns the bike in and make the steering easy and being sat forwards urges you to go faster which makes the bike feel more planted. It’s a bit wobbly going slow due to the heavy steering but now I know how to use the Ducati properly it’s an absolute hoot!

After the forest followed some wide open plains with arrow straight roads. These beckoned to open up the 1000cc motor to see what it could do. At one point I did see 170km/h but really the road quality is not good enough for this… also its illegal. People had warned me about the plod in NZ and I’m not eager to find out what they would do to someone 70km’s over the limit…

Because I had spent the morning recovering on the beach – it’s a hard life I know…. I had a full days riding to do in half a day. The main roads are easy enough to follow without stopping too often and it was only when I got closer to Auckland on the SH1 that I realised I had gone wrong and had to turn around. I met Sally and the family down on the beachfront in Browns Bay where it seems a saturday tradition for the whole town to get a takeaway and sit out under the sun into the evening. It was a great way to end such an amazing days riding.