We’ve had a busy week in Auckland. We were set to leave Auckland on Thursday, but after coffee with some Auckland bicycle advocates we were persuaded to stay until the weekend to witness the first LEGAL crossing of bicycles over the Harbor bridge and we are glad we stayed. The Harbor Bridge (called the “coathanger” by some locals) connects St. Mary’s Bay in Auckland with the North shore and has been completely off limits to cyclists. There has been a growing movement to allow cyclists and pedestrians on the bridge and the Telestra Challenge ride was the first time cyclists were allowed to legally cross it. We volunteered a few days before the ride to help with registration at the University of Auckland campus. It was great fun to volunteer and we got to chat with some local cyclists about biking in Auckland.

The day of the event was a cloudy and blustery one, but it didn’t discourage the 5000 cyclists that showed up to ride. Before the ride started we got to meet Len Brown, the mayor of Auckland and got a short interview on film. He was jovial and affable and seemed like a nice guy trying to make Auckland more livable. One of the highlights of the event was to witness the protective barrier on the bridge formed by buses. It was a stunning sight and highly symbolic of the buses attempts to bridge the gap with cyclists. While it was a one time event, we certainly hope that it opens new minds about adding pedestrian and bicycling facilities.

After the official ride there was a bicycle carnival where we got to meet the Velociteers, Aucklands only synchronized bicycling group. The thing to know about Auckland is that it has a lot of cyclists, but very few who commute or are more everyday riders. Cycling is very much a sport and the idea of bike fun that is easy to take for granted in Portland hasn’t quite taken hold yet in New Zealand. But it is hopeful with groups like the Velociteers and Frocks on Bikes that an every day cycling culture will soon develop. After the end of the official happenings, we had a wonderful time at a cafe with a few of the Velociteers and Frockers.

We soon left Auckland, but not before exploring the cute suburb of Davenport. We rode up to North Head which was once a military installation with a big gun to protect against the Russians. It was beautiful riding and the top of North Head had great views of the city.

Waiheke Island

We hopped a Fullers ferry to Waiheke Island. Fullers is a local ferry operation that also operates buses on the island. They are unusual in that they are making great steps to being bicycle friendly. There is no charge for bicycles and some of their ferries now have indoor bike racks, which we haven’t even seen in the states! When we got to Waiheke, we saw that their buses had a great PSA to look out for cyclists on back. We also heard that they received a shipment of bike racks and would be piloting those soon.

The island of Waiheke is home to beautiful beaches, vineyards and mountain biking trails. On Waiheke you are either going up or down, there is very little flat road on the island. Its a beautiful but can be a challenging place to cycle if you’re not use to hills, but the leg burning is well worth it. The islands roads are a veritable roller coaster and are fun on an loaded bike. The weather hasn’t been very cooperative (where did summer go?) so we didn’t get to do as much riding as we would have liked, but what we did see was spectacular.

Tomorrow we ride out to Orapiu and hop a 360 Discovery Cruises ferry to Coromandel. We’ve heard the ride is beautiful and a great way to enter the peninsula. From Coromandel, our next stops will be Rotorua, Taupo, Napier and then down to Wellington. The holidays are coming so we’re starting to worry a little about accommodations, but since we travel so open ended its hard to make reservations. If you’ve got any leads for homestays in those areas, let us know. Episode 2 of Kiwi Chronicles will be up next Wednesday and its a good one!

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