Cycling from Te Araroa to East Cape Lighthouse located at the easternmost point on the North Island of New Zealand – it seems like a fun and good idea at first, but we soon find out that we bit off more than we can chew. 😛
It became an epic journey for us, one which we will remember for the rest of our lives. We cycled 44 kilometres (return journey) on mostly unsealed, gravel-laden, no-exit dirt road following the eastern coastline with views that constantly took our breaths away – literally and figuratively speaking!
A Smooth & Easy-Going Start
Since our initial plan was to go to East Cape Lighthouse, we decided to follow through with the plan. Our car was damaged in the accident, but thankfully, we have another mode of transport to get there – by bicycle. Getting there on foot is possible, but it will take approximately three days just to get there and come back in one piece.
Using the bicycles Constable James provided us the day before, we set out early in the morning. We made sure we brought enough water and food to last us for the day trip. We left Te Araroa Township, cycled onto East Cape Road and headed east in the direction of East Cape and its lighthouse.
The first 2 kilometres of the bicycle ride was on sealed road – pretty easy and straightforward. Things got a tad challenging after we crossed the bridge and made our way onto the unsealed, gravel-laden, dirt road for the remaining 20 kilometres of the journey.
The Pacific Ocean & Unsealed, Gravel-Laden Dirt Road
The coastal view along the East Cape Road is something that we do not see every day. The road clings and curves to the rugged coastline of East Cape, revealing sand coves and secluded beaches here and there. The view of the Pacific Ocean was great, and if you are lucky, you might get a glimpse of whales or even seals swimming in the area. 😉
Certain parts of the road are narrow and we found ourselves cycling dangerously close to the edge of the cliff. All it takes is one careless mistake or a strong gust of wind to knock us over and we plunge several metres down into the ocean below. To prevent that from happening, we cycled slow and steady and took our own sweet time to enjoy view and the ride.
Frankly speaking, cycling on gravel road is not easy. We actually underestimated the level of difficulty and the challenges present when cycling on unsealed, gravel-laden dirt road for a long period of time. I lost count of the number of times I almost lost control of my bicycle thanks to the strong gusts of wind and poor road conditions. Do not get me started on the occasional dust storm that we had to endure too.
East Cape Camp Ground & Its Facilities
The East Cape Camp Ground is located about two thirds of the journey to East Cape Lighthouse from Te Araroa Township. Most visitors to East Cape will spend the night camping there before they visit the lighthouse. From there, it is possible to walk to and back to the lighthouse without suffering extreme fatigue.
This Department of Conservation a.k.a DOC-like campground provides only basic necessities – water and long drop toilets, nothing else. The fee is NZ$ 6 per person, per night. The money is to be placed in the honesty box at the hut.
This area is really windy. The wind was strong enough to blow us off our bicycles! This campground is especially suitable for self-contained campervans or motor homes. Good luck trying to pitch a tent here. In retrospect, Tony and I were glad we did not make it here as planned thanks to the accident we had earlier.
Remote, Pristine and Breathtakingly Stunning Coastal Views & Herds of Animals
The uneven and bumpy bicycle ride took a huge toll on our bums, especially mine. It was beginning to feel sore by the time we arrived at East Cape Lighthouse. However, the stunning coastal views, rolling hills and the emotions we enjoyed throughout the journey made up for it. Our bums were sore, but our hearts were delighted.
I like this part of the country for its sheer isolation and remoteness – how we are surrounded by nature and there is not a single soul in sight for miles and miles away. In certain areas, mobile network reception was limited or none at all. Here in East Cape, we were cut off from civilisation, cut off from the hustle bustle and distractions of our hectic lives, and for that moment in time, it felt as if time had stood still. It was a peaceful and pleasant feeling indeed.
However, that pleasant moment was briefly interrupted when we found ourselves trapped and surrounded by cattle that were blocking the road – twice! The bulls looked menacing and tried to charge at us several times, probably to scare us away in order to protect its herd. We kept our distance and waited for a safe time to pass. Several horses were seen roaming freely on the foothills too. Again, we kept a safe distance away from the animals to ensure our safety.
Up next: 800 steps to East Cape Lighthouse!