132km to ride today, climbing 2,300 meters with 2,350 down.
I had tired legs already from yesterday so took a while to warm up. The first 24 km was not too bad, bit of up but not steep and not windy.
We are doing part of the ride today called the Gentle Annie. This ride can be found in the Classic NZ cycle trails and goes from Taihape to Napier. The person who called it the Gentle Annie has a very sick sense of humour. The book notes it as challenging and it’s not wrong. However before we got onto this challenging ride TDA threw in a 8km stretch of gravel with some fairly steep ups.
I was determined today to take more photos. However when I stopped to take a photo from the top off the hill my camera decided to go into weird mode and kept saving something so I played around with it and ended up getting a continuous shot of my face looking increasing annoyed. I tried turning it off and on but I couldn’t stop it so I put away in disgust. I rode cautiously down the gravel.
Next we went out onto SH1 for 11km of lovely downwards gradient then turned at 58.7km into the Gentle Annie ride. The first 13 km was great, all downhill but it was running through my mind this is all going to have to be climbed back up!
Lunch at 71k was not so enjoyable with the knowledge that at 73km is a 18 km uphill climb. Some riders called it a day at lunch, while some rode the lunch truck to the lunch stop and then rode from there. The more foolhardy like myself decided to do the whole day.
There was amazing scenery so I checked what my camera was up to, it was still busily saving the grumpy photo of me, but battery was nearly flat so I turned off.
Well they call a bike a push bike because you can push it. I had a mixture of pushing and riding for the first 3 km of the climb, but then was able to stay on my bike to the peak. My garmin, which I know was fully charged, went flat at 80 km which was a real pain as I like to see how far I have come, and check the turns in the notes against the distance ridden.
At the top of the hill I had a sandwich and a drink. The lunch truck stopped on the way past and filled up my drink bottles. There are no shops today or tomorrow until we are nearly in Napier.
Less than two km downhill, then another 10k climb. The first bit was steep and my legs were not interested in riding so I pushed the bike the first 2km until the gradient eased and I climbed the rest.
Whilst walking I kept getting bomb dived by a magpie, who as soon as I turned my back to start walking would dive at me. At about one km there was another magpie in the ditch so maybe he was mad his friend had been killed, or maybe his friend had dive bombed a truck. In the end I saw a rock and biffed that at him and he left me alone (maybe his friend was killed by a rock). Later I found out he had followed some of the other riders for 5km.
I had a number of curious cows and sheep watch me make my way slowly up the hill. One cow was so interested she kept pace with me (not hard, she ambled) the length of the field.
At the top of the hill was a turn to keep following the Napier -Taihape Rd. The way I took was not flagged but I was pretty sure it was right, however after a very long downhill I was starting to worry that I may have gone the wrong way and may have to climb back up!
I was halfway up another hill when the lunch truck came back past checking on riders and seeing if anyone wanted to be picked up. Without the garmin I was thinking I had maybe 10km to go, so it was very daunting to hear I still had 23km with another big climb!!! I filled up my water bottles again, resisted looking at the comfortable seats in the truck, and set off again.
By this stage I was stuffed, my legs were becoming really heavy and each incline was like a steep climb. The next step climb I got to, once again I was off my bike and pushing. The last two riders behind me – Ray and Ursula (from Canada) passed me. Ursula also got off her bike but managed to walk up the hill without stopping.
By this stage I was walking, counting to 40 then stopping, then walking for another 40 count, then stopping, then walking for another 40 count, then stopping – all the way up 2km. I felt the hill was never going to end. I was thinking I wonder if my legs will simply stop working.
Then the inevitable happened – I was “swept”! The sweep is the TDA staff rider who rides at the back of the bunch to deal with any issues with riders. And if they catch up with you you’re ‘swept’ . I had hoped not to get swept on this ride.
Finally the top was reached and at last a downhill. It was fairly steep so I had to stop half way down as I have rim brakes and needed to stop to let them cool, as if they get too hot the heat of the rubbers squeezing the tyres can pop a tyre. The last thing I need at this stage is a flat, I think I would have buffed my bike onto the side of the road and walked to camp. Or as I saw once on the Round the Lake Taupo ride – someone rode into a tree.
At the bottom of the downhill was a bridge with a sign “2km to camp”. However anytime you see a bridge at the bottom of a downhill it generally means a climb back up. Well, the 2k was uphill but not much of a gradient, but at the speed and effort I was going you would have thought it was almost vertical. With the sweep behind me however there was no way I was going to get off my bike. Finally the turn to camp: 900 meters of shingle, thankfully with soft downward gradient to camp.
10 hours on the bike and I arrived at camp totally stuffed but wrapped to have made it. Brett waved me over where he had a chair waiting for me, took my bike and shoved a beer into my hand. Plus he had put my tent up for me 😀
Later Michelle told me that Brett had told them ‘When she arrives there will be no point talking to her, she will be like a mongrel dog until she has a cold beer’.
There were no shower facilities as it is a bush camp so I had a wet wipe wash. It is a nicer bush camp than I had been expecting. I was thinking wind blown, remote, covered in tussocks and no shelter, but it was actually sheltered with lots of trees.
We had been told there were three long drops so I was imagining smelly holes in the ground, but this is a army training site and there were three toilets in small buildings like port-a-loos but with a ventilation thing on top which meant they did not smell and because they did not smell there were no flies either.
Dinner was some lovely strips of tender lamb, couscous, green salad, and ratotue (tomato and vegetables mixed together, no idea how you spell it, it sounds like rat a tui). (Editor’s note: I think she means ratatouille 🙂 )
We had it with some Hawkes bay Merlot bought in Ohakune and travelled safety to camp tucked into Tony’s size 15 sneakers, which are just the right size for a bottle of wine.
Sadly then it was not off to bed as it was my night to get chosen for wash up duty. Each rider washes their own dishes, wash up duty is where you wash all the cooking stuff. Two lucky riders are chosen each night. It did not take long, and then off into my sleeping bag.