Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cycling In New Zealand 2018 Days 12 & 13: Muriwai - Of Gannets & Strawberries

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / New Zealand / Cycling New Zealand 2018 / Days 12-13     |     Go to D1-2/D3/D4/D5/D6/D7-8/D9/D10-11
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Cycling New Zealand 2018 Days 12 & 13: Muriwai - Of Gannets & Strawberries
New Zealand, North & South Island : Thursday & Friday, 1st & 2nd November 2018
This is part of a multi-mode cycling tour North Island & South IslandNew Zealand:
Travel Route: Auckland to Muriwai
This map shows the drive route to the Gannet Colony and also include eateries we visited over two days.
Distance: approx. 90km. round trip     Level: Not applicable.

This is page 9 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D10-11 Waiheke         |       Go to Other Days     |     Go to Bikes On Planes >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
    Traffic in New Zealand is right-hand drive, so cycle on the left. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!
    Some New Zealanders can get quite impatient when it comes to driving. So do not hog the road, stay within your lane and put on your indicators when turning or changing lanes so as not to irate them.

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The maps below is a non-cycling map and shows places we visited and ate at.

3. Navigation
    When cycling, we used Google Maps in Cycling Mode for navigation but there is a lag when starting off, so one would have to cycle a bit to get the orientation right. Google Maps is also useful as it shows various places of interests that were not shown on GPS units.
    Alternatively, download the MAPS.ME app together with the relevant country maps. This app can be used offline.

4. Weather
   1st November: Day temperatures in Auckland averaged 15°C. At Muriwai, morning temperatures averaged 13°C  but felt colder than that due to a strong wind speed of 54kph with gusts of 85kph.
   2nd November: Morning temperatures in Auckland averaged 15°C.
   Useful weather forecast sites for the New Zealand are the New Zealand Met Service and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

5. Places/Points of Interests
    Along the travel route were several places of interests:
- Muriwai Gannet Colony (GPS: -36.83273, 174.42431) to view gannet birds nesting and flying around. Click here for best time to visit the gannet colony.
- Takapu Refuge Walk (GPS: -36.83255, 174.42528).
- Phil Greig Strawberry Garden (GPS: -36.78317, 174.57056).

6. Food
- Japanese ramen & side dishes at Ramen Lab (GPS: -36.78912, 174.77112). Click here for Ramen Lab Menu.
- Freshly made strawberry ice-cream at Phil Greig Strawberry Garden (GPS: -36.78317, 174.57056).
- Chinese dimsum at Hak Ka Hut (GPS: -36.74369, 174.69701). Click here for Hak Ka Hut menu.

7. Accomodations
    We stayed with friends in the Greenhithe suburbs of Auckland.

8. Travelling By Plane And Bringing Bikes Onto Planes In New Zealand
    From Auckland we flew to Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia via the Gold Coast in Australia. The odd thing is that the airline charges for checked in luggage and sports equipment twice - once for the Auckland to Gold Coast leg, and another time for the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur leg. Click here for AirAsia guideline and fee on sports equipment. The fee differs for short-haul and long-haul flights.
    We managed to get cheaper fares by booking months earlier and also booked 20kg sports equipment each for the outgoing and return flight. Our Brompton bicycles were packed into Dimpa bags, and our cycling gear (jerseys, zippable pants, etc) with shopping purchases were put into a spare Dimpa Bag Air Asia allows cabin luggage of two pieces (a normal cabin sized bag with another smaller bag); both must not weigh more than a total of 7kg. They are very strict on this policy and will charge for any weight beyond this. A tip, simple but important. Ensure that you DO NOT carry your tool kits or any long/sharp metal objects in your hand luggage. Put your tool kit into your checked-in bike bags. I often seen friends forgetting about this, only to have their tools confiscated at the security checkpoints.

9. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest. Vodafone prepaid phone cards can be bought at the Vodafone stall located just outside the Arrival Hall. We got ours from a promoter at the shopping arcade within the arrival hall, with each of us getting the prepaid mobile cards at NZ$25 (inclusive of GST) which came with 1.5Gb of data lasting 30 days. Also included were 200 minutes for local calls and calls to selected countries, including Malaysia. This also includes text messages to the selected countries. There's also free chat data when using FaceBook Messenger and WhatsApp.
    Most hotels, motels, home-stays, restaurants, airports and ferries have free Wifi; do note that these free wifi may not be secure and registration could be required. But one can safe on one's mobile data by using these especially for uploading or downloading videos.

10. Communicating with Locals
    All locals speaks very good English and communicating with them should not be a problem.
    
11. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
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PRELUDE
Two days earlier, we did a little bit of cycling among the giant trees of the Redwoods Forest in Rotorua before heading back to Auckland. A day after that we took our bikes by ferry over to Waiheke Island and cycled (pantingly) to savour the wines there.
These next two days will be non-cycling days: we will go bird watching (real birds... not the curvy ones 😂), try some freshly made ice-cream and savour good dim-sum.
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AUCKLAND TO MURIWAI

Travel Route: Auckland to Muriwai
This map shows the drive route to the Gannet Colony and also include eateries we visited over two days.
Distance: approx. 90km. round trip     Level: Not applicable.


We kick off our last full day in New Zealand with an Japanese meal at Ramen Lab. This cozy place serves pretty good ramen (ラーメン) and their Gyōza (ギョウザ) were beautifully done, nicely crispy fried on the outside with crunchy veggies inside.


That warm meal was very appropriate as we will be heading for the coast where strong winds will make the weather even colder. It was a weekday and the Muriwai Beach was deserted; perhaps the dark overcast sky was a deterrent. But no worries, we were not here to go swimming or to enjoy the beach .....


..... we were here to go bird watching. We parked our car at just at the start of the Takapu Refuge Walk. This was a nice quiet trail that ran through a green secondary forest.
But don't let the calmness along the trail belie you.....


As we exited from the wooded trail and out onto the brush land that led down to the Gannet Colony Viewpoint, strong winds started lashing onto us, billowing the hair of the girls into a mess!
Somewhere along the trail, the wind blew sand into our eyes: it was somewhat similar to the Fongchueisha (風吹砂, "wind blowing sand") coastal stretch along Taiwan's Kenting coast! Fortunately, this sand-in-the-eyes experience was only for a short stretch.


As we turned round a corner, we saw some birds resting on rocky outcrops... Hmmmmm, don't seem like much, don't seem like worth that sand-in-the face experience!


But as we rounded another corner, our disappointment turned to awe. On the rocks were thousands of gannets roosting quietly. Their whiteness contrasted sharply against the dark rock that they sat on. And the brown rocks themselves stood out against a blue sea layered white by the breaking waves rolling in.


The gannets were roosting on several rocky outcrops, on one they were sitting on layered tiers almost filling the whole flat surfaces. And according to a friend this was not the peak season yet! (The above photo is of the right outcrop).


And to the left were more birds. They seem so peaceful, so quiet when compared to the rough waves below and the strong lashing winds above. The winds are rather strong here with average speed of 54kph and even stronger gusts of up to 85kph!

It was such a sight to behold... at the centre a tall rock rose up sharply from the sea, it's small plateau filled with white birds.

All these rocky outcrops do have a name. A sketch on a nearby tourist information board shows their names such as the Cliffs of Fall, the Rock of Holes and the Fishing Rock.

This is the Fishing Rock, the largest of the outcrops and most populated and it has several large tiers, each gently sloping down - just great for roosting at.

To its right is the Rock of Holes.

A closer view of the Fishing Rock and the Rock of Holes.

The Rock of Holes is a vertical cliff that rises out from the sea topped off with a small plateau. Within those steep cliffs are many holes into which many of the birds nest.

Standing at the top edge of the Fishing Rock, I followed a Gannet, it's wings spread out wide as it flew in on an landing approach between the Cliffs of Fall on the left and the Rock of Holes on the right.

Now closer to the birds, I could see the individually sitting down..... 

..... many of them had their heads tucked in below a wing to keep warm.

In between their legs below the warmth of their belly, would be eggs in the process of being hatched.
The Gannets have come to the Muriwai Gannet Colony to breed; this breeding period is from August till April with the breeding populating reaching a peak during mid-November. During late autumn and the beginning of winter (May to July) the birds migrate to Australia.


A pair of smooching Gannets (photo capture from information board). 
The birds are happy to be at the takapu (gannet) colony as many of them has been apart for months. They greet each other by bowing, beak tapping, necking and preening each other. The birds are loyal to their mates, staying together for life - almost 20 years.

Both mates takes turn in hatching the egg. While one is roosting, the other fly around looking for food.

The flying birds are a pretty sight too, with sleek wide out-spread wings, ocher heads and legs tucked tucked in aerodynamically.

They won't fly far away as below are rock in which many fishes are trapped...

Once their sharp eyes spot a prey below the waters, they lunge in a steep, hurtling towards the seas in at speeds up to 145kph and plunge into the seas to capture their prey. To protect themselves on hitting the water, the birds are stream-lined, have air-bags in their cheeks & chests, and have super strong skulls.

Messy hair or not, it was a very rewarding experience of seeing this fantastic place.

Reluctantly, we turned away from the beautiful scenery and headed for our next destination .....

..... the Phil Greig Strawberry Garden. We would be indoors in warmer environment, but in a way we would not be escaping from the cold as we would be having super-duper good strawberry ice-creams. These are made from fresh strawberries. First the strawberries are put into a blender, then vanilla ice-cream is added and blended together... and Presto! A couple of minutes later out comes really good strawberry ice-cream.

 !YummY!

Can't get enough of the strawberries? You can pick your own (PYO) at their gardens, see PYO site. Or just buy some fresh ones from their shelves, this comes in several sizes and the bigger ones are real whoppers!

In the evening we drove over to return Luce's car to her. She had lent us her car for these past few days that we had traveled to Hamilton, then Rotorua and back. But when we returned the car, we were in for another pleasant surprise... she had cooked very delicious Penang Prawn Mee (Hokkien Mee in Penang-Hokkien speak). Home-made, this one had very good prawny flavours and the prawns used were super-fresh, big New Zealand prawns.
Dang! I really have very good cuzzies, not only did they warmly welcomed us, made us truly feel at home; on top of that they pamper us with really good food. One can't really ask for more!
_________________________________________________________________________

Our last morning in New Zealand was to go "Yum Char" (Cantonese for "Drink Tea"). But don't get me wrong, in South-east Asia, "yum char" means just that, have a session of drinking Chinese Tea. But here in New Zealand (and in Australia too), "Yum Char" means having dim sum; whether one have Chinese tea or not is irrespective.
Okay.... okay... I detract. We had our Yum Char at one of the best place for dim sum in Auckland, the Hak Ka Hut. The name of the place is a play on two words, the Māori Haka dance, and the Chinese Hakka people. They served a good range of dim sum; from the regular siu mai, har gow to pork ribs and sweet desserts.

Their Char Siu Bao was very good too...

..... and surprise, surprise! They had my favourite too - stewed deep-fired chicken legs!

We dropped by Koh's office, where a Fuji Film poster showed a little girl wearing a pilot's flight helmet and goggles playing with a toy wooden bi-plane.

By coincidence, later at the Auckland's Airport, on display at the departure lounge was the Percival Gull D3 Six plane flown by renown New Zealand aviatrix Jean Batten during her record breaking solo flights during the 1930s. Perhaps the little girl will emulate this aviatrix successes.

AND IT'S
Whakaorangia Aotearoa!
(That's "Goodbye New Zeland!" in Maori)

(For more photos of the Days 12 & 13 Click Here)
This is page 9 of a 9-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D10-11 Waiheke         |       Go to Other Days     |     Go to Bikes On Planes >
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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / New Zealand / Cycling New Zealand 2018 / Days 12-13     |     Go to D1-2/D3/D4/D5/D6/D7-8/D9/D10-11
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