Monday, 29 April 2013


After completing our cycling tour of Hawkes Bay, my wife and I stayed on in New Zealand and spent four days making our way back to Auckland.


Prior to leaving Napier, we had a quick, early morning  meander around the CBD.  The above photographs depict in some part the Art Deco period on which Napier designed itself post the earthquake on the 3rd February 1931, which saw most of Napier levelled and the loss of 256 of it's inhabitants. I think it's the bold colours and striking architecture that appeal to me, although I can understand why it's not to every bodies taste.
The rest of the morning was spent motoring between Napier and Lake Taupo, which is only 143 km from Napier.

Yes! that is snow on the mountain and the smoke is coming from geo-thermal activity.

As we pulled into the Lake Taupo Hilton, I couldn't help but notice just how beautiful this area is and already wished we were staying more than one night. This stunning location provides an array of activities from walking trails, white water kayaking, para sailing, mountain biking, skiing and much, much more that is revealed by hitting on the following link Great Lake Taupo.

I've never been a fan of Hilton Hotels, I've found them to be a little cold and impersonal but when searching Wotif for accommodation I took the the Mystery Deal mainly because I've had success with it in the past. The mystery deal on this occasion was the Hilton and I have to say it was an excellent decision as it was anything but cold and impersonal. There wasn't one single point we could find fault with, the reception staff were welcoming and helpful as were the restaurant's bar and wait staff. Our large room fronted onto the pool and well equipped gym and as to be expected in a 5 star hotel had a very large King size bed which made for a comfortable night. The hotel itself was situated high on a hill next to a hot pool complex. When enquiring about the neighbouring hot springs, we were offered discounted tickets, bathrobes and towels.

I deliberately didn't take photos within the complex due to the number of young children that were there.

The offer was taken up and my wife and we ensconced ourselves in the hot mineral water for a couple of hours that afternoon. It was just what was needed to sooth some aching muscles.

Just another beautiful view of the Great Lake Taupo

The restaurant strip adjacent to the lake
I wonder what skills are required to park a DC3 between two shops in the CBD?
As I previously stated, we could have spent more time here but unfortunately, not on this trip.

After lunch in a cafe adjacent to the lake, immersing ourselves in hot mineral water, a splendid dinner and wine in the Hilton restaurant and a good night's sleep we were off on the next leg of our tour.

Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee


Monday, 22 April 2013

MOPOKE, A rare view

A pair of Tawny Frogmouths enjoying the beautiful day

On a morning ride to Redland Bay, in Queensland, something that I momentarily saw pricked my brain. Immediately to mind came the vision of a Tawny Frogmouth or Mopoke as it is colloquially referred to in Australia. I immediately stopped and retraced my line of direction and to my surprise, on a dead branch, surrounded by bush and in broad daylight was not only one Tawny but a pair.

To sight these birds whilst riding a bike on a pathway, was highly unusual due to the fact that they are nocturnal in nature and have extremely good camouflage. Although they normally perch down low, it is usually closer to the trunk and therefore they are hard to see. Perhaps the main reason I like to ride on bush trails and paths is due to the interaction with wild life.

If I was to describe a Tawny to someone who hadn't seen one before, I would probably say it is the bulldog of the bird species, somewhat like an owl but different. Possibly ugly but then again like the bulldog, beautiful in a sense, They don't fear man or at least they don't take to flight like most birds when you try to approach them and hence, gave me the perfect opporunity to take their photograph.

The Tawny Frogmouth is also lazy, preferring the prey to come to them in preference to hunting on the wing like owls.

If threatened, they remain perfectly still and rely on their camouflage to protect them, so I feel extremely lucky to have spotted the two whilst riding. Perhaps this is the reason the species has lasted some 56 million years although this claim would need to be verified.

Another interesting fact is that the pair stay together until one dies.

I thank Wikipedia for the above information..

Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee

Thursday, 18 April 2013


Flavoured milk as the perfect recovery drink is nothing new to professional cyclists but there would be many recreational cyclists I'm sure, who would welcome this information and particularly when it is coming from another recreational cyclist.
There have been times when I have been on a relatively long ride when I have felt the need for a 'pick-me-up'. Has it ever happened to you when on a ride and you think "Gee! I'm doing this ride hard to-day"? A lot of week-end warriors will tell you caffeine is the best 'pick-me-up' and they may well be right but for some unknown reason, having a conventional coffee, whether it be short black, latte, cappuccino or flat white, sometimes, has an adverse affect on me in that it makes me feel unwell. It doesn't happen all of the time but it does happen and when it does it spoils the whole well being of the ride. Unusually enough, a chilled bottle or carton of flavoured milk, caffeine added or not, has the opposite affect, in that it doesn't make me feel unwell. In fact, it boosts my performance and makes the ride so much more enjoyable.
From a scientist's point of view, it is interesting to read Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki's view on the matter
I can only speak for myself in this matter but it certainly works for me.
The above photograph depicts a brand 'Black Star' full creamy  coffee, one which I had not  tried until recently. When I googled the brand, I was suitably impressed with their blurb but rather than stringing out this post, why don't you travel to the link and see for yourself - Black Star Full Creamy. All I can say is I've tried, I like and I fully recommend, particularly if you want to reduce the intake of caffeine.
Cheers and safe riding,
Jimmy Bee

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


Delicious and nutritious too.

The term "GONE BANANAS" has absolutely nothing to do with this post. In fact it will probably help the brain rather than the other way around.

I have simply used the term to get your attention, deceitful I know but sometimes you have to fly slightly left of the line to draw attention, particularly if you think you have something important to say.

The message to cyclists here is, eat bananas to maintain good health and to give you that needed boost of energy when you need it.

They are usually easy to find, normally cheap, compact and naturally packaged, taste delicious, look good and to boot, nutritious. What more could a cyclist ask for. One drawback but usually one which normally doesn't affect cyclists is it is loaded with sugar.......28g per 225g.

For a full analysis of the humble banana, hit on the following link - Self Nutrition Data


For the reader where English is the second language, hit on the following link GONE BANANAS for an explanation of the term.

Cheers and safe riding,
Jimmy Bee

Tuesday, 16 April 2013


Day 1: Brisbane to Napier via Auckland and Palmerston North.


Three hours in a 737 across the ditch is about all I need in one haul. I'm waiting for the day when there will be standing room only on planes.

If there is to be chaos, let it be organised. Like a number of airports I have visited, Auckland is certainly not organised.

Our diversion through Palmerston North to Napier turned out to be a highlight in so much as the ancient volcanic panorama flying in was a real unexpected treat.

The reception we received at the Marineland Motel with management keeping the bar open for us and arranging some very welcome food. A quality motel on the bay and conveniently positioned across the road from a cycling path.

Day 2: Napier to Havelock North via Ahuriri and Cape Kidnappers, 52 km.


Bright and early, the Takaro Trails mini bus arrived to transport us to their premises in Ahuriri, where we were fitted for and took possession of our bikes and instructed on the finer points of our first day's ride.
I always find the start of day one is a little like scrambled eggs, excitement and adrenaline mixed with a little confusion and at times pure impatience. Due to the calm and competent staff , the éggs' on this occasion were pretty much to order.
A relaxed ride along the waterfront was a good start and after a quick caffeine fix in Napier we were on our way to Clifton and Cape Kidnappers. Having a blue sky with wispy white clouds and the thermometer hovering around 20 degrees C, it was a good start.
The ride to Clifton was scenic and pleasant and everyone quickly moved into a nice relaxed pace.

There was something about the cafe at Clifton which imbued flair. Sometimes, it is difficult to pick up a lunch menu and find something different. What was on offer was not only a little left of centre but was enjoyed by all. The outdoor surroundings with tables conveniently placed under trees was another plus.

Back on the road to find ourselves travelling through orchards heavy in fruit, golden grain crops ready for harvesting and a winery eager to let us taste it's produce.
The night was spent with New Zealand ale for starters at one pub and good pub food and the odd red to wash it down at another.
As this was my wife's first bicycle tour, she elected to have a well deserved spa and a walk around the compact CBD before dinner.
Havelock North Motor Lodge was a quality motel with comfortable beds and spa, conveniently located to the centre of town. As this was the first lodgings of the trip, it bode well with our expectations.

Day 3: Havelock North  to Waipawa  via the Patangata Pub, 50 km.

Yesterday, was just to harden us up for what was in store in to-day's ride.

I think we were all pretty pleased at not having to ride one of the above velocipedes. The advent of gears on bikes certainly makes the cyclist's life a lot easier.


The grand landscapes we were to witness can be likened to photographs found in coffee table books. At the end of the day, people talked more of the beauty that surrounds, than the challenges encountered.
As a bonus for completing the day's ride, most were accommodated in quality B&Bs on the outskirts of town. It's hard to conjure up thoughts of how a shared pizza could turn into a banquet, but it did. What is it they infuse the red wine with over here?

Day 4: Waipawa to Hastings via Bridge Pa, 63 km.
After yesterday's assault on our muscles, I was a little wary at reading in our ride notes, "Terrain is rolling countryside with several uphill sections."Yeah, right!...... It also said "followed by lovely long downhill cruises!"
Was I being too cynical? ......well...... I did study my map a little more closely and I did reveal, over drinks, as delicately as I could, what I thought the ride entailed but this was quickly laughed off with "it couldn't possibly be like to-day." I've already told you that the red wine over here is infused with magical helps to numb the brain.


What goes up....surely must come down.

For every negative there is a positive and the above sign was a real positive to some embattled and tired cyclists. They said 'Welcome' and they made us really welcome.
There was another positive but you will have to read the post on this section for that to be revealed. Was it clear and present danger or was it pure adrenaline, fuelled?
We stayed at Portman's Motor Lodge which was of a similar standard to the other motels  we stayed in.
Day 5: Hastings to Taradale around the Gimblett Gravels Wine Appellation , 45 km.


 To-day  is an easy stroll with visits to a couple of vineyards and a scenic ride to Taradale.

As it was still too early to have lunch it was decided to have coffee and cake and pick up the makings for a picnic on the river further up the trail.

Recreational cycling as far as I am concerned is all about enjoying your surroundings not going like a bat out of hell  with the only view being the rear end of the rider in front. I'm all for slow cookin and slow ridin, well  slower anyway.

We were certainly made welcome at our next lodgings The  Colonial Lodge Motel where the owner really made us feel comfortable.

Day 6: Taradale to Ahuriri via the Puketapu Loop, 45km.
Our last riding day, started well with breakfast on the lawn  and as usual I had a good study of the ride notes and the Google Map which I had previously prepared. Nothing really caught my attention, except for recommending taking a short diversion to the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve, where a walk to the Pa site would afford stunning views out over the region. I don't know whether we got lost on the way, although it seemed pretty straightforward but we had to climb a reasonably steep hill. Was it worth it? Yes, for two reasons, the first certainly put the heart rate up and secondly the panoramic views on all sides were simply stunning.
This ride covered wineries, chocolate factories, wildlife  and seascapes.
This summarises the Takaro Trails Cycle Tours (Link) but for more detail and photographs please check out the individual posts.
How would I rate the tour.?.....................*****
Cheers and safe riding,
Jimmy Bee

Thursday, 11 April 2013

HAWKES BAY NZ - Taradale to Ahuriri (45 km)

A diverse array of backgrounds and personalities

When you have a group of personalities such as ours, you find an array of emotions, particularly on  the last day of an extended tour such as the Takaro Trails Tour we have just been on in New Zealand. Some riders show elation on having met the challenge, others show signs of fatigue and then there are others who can't wait to meet the next challenge. We do encounter the odd "spit the dummy" when things are not going smoothly and tempers get a bit frayed when fatigue starts to set in, while others are no different when they finish to when they started.
I have completed three out of the four tours that U3A's Peddling For Pleasure have been on and I have been amazed at how, overall, this group maintains self discipline and can all enjoy the last night get together at a restaurant. It also says a lot for the leadership, when the majority of the riders put their hand up for the next tour. Perhaps the reason for this is that our tours are limited to five days. If it were to be any longer, a rest day would need to be included mid way through. It also says a lot for the tour operators who find good quality, reasonably priced accommodation and are there to look after our daily problems with the minimum of fuss.
Credit Card Cyclists is probably the best known term for us because after our daily ride, we like to have a warm shower, a glass of ale or wine, good food and above all a comfortable bed. I doubt there are any of us who contemplate riding with kilos of gear, sleeping rough and eating dehydrated food and how the hell do you keep the beer cold. Perhaps a more genteel description of our group is "touring light".....whatever.
It is a pleasant experience to encounter a motel manager who understands the psyche of touring cyclists. On our last touring night, we stayed at the Colonial Lodge Motel in Taradale where the owner Mark, whom I believe is a cyclist himself, went that extra yard to ensure our comfort, even to the extent of pointing us in the right direction of finding a restaurant which not only served quality Thai food but with flair. The next morning, instead of the usual breakfast being served in our rooms, he had tables set up in the garden and catered for us in the form of a smorgasbord and with a light chill in the air, our last day of riding was set to start well.
The views were worth it

The photograph on the top right is part of the Otatara Pa Historic Reserve. For those of you interested in Maori historical culture click on the following link

Happy little vegemites aren't they?
Nothing like climbing a bloody great mountain (perhaps not quite as high as Mt. Cook) just after breakfast but it did have the affect of getting the heart rate up by the time we reached the summit.
These little coils ain't goin ta move

If the skeleton key doesn't work, there's always extreme measures


I was pumped after my climb and was ready to ride. However, there was this little problem, one of our guys who had locked his bike broke the key in the lock. He managed to remove the key but none of the other keys fitted and necessitated in a call to Jenny for assistance, which came very promptly and shortly after we were on our way.

It was nice getting back into native forest again after all of the raised limestone trails. I love the smell of the forest as you ride along and the green tones were welcome after all the drought affected brown hills.

Looks like we're getting the gist of handling these gates and yeah I know that they are there for a purpose but is it to keep the wildlife in, the sheep out or just there to frustrate touring cyclists. The jury is still out on this one.
Looks like those rascally coal seem gas miners are intent on fraccing the New Zealand countryside as well.
A portion of the Silky Oaks Chocolate Factory
Silky Oaks Chocolate Factory Cafe

We detoured off the beaten track some 500m to take a look at the Silky Oaks Chocolate Factory where we decided to stop for lunch. It was a quaint, old fashioned styled cafe, something along the lines of what you remember from your childhood but it was in keeping with the old building which also housed the factory. A look around the tables outside showed that it was well patronised with both cyclists and tourists alike and everybody appeared to be content with what they had ordered. I can honestly say that whilst in New Zealand, I have not once had a lousy coffee. I don't pretend to be a discerning gourmet by any means but if you can't find food to your liking here, you are pretty hard to please.

Back on the open trail, we visited the Church Road Winery where some decided to take the winery tour while the rest of us continued on to the wetlands. We followed the stream and took photographs of numerous birds, crossed the old bridge by the Ahuriri Estuary where we came across another wildlife sanctuary and a rather large gathering of wild geese.
I was getting quite disenchanted, here we were nearly at the end of our tour and I hadn't sighted any indiginous animals, lots of birds but no animals. Suddenly around a corner and there they were, a whole paddock of woolly jum-bucks. Now you might say that all jum-bucks look alike but Kiwi jum-bucks have a distinct aura about them. Now for the uninitiated, woolly jum-bucks is an old fashioned Australian term for sheep. All jokes aside, if I was to end my days as a lamb chop on some dinner plate, I would definitely like to spend my last days grazing on the plains of New Zealand.

We continued on the trail through vast wetlands, skirting the Napier Airport until we met the West shore, where still water turned to surf. Following our instructions we didn't have any problem with finding our way to Ahuriri and delivering our bikes to Takaro Trails Reception Centre (

Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

HAWKES BAY - Hastings to Taradale (45 km)


To-day, being the 4th day of our ride in the Hawkes Bay Region, we are about to tackle the Wineries Cycle Trail. This is one of the shorter rides at 45 km.

Golf Club entrance at Bridge Pa

We had to retrace our footsteps which took us past the Aero Club and through Bridge Pa which of course is where we stopped the day before at the Hastings Golf Club and where I savoured the best iced coffee I've ever tasted. The entrance to the golf club is marked with an avenue of pine trees from the gateway right through to the clubhouse and is in itself a remarkably inviting entrance.

Ngatarawa Winery

Whilst on our 10 km ride around the Ngatarawa Gimblett Gravels Wine Apellation we decided to stop at the eye-catching Ngatarawa Winery where apart from the usual wine tasting we were given a short interesting talk on the history of the property. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a glass fronted refrigerator containing ice cream and as I'm an ice cream tragic, I just had to try some and  I was not disappointed as it was very tasty. That in itself was not surprising, for New Zealand is renowned as having some of the nicest ice cream in the South Pacific.

We continued on the limestone trail for a short while until we arrived at the Trinity Hill Winery where once again we were afforded the opportunity to take lots of photographs and of course the wine sampling continued. Wineries come in all shapes and sizes , some are quaint, others historic, quite a few picturesque but then there are the comfortable ones where one could ensconce oneself for hours sipping a nicely chilled white or a hearty red. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be to-day as it was time to move on, but, not before I purchased one of those t-shirts. No, I'm neither the model on the left or the right but I couldn't resist buying one.........ideal for wearing to a barbeque.

With hunger pains starting to set in, an executive decision was made to stop for lunch at the Unwined Cafe attached to the Unison EstateVineyard. This was a very pleasant cafe, the service was good with the atmosphere relaxed and friendly, a great place for 17 hungry cyclists to chill out and  refuel before rolling rubber on the limestone once again.

It's as though they pose for the camera all of the time

We continued on the wine trail until we reached Fernhill, a small village on the Ngaruroro River. On reaching the river, we turned right and followed the trail along the river heading towards the coast.

Ngaruroro River, Fernhill
Riding high on a contour bank

Just looking at the above pictures, one can imagine what this river looks like during a flood and why these massive contour banks are required to control the water.

A great picnic spot

I wish we were riding along this track

This looks like as good a place as any to stop and stretch the legs and wow! look at the view.
With the rest of the ride going like clockwork, it wasn't long before we were pulling into the Colonial Lodge Motel in Taradale, with another great day of riding under our belt.

Our Tour Operator Takaro Trails Cycle Tours  (Link)
 Cheers and safe riding,

Jimmy Bee