Michael J Breen
We regrouped again at the tee intersection and then headed off along the forest trail. I had the bit between my teeth and raced off ahead so I could give the growling Ducati some work. With nice clay track beneath the wheels and little loose metal to deal with, the Hypermotard was in its element! I was sliding it more and wheelspinning out of the corners all the time laughing inside my helmet. Michael too was having fun on the little WR250R. It couldn’t keep up with the grunty Ducati on the straights but more than made up for that in the corners and soon Michael was close behind. We came to a small clearing on our left with nice ocean views (by this time we had reached the coast and were heading North). There was an open clay area that looked inviting. It was rough and rocky so I figured it’d be a nice challenge and grabbed the brakes, hauled it up to flick left and see how the Duc handled the clay. At slow speeds it was easy going and, thinking about dollars, I kept the speed within sensible limits to reduce the chances of denting my pretty Marchesini forged rims.
As we were in there fooling about; the rest of the team caught up and passed us so we set off after them and caught up in another clearing where a family were out enjoying some quad riding. Kel had a chat with the Maori Dad asking if the forest was open etc.; it all seemed good so I again took the lead and crossed a small stream ford and headed on down the road. About 2 km along I spotted a road heading down toward the beach on the left. It doubled back but looked promising so, as this was an exploration ride, I took that road less travelled. Unfortunately it only lasted about 500 metres before we came to a private property sign and a gate. We certainly didn’t want to upset the locals and screw it up for future riders so turned back to the main road.
Another few kilometres along the road and we could see Mitimiti ahead. Just before it was the Sandtrails Hokianga settlement and we stopped there for a good long rest and refreshment.
Mitimiti was only another 500 metres ahead but we found a nice open field overlooking the ocean and parked the bikes there. Looking inland we could see signs of some trails on the hills Rob suggested that these might lead to Pawarenga on the southern side of Whangape Harbour. We were later to see those trails from the other side of the harbour.
I refilled my chain oiler; the Tutoro manual oiler was working really well and my chain was always wet with fresh lube and much cleaner than some of the others. Looking at the bikes I was directed to Michael’s late modification. Having just 23km on the bike when the ride started at Casa Searle; Michael had not yet fitted a belly pan and didn’t want stones chipping away at his motor. His solution was straight out of Formula 1: 5 ply wood panels bolted in place and they were working really bloody well!
Leaving the beach after around 40 minutes, we headed back along the road we had come in for about four kilometres and turned left onto West Coast Rd. That took us East and back through Panguru but along the northern side rather than the southern road.
Heading North on Runaruna Rd, we cruised into Broadwood for gas and then hooked West again on Kaitaia Awaroa Rd to Herekino where we took the Whangape Rd to the top of Whangape Harbour.
At Broadwood Kel tried to sort out his rear tyre. He’d fitted a new one for the trip but hadn’t paid attention and didn’t notice that only one side had beaded. Not wanting to pop a tube, he tried to pump it up as high as possible to make it bead. We all had icecreams and a rest in the shade behind the shop/gas station while he worked on it. Unfortunately that didn’t work as the gas station pump was almost as gutless as Kel’s portable DC air pump!
This was one of those twisty roads we all love but it was hot, dry and really dusty. This was exaggerated by coming across a few more cars on the road. As we neared Whangape, I slowed a little to film riders coming up behind me. Neil, on his Africa Twin had the same thought and had fitted his GoPro camera to the front of his bike to shoot me. We rode along for a few km’s at a pretty good pace given the dust and loose metal until we stopped at a small cemetery on the left. As we waited for the team to catch up, a white van pulled out of the cemetery (Urupara) and headed off in front of us. Rob was in front on his AT and, knowing we didn’t have far to go and not wanting to upset the locals; he rode slowly behind the van which seemed to get slower and slower driving along the middle of the road. It was almost like they were deliberately blocking us and just as Kel got impatient and pulled out to ride past us all and overtake the van, the driver stopped in the middle of the road! Rob, who was just behind, damn near dropped his bike as he tried to avoid tail ending the van. Then the damn thing started off again but thankfully only for a few more hundred metres before pulling right (without indicating) into a driveway. I’m sure the same sense of relief came across us all as we finally passed the van and were able to pick up some speed again.
It wasn’t too much further down that road following the inlet to our left that we came to the end of the road and pulled over for another rest, some sightseeing and a photo session. For Camilla and I it had seemed as if we were heading the wrong way; we were somewhat turned around and disoriented by having the water on our left as we road south. Weren’t we supposed to be heading North?! Rob confirmed that we had indeed been heading south and that the water was not the open sea but the upper reaches of the Whangape Harbour.
We stopped at the waters edge for about half an hour as Rob checked out the hills above the church across the bay to our right. We could just see a road: Warawara Forest Rd, Pawarenga where the top road from Mitimiti should come out. Rob was checking it out for future opportunities and it did indeed look bloody attractive.
Oddly, along the coast opposite us were three old churches. We wondered why three churches would be needed and pondered whether it was because of tribal jealousy or perhaps different religious sects (Anglican, Catholic and Mormon). The churches were a nice touch though and did add some interest. We could not get to them this trip but put them into storage for the future. Looking on my Google map at home I see one was the Holy Trinity at Mehopa, Northlands but although I could see buildings on the map; I could not identify the others.