shreyas with a bit of hhigh vis looking out over the resovoir

Low Carbon Adventure: Steaming roads and beaming loads

Relaxing our eyes and tiring our legs out by biking to Pūkorokoro and back


25 February, 2024

We recount our Waitangi weekend adventure

Shanti: I’ve been reading a lot about how all our time on screens with things close to our faces is causing an epidemic of myopia the likes of which the world has never seen, or something to that effect. Timers that remind me to focus on something more than 6 metres away every half hour weren’t cutting it so Shreyas, our friend Ling and I decided to bike to Miranda over the weekend. 

Miranda/Pūkorokoro is by the Firth of Thames and is an absolutely magnificent place to see shorebirds. They also have relatively cheap bookable accommodation, which saves the hassle of strapping tents to your bike, because we’re not cool bikepackers yet with micro tents and handlebar bags.

Having decided on the destination and booked the accommodation, I decided that Shreyas and Ling could sort out the route.

I simply love to wake up early to get a train!

Shreyas: Ling and I both have Strava accounts and bike GPS units (real gearheads) so it made sense to create and share routes through that. The cool thing is that the route finding works using either the most popular routes (using data from people that upload their rides to the site) or the most direct. The most direct in this case led through the Hunua Ranges, forming part of the Hunua Traverse ( A lot of looking at Google Maps street view was also done to get an understanding of some of the trickier intersections. Looking at the forecast was also a key step, but with just “showers” forecasted it wasn’t easy to tell how much or how often (spoiler: it was a lot of rain). The second day promised a cruisy, flat bike along East Coast road with great beach and sea views.

Shanti: I had ended up staying up late watching movies with bygone flatmates (we no longer flat together – they’re fine) so packed in a hurry in the morning, and arrived early (ugh) at the train station determined that I had forgotten something. After various train transfers, we got to Manukau and ate some muffins until we determined that the rain wasn’t going to stop, so we just started biking in the wet.

a bike on the side of the read with the wheel off and it looks quite wet
not a high point tbh. i was very wet at this point

If there was one theme of the trip, it was that Auckland is way way huger than I realise most of the time. As we biked through Manurewa and Papakura along Great South Road, I was thinking about how many parts of the city I never get to see. After about fifty minutes of urban sprawl (thinking also about the urban sprawl to the north, east and west of the city) we started biking up Ponga Road, our first big hill. 

I got to the top of the hill where Shreyas was waiting (for the record it turned out my brakes were rubbing on my wheel and that was why I was slow) and he told me that we weren’t even in the Hunua Ranges yet! There were a lot more hills to come. 

a big resourvair with blue sky!
very impressive resovoir, this is where auckland’s water comes from!

Shreyas: The ups and downs of Ponga Road was a good introduction into some of the steeper stuff in the Hunua Ranges, and it’s nice picking the right gear and cadence for the hill knowing you can get up it efficiently (foreshadowing).The GPS unit categorised the hills throughout the ride as ‘summits’, where it would begin a countdown until you reached the hill and then show your progress, with colour coded sections on a gradient map (green for small, red for large).

Shanti: After a quick lunch stop in Hunua (delayed by my panier cord getting tangled with my cassette) we were in the Hunua Ranges proper, soft dark forest and bobbled hills. The traffic faded away. It was quiet, then it was loud because we were biking on gravel, then it was louder because rain started falling in such dense sheets that I gasped at the shock of it. Gloriously, streams started forming in the road. There is something so magnificent about falling water. We faffed around a bit at a gate then were told by a ranger where to go to sterilise our bikes — stop kauri dieback, everyone! 

Shreyas and Ling had been muttering about the next hill for ages, talking about how steep and long it was. I chose to ignore them and persist in cheerful momentum. 

the ducks were pretty fun to watch all evening. there is also a rainbow and a pond in the picture
a Pūkorokoro aniwaniwa was a lovely gift after biking all day!

Shreyas: It’s good to realise what kind of hill requires you to walk instead of bike up. At 16% average gradient for 2km, doing a maximal effort wasn’t particularly what I thought would be a good idea (for myself, anyway). Walking wasn’t too much slower than biking.

Shanti: Even though my legs were burning, as I pushed up the gravel I thought about how even when your body is in pain, your mind is free to think about whatever. I thought a little about a short story I’m writing and then a lot about how much my legs hurt. There was a glimpse of one of the big Hunua reservoirs through the trees, enormous earthworks dizzying, like a volcano crater, an answer to the question of what all the chunks of big pipe we were seeing were there for. Then we were soaring down a hill, the sun out enough to send curls of steam across the road, pedalling the last 16 kilometres to Miranda. 

Ammaji was waiting at Miranda with binoculars; after a brief period of flopsome wopsome and a cup of tea, we went down to the bird hides.

Shreyas: The hides were well-constructed – the flats are quite exposed and hides have been destroyed by the weather previously. Inside them (wooden huts, essentially) are narrow windows that open and allow you to sit on a bench and peer through them with binoculars. Behind you on the walls are pretty interesting facts about some of the birds you are likely to see, and are great if you know nothing about these birds. Did you know godwits don’t have waterproof feathers so they can’t rest at sea, and therefore fly at an average of 60km/h for 11 days straight to get to New Zealand from Alaska? The global status of birdwatching is quite impressive too – even to the point of birdwatching trips to North Korea. While our bike trip took a bit longer than anticipated and we missed most of the birds, my favourite is still the godwit.

Shanti: We made like the kuaka and had an extremely good dinner of quasi-Moroccan stew with couscous after our long journey (nearly as good as muddy shellfish!), comparing sore muscles. I prowled around the displays: it was real night at the museum vibes with stuffed birds and drawers full of shells and insects. I read a photo book about penguins from 1975 and kept making Shreyas look at the pictures. 

shreas going down the hill with his raincoat flying
shreyas’s raincoat was very flappy in the wind :’)

In the morning, after a bit of faffing around, we started riding back along the East Coast Road, shooting for the 3:30 ferry. It was sunny, relatively still, and not that much traffic. There’s something so lovely and glamorous about biking along a flat road next to the glinting turquoise ocean. Obviously a lot of other people agree because after seeing almost no cyclists the day before we saw heaps of bikepackers just in the morning. We stopped at a rocky beach just before the road turned inland so Ling could fix her tire — tubeless wheels are great until they’re not! I spent this time noticing the tide coming in and looking at all the interesting invertebrates and shellfish hanging out on the rocks. 

Once the hills started, we started to spread out because apparently I am just a leetle bit faster on hills than Shreyas.

Where we stopped before going inland

Shreyas: Doing the second day while fatigued from the first was an interesting experience, I felt my heart rate wouldn’t go as high and I couldn’t output as much power. During this forested hilly section, managing gears for the undulating terrain and cars overtaking while we’re descending at 50km/h, made progress a bit more cerebral than usual.

Shanti shreyas and ling, with bike helpmets sunglasses and brown skin beaming
Spoiler: We made it back to the city

Shanti: Shreyas and Ling were treated to my memories of teenage Christian camp at Kawakawa Bay, and then we headed to Clevedon, where I kept noticing how many random regional parks there are in this part of the city. I also saw most of a hare’s guts and noticed something that people in cars don’t: how much litter is in the ditches at the side of the road. Obviously litter is not the biggest environmental problem yada yada yada but it is just so visible and ugly, and — if I may offer a hypothesis — perhaps exemplary of how people in cars relate to the world around them, going past too fast to notice if they’re doing anything to affect it.

We spread out again on the way to Maraetai. There was more and more traffic; it was my first experience of biking alongside a 80-100k highway for any significant distance, and I counted about three cars a minute, which was unpleasant on an otherwise scenic route (lots of sheep and the hills of Waiheke and Rangitoto in the distance). 

We made it to the ferry on time, which was very loud and also very fast. There was some garbled announcement over the loudspeaker and some people went out to the back deck. Dolphins were in the wake of the boat! It was an incomplete geometry of the animals, tetrises of dark flippers there and smooth backs there but nonetheless very rewarding after such a beautiful, tiring trip. We disembarked, joined in with the chanting while passing the rally for Palestine (ceasefire now!!!) then ate one last muffin, rode up the Queen Street hill, and made our way home. 

Just imagine there are some dolphins in this picture

how far we went

  • day 1 69km
  • day 2 73km

Highest heart rate

  • 182 (only Shreyas recorded it)

How many hills

  • 13 (of significance – much preferable to roads of national significance )

How much we spent on transport

(Shanti spend half of this because I still have the transport discount)

How many kinds of birds did we see

  • 8 (that we can think of: kuaka, wrybill, spoonbill, mynah, ducks, pukeko, pigeons, kawau)

How many relaxed eyes Shanti has: 2

Leave a comment

Your email won't be published, but is used to retrieve your Gravatar.