This is a guest blog, written by Christopher Dempsey about Maurice Wells and his adventurous family. A huge thanks to Maurice for sharing his adventure, and to Christopher for writing the blog!
It’s a time-honoured summer tradition; pack up the big canvas tent (nowadays more lightweight) in the car, load up the kids and the dog, and motor up hill and down dale to a beach fringed by Pohutukawa for a couple of weeks camping. The car was handy too, you could whip off to the nearest dairy for ice-creams and emergency milk.
Which is why my interest was piqued when I spotted a Book-of-the-Face post by Maurice Wells about his family’s four-day camping trip to the Hunua Ranges with their… Sprint e-bikes. Say what? Those Sprint e-bikes, beloved by many, are commuting bikes! Doesn’t he know that he’s meant to load up the car?
As Maurice explained, he doesn’t have a car, and they could have rented one, as they do from time to time, but ‘…the idea of the trip was to have fun… I really can’t understand how people can feel like they’ve had a holiday if it ended with a drive in traffic back to Auckland’. Don’t we know the feeling of crawling back on the motorway at the end of some wonderful times at the beach?
I can see how it would be much more fun to go by e-bike, but how did you re-charge your batteries? Maurice is a bit of an expert on e-bikes and told me technical details*, but suffice to say, he was sensible; ‘We did not charge [the batteries] on this trip. Instead we took [two] spare batteries’, but ones that had a lot of capacity. While it would have been possible to charge at day stops like cafes, it wasn’t practical.
Instead, they got clever, and took the train to Manukau, then jumped on a ferry at Pine Harbour to get back to Auckland. Maurice says ‘there’s something special about being able to do a loop and mix up the travel modes’. Mixing up transport modes saved battery power, and meant that with big batteries and a spare for each bike, they were able to do the trip easily.
Hang on, but what about the proverbial canvas tent stuffed in the car boot? Guess Maurice and family must have been sleeping out under stars, right? I’ll let Maurice explain:
‘We’re bike tourers and campers from way back, so we’re used to packing light and having compact stuff. Because this trip was a bit remote in terms of not being near where there are shops and stuff, we had camping style meals. Kaitlin dusted off the dehydrator for the meal planning. She cooked and dehydrated the ingredients for the meals and packed them all together. And the usual tactics of having more fresh meals (heavier to carry) the first day and relying on buying some lunch etc on the last day’s cycle out. Water was available at the campsite. Signs were contradictory, some said to treat water, some didn’t. We had some purifying tablets just in case.
Both tents (3 person and a 1 person) are on the back of the blue bike in the pictures, on the rack between the panniers. They’re not bulky or heavy. Who slept in which one and in what order and on what night is another story. Suffice to say the best spot was in the 1 person tent, alone…’
Pro-tip there; make sure you take a one person tent so at least one parent gets a good night’s sleep!
All right, so that’s tents and meals covered. Surely, however, getting to Hunua was tough? It’s out the back of the beyond, right? Well, they had some extra riding to do, due to the train shutdown (usually you can train to Papakura), and there were some hills/gravel to deal with:
‘…we could only train as far as Manukau so that’s where we started. It was a lovely ride from there down the Puhinui Stream, then into the Botanical Gardens and through Tōtara Park. Oskar, our 7 year old, was able to ride his own bike on that section (we had a ‘follow-me’ tandem, which allows us to tow him when needed), which was great.
Then there was a shitty section of Mill Rd, then some stunning (and steep) backroads past Ardmore airport and quarry and into Hunua town. Then a big up and a big down [technical cycle terms] to get to Upper Mangatāwhiri campground.
I’ve got mixed feelings about the Hunua Ranges Park; it’s not exactly set-up expecting people to camp there (we were the only ones camping there despite it being school holidays).
We got a local tramper’s tip (an ex school teacher from Pukekohe High) a bit too late, which was to stay at Lower Mangatāwhiri campground next time, so next time that’s what we’ll do.’
For their final day, they cycled down towards the coast to camp at Ōmana campground in preparation for catching the ferry back to Tamaki Makaurau the next day. They found Ōmana:
‘extremely relaxed and accessible – an easy 4km ride on bike path from Pine Harbour ferry to the campground! We’ll definitely go back there for shorter trips.’
There is a next time? An emphatic ‘Definitely!’ from Maurice.
Maurice’s photos show his two boys having a great time exploring the camp and surrounds, but weren’t Maurice and his wife Kaitlin worried about cycling there with the boys? Experience played a big role here, picking your routes, and knowing good times to cycle:
‘Cycling with our kids is normal for us, we’ve been doing it since they were newborns in Sydney and Auckland. That doesn’t mean we weren’t very concerned, in fact I think the most fearless riders are those who haven’t yet ‘seen it all’. [experienced riders nod wisely here] We have a lot of experience in picking routes that are safer and more pleasant. Other than a few km of Mill Road (that you wouldn’t have to do if the train was going all the way to Papakura), there was very little traffic on the roads that we used. We made sure to ride the section from Clevedon to Maraetai at a low traffic time of day.’
Cycling in traffic with children is always scary, but with foresight, and careful planning, it can be a positive experience.
Right then, now that we know you can access Auckland Council’s range of Regional Park campgrounds around our beautiful rohe by e-bike, or for those more traditional, your touring bike, what are you waiting for?
We’d love to know if you have done a camping trip with your family by e-bike or bike to an Auckland Council campground. Let us know in the comments!
*The technical details: There were 4 batteries for the two e-bikes, and quite high capacity ones at that, larger than your average battery. Each of us had 44Ah (~2000Wh) of battery, where most e-bikes would come equipped with 1 battery of around 14Ah/500Wh.