17 Janvier – 20 Janvier : New Plymouth – Oakura (9km and 16km +160m)
Tom leaves the next morning to explore the surroundings as there is on the same street a second-hand shop and a cycle shop next to it ! Finally we go see together the second-hand bike in the cycle shop. As we expected, Tom's bike can be repaired but really seeing the price and high probability that it happens again, we think it isn't really worth it and it is better to get another one. Hanni, who works at the cycle shop, advises us and then waits patiently for our decision.
Eventually we buy her the bike which is nearly new. In the meantime, we have talked a bit together and she invites us to sleep over at her place ! We are amazed at her kind and spontaneous offer !It'll be a bbq and garden vegetables tonight. We are so lucky to have met her by chance, she gets us out of our cycling mess and welcomes us to her place. We spend a great evening talking and eating well. The next day we spend in New Plymouth, walking around and resting.
We also meet again Mathieu and Elea, the french cycling couple who was on the forgotten world highway with us. They had chain issues. We feel less alone with our troubles ! We meet again Elea later with whom we have a drink, she is a pastry chef and would love to set up a place which would combine gastronomy and sport and have chickens in the backyard. From there to self-sufficiency, there is only one step, again beautiful people that we meet on the way. In the evening, we go to the light festival with Hanni. She takes us through the small trails of the park, beautiful, we even see glow worms ! We watch a very nice concert from the Alpaca Social Club duo, we recomme nd them if you have the chance to hear them, world music from everywhere and even one from French Brittany !
21 Janvier – 25 Janvier : Roebuck Farm (24km / jour et +200m / jour)
We leave Hanni, happy to have met her and hopeful to see her again soon. Destination, Ohura camping. It is on a coastal road and the distance is quite short, so we think it'll be pretty straightforward. Hmm. It is without taking into account NZ age, all brand new with its volcanic land which are making plunging hills into the ocean of course. It is a real theme parc, and up and down we go and up and down we go again. Do you picture it ?
The whole lot with an addition face front wind which slows us right down and have us shout strings of strong words luckily lost into the air wall we are going through. For the first time since the start of the bike trip, i feel my muscles failing. I did have heavy muscle aches which make them all rigid of course but this time i feel the wear attack on the joints. I move like a turtle, litterally and figuratively when thinking about our heavy load.
Tom has 30kg+ of load between the camera material and the rest and I probably have about 25kg to carry as well. I tract the whole lot with my back as my legs are not following anymore and it becomes quite uncomfortable. I swear every time as each slope finishes and we discover the next one, « it just never stops ! ». Luckily, the suffering soone ends and we put up our tent, exhausted. Our tent is little odd in the middle of the other campers. A tiny one on a big site surrounded by tent palaces which have several rooms and even integrated toilets or equipped kitchens. Impressive.
The next day we have to go up again, going back several kilometres on a road without any space for the bikes in the middle of cars going really fast. We go up mostly. Lucky for us this time the wind is on our side.
We arrive at Roebuck Farm where Thomas starts a week of training about raw milk cheese making. We invite you to wath the videos made with David Asher our site to re-discover this incredible and threatened craft ! In the meantime i work as a volunteer with Linda who takes care of the food and all the logistics for the training.
We prepare delicious meals made with simple and fresh food from the farm and the surroundings. We cut, grate, roast, slow cook, we place on the table, take out the dishes and wash. I also work a bit with Jodi in the veggie garden, some harvest, some veggie prep and some veggie bed cleaning, it feels good to put my hands into the soil a little.
In the evening, we set out for our campsite on our bikes, the wind faces us again but we are mostly going down. Tom tells me about his day's lessons, joy in his voice while he discovers the simplicity of the process and the amazing diversity that still comes out of it.
Everything is tackled, from yoghurt, the students go to the mozarella, going through the camembert and the brie as well as the alpine cheeses and even the delicious blue cheeses. The days go by really fast, without being similar.
One evening, it is party time. Jodi puts up a lamb to roast on a spit and invites several friends and customers to participate to the feast.
With Linda, we give it all to the preparation of the rest of the food. Everyone brings a bottle and Jodi's friend even takes care of the music. Party time in the veggie garden. What a nice moment ! A guest questions Tom on his t-shirt « where did you get it ? My husband has the same. » The shirt has a Saint-Malo logo and is only sold there. As it happens they are from Saint-Malo and live in New Plymouth for several years ! The world is small, unless it's more that you find Bretons everywhere in the world, and notably people from Saint-Malo that the sea calls out to the four corners of the world.
At the end of the evening, we all gather into the renovated barn which is the training center to watch « the cheese nunn », a documentary about an american nunn who studies traditional cheese. Of course part of it is happening in France, to the great pleasure of Thomas who never ceases to tease another italian student in a friendly competition on the best cheeses while entertaining the others. Later this night, Jodi asks one of their friends to take us back to the camping and comes back the next morning to pick us up while he is on the milk ride to collect the fresh milk for the next training day.
I learn a lot in such a little time on Jodi's farm. His garden of half an acre is super productive, economically viable and the whole thing is super well organised. He also has time for leisure which is a sure sign of success. Jodi is also an expert in managing sheeps and their grazing , we discover the existence of a whole new body of knowledge. Find soon the videos on our website where we were able to touch on some of these topics with him and the article about his place HERE. Thomas finishes his training very happy, his head full of new cheesy ideas for our future farm. To find more videos by David Asher about traditionnal cheesemaking, here below.
We finish this week, charmed by the people we met. Beautiful people, animated by a real sense of living and sharing, convinced that it is by doing better and showing to the others and training others that we can change the world little by little for the better. Our type of people through and through !
We leave with a Roebuck Farm bag full of good veggies and one or two steaks coming from Jodi's friend's cow. We go back to Hanni's for a last night before leaving the region. We had met with her the day before as she came to pick us up and bring us to the Rotokare bird reserve. She volunteers there so thanks to her expertise, we are able to observe some rare birds and some more common but really beautiful ones. It is an incredible experience, outside of the regular tracks. We even get to hear, without seeing them, the kiwis once the night has fallen down.
26 Janvier – 27 Janvier : Hamilton and Backyard Jem (4 km and 70km)
Early in the morning, we are leaving the good care of Hanni to get to the city center and catch a bus for Hamilton. Still half asleep we arrive in this new city. We aim straight for the center to find the i-site, something to eat and the library. We made a tour of the libraries of every city we visited in the North Island.
We find there comfy chairs, a nice temperature, tables with the right height to work and free internet. Our articles and videos take shape mainly in these beautiful buildings. I often think back to the 18th arrondissement of Paris library where i used to go when little. We rarely found the latest editions there and not many chairs, the entry hall looked like one of a swimming pool and I wonder if they finally installed internet access or if it just closed down.
Beginning of the afternoon, we start in the direction of our warmshower hosts. On our way we meet a cyclist who stops to chat. He is also on the warmshower network as a host, turns out Tom had written to him but he couldn't welcome us that day. He does invite us to contact him again the next day if we are looking for a place. Friendly, he gives us some additional advice before leaving. We get to Bill and Jane place. They warmly welcome us and we have great times chatting, eating and playing Quibbler, a card-based scrabble.
The day after, we are visiting Shannon. We met her during the training at Jodi's and also has a market garden and started with two friends, a delicious fermented products business. Find HERE an article about lactofermentation and the portrait of an accomplished and fascinating woman and discover her farm HERE ! The road is long but quite flat with the bikes but my knees are starting to be worn. Finally i speak to Thomas about it. We will need to adapt the following legs because days like the Tongariro's don't seem to be possible anymore if i want to be able to finish the trip cycling.
28 Janvier : Hamilton to Matamata (40km by car and 18km)
The morning of our departure, we go to the big Hamilton garden following our hosts' advice. It is divided in several theme areas and is absolutely magnificent, we are totally surprised by it ! We come back after lunch and start preparing our gear under the very hot sun. We have more than 50km to ride today starting with some hills. Our hosts take pity over my worn knee and offer to take us forward a bit by car to avoid the main hills. I am so grateful ! And they end up advancing us more than half our way !
We leave them a smile on our face with as usual the hope to meet them back in France one day on our future farm to return the favour of this amazing stay. Hence we arrive rather in good shape in Matamata, the place to start the visits to Hobbiton, the hobbits village of Lord of the Rings. Even the i-site is in a hobbit house shape. The hobbits at the i-site highly advise us against not to go to Tauranga by bicycle, the road is narrow without any cycling lane and going up all the time. The bus is only 15 bucks per person. We book it. The hostel lady confirms that this was the right choice. The camping was about ten km further and my knee is definitely not in good shape, we decide to rest at the hostel. We meet there Lyonel who works at Hobbiton in the watering staff in order to earn some money to continue his visit of NZ. We talk destinations and raclette around a beer in the evening warmth.
29 Janvier : Matamata to Tauranga (by bus)
The next day, we leave by bus to Tauranga. I massage my knees while looking at the winding up slope through the mountain. I've put the japanese patches that my mum had given me for muscle pain and it worked quite well. We are not able to contact our warmshower host upon arrival so we go to a camping equipped with a hot pool and internet. The road isn't flat at all to go there but it is still ok.
30 janvier : Fernland spa – Abundant Backyard (15km +248m) – Omokora beach
We take a nice hot bath the next morning before starting the day. Going to Abundant Backyard, at Silvio's, another market gardener, recommended by Jodi. There aren't many km but the road is terribly busy, it is the highway to Auckland. It goes up and down but we are used to it even if it doesn't make them easier. We end up leaving this road with relief to continue within the surrounding hills. Silvio welcomes us with big pots of cold water and a big smile.
We spend a small hour chatting about his amazing journey and his system which deserves its name as Abundant Backyard. We leave again with fresh veggies and a lot of renewed inspiration thanks to his contagious happy mood. Find here the article on this place full of magic.
We get back on the highway and escape soon towards a small peninsula leading to Omokoa beach. Looking for a campsite we go to the very end but there is only a small beach close to a children playground. After some rest, we go back where we came from taking the coastal way which is flatter and much nicer than the road until the camping, also equipped with a hot pool which we'll enjoy in the morning.
31 janvier : Omokoroa beach - Riverstone Farm Glamping (14km +100m)
A small day which leads us to Karen. Karen was one of the students of the cheese making training that Tom did. She invited us very kindly to pass by her place. Her house is well-renovated and very comfy to live in. She shows us around and then takes us to the nearby waterfall. The waterfall doesn't have a name and is only known by the locals. It is breathtaking, we spend a magical moment enjoying the fresh mineral waters which fall on polished rocks under the hot rays of sunshine that warm us through between two baths. Eywa, her white wolf-dog, spends its time running around us trying to keep us together as a group and whining with worry when one of us dives into the water. The day ends perfectly with a nice barbecue at her place with her friend and neighbour. A beautiful January month that ends in a soft cocoon.
Articles and videos made during this time:
Making Cheese (intro)
Fridge and sterilization
Advice to start a farm
Fast growing veggies
Interest of the micro-greens
The beginnings of the Roebuck farm
Advice on tomato
Advice for beginners