Trans-Oceania

Day 20: Saturday 3 Dec – Westport to Greymouth

103km to ride today – 1,450 meters climbing up and down.

This morning breakfast was in the motel car park.  The TDA staff had set up the tables as usual, boiled water for tea and coffee, and put out cereal and yoghurt. Yarnez the chef also had bought filled pastries – bacon and egg or chicken and mushroom.

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Breakfast in the motel carpark. Bob from Canada in the front of the photo

I set off today feeling pretty positive about the ride – good distance, not much climbing, and feeling the benefit of the rest day. I need to focus on doing more stretching as I have a bit of tightness behind my knee.

There was no wind but despite the weather forecast saying no rain, rain looked imminent.

As I was riding along I saw a number of Weka crossing the road, and suddenly the stories from the other riders of seeing kiwis crossing the road made sense. If you did not really know what a Kiwi looked like and its habitat, you could get confused. Weka are brown, about the right size, but of course they have different feathers and a much shorter bill (not to mention living in the grassland and being out in the daylight).

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The “Kiwi” out in daylight

What an amazing ride today, the West Coast is so pretty. The coastline is a bit wild and rocky which I much prefer compared to pristine white sandy beaches.

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Great riding along coast today on SH6

The hills were generally kind (no more than 5% gradient) or they had a good downhill and you could get up most of the next hill for free.

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Another hill to climb

It rained not long after leaving camp, but only for about 5 minutes, so I didn’t stop and put on wet weather gear. However at 26 km it started again and got quite heavy so I stopped and put on my coat. Thankfully the rain stopped after about 30 minutes and held off for the rest of the day.

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Coming into Punakaiki

At 55km we came to the Punakaiki Rocks, also known as pancake rocks because the rocks are layered, they get limestone in between the rocky layer which gets compressed and gives it the pancake look.

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Editors Caption: Despite mentioning these amazing rocks, Kaye neglected to send me any photos, so here’s a photo from Sue’s blog

Lunch was at 74 km, it was nice to stop knowing 75% of the ride for the day was complete.

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The beach at the lunch stop

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The beach at lunch stop – showing how big the pebbles are (Editor’s note: Yet Kaye sent me not one, but TWO photos of the beach at the lunch stop, which she failed to even mention in her writing . . . )

When we arrived at camp two of the TDA staff were whacking themselves with fly swats, they were being bitten quite badly by small bugs. Dan, one of the other riders, was also bring bitten, but although they swarmed around my face they left me alone (due to my daily application of Bushman’s Friend insect repellant).

At about 90 km I realised I was not enjoying the ride as much and then I realised the wind was back. Luckily I only had a few more km to camp.

Tonight we stayed at the Greymouth Top 10 Holiday Park. It was a pretty nice camp, the biggest I have stayed in. It has a number of toilet blocks, heaps of camper wagon parks, tent sites and cabins and motels.

As it was looking like rain was quite likely, we asked how much it would cost to upgrade from a tent site to a basic cabin. $17 we were told. We thought that was pretty cheap, $17 each, but no it was $17 for the cabin. No need to even think about it, why would you not.

Unfortunately about an hour after we arrived a bunch of young guys arrived, full of Saturday night or holiday joy, and they are in the same block of cabins. Hopefully they are going out but if not that’s why I bring the iPod on these trips.

Tonight for dinner we had chicken casserole with rice, with nuts and cranberries, plus salad, with a shared bottle of Obsidian Montepulciano from Waiheke Island.

After dinner I was talking to Kevin from Canada. Kevin and his wife started a raw food dog company a number of years ago. They sell to the top end of the market and import venison and lamb from NZ for their dog food. I asked Kevin how he got into this and it was because he had bought some food for his dog that was contaminated, and the dog nearly died. So they started making their own, then friends started buying it, and it just grew from there.

After dinner I went for a walk along the beach. The beach was really stony and had lots of interesting coloured stones. Now time for an early night, and off again in the am.

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Beautiful ride today

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Day 19: Friday 2 Dec – rest day in Westport

It was really nice to not have to be up at 6am. I got up about 8am, made some tea and toast and marmalade, and back to bed. I got up again about 9am – first job the washing. Luckily when I went to the wash house there was a spare machine. Whilst I was waiting for it to wash I sorted out my bags. Then as it was such a great day and lots of pegs in the wash house, I hung it on the line.

Then I headed into town – a 5 minute walk – to get a few things: inter tube for bike, washing powder, and a new book, then lunch at the Port Side Bistro. I had a really nice pan fried turbot fish with salad.

On my way to the Port Side Bistro I walked past a lady selling Christmas raffles. As I walked past she called out “Kaye!” and it turned out it was a family friend Elizabeth Kydunski who I had not seen for years. Elizabeth and her daughter are living down here and later tonight she has the opening of her mosaic work at the Art Hotel. It was great to catch up and we promised to call in later tonight to the opening.

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In Westport looking up to the mountains (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I went back to the motel with the mission to catch up with the blog. At 5.15pm I caught up with Brett, Michele and Tony for cheese and wine, and then we headed off back to the Denniston Dog again for dinner.

On the way to dinner we went to the Art Hotel in Westport to see Elizabeth’s exhibition . It was very interesting, some glass that Elizabeth had bought back from Japan after the tusamami all different colors, plus art driftwood and the main focus of her exhibition was a mosaic presentation of the 12 stages of the cross from Christ being arrested to rising again.

At dinner I had chicken liver pate and a Denniston dog pizza (chorizo, jalapeno and cheese) plus a glass of Gatekeepers Shiraz. Justina was riding past, she had been to Cape Foulwind to visit the seals so she joined us for dinner. It turns out she is currently working in Switzerland but is actually from Poland.

Back to the motel  to pack and get ready for the next three riding days.

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Next three days of riding (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 18: Thursday 1 Dec – Murchison to Westport

Riding 97km today – climbing 1,200 metres and 1,400 down.

Thankfully a shorter ride today as my legs don’t have much in them after the past couple of days.

I had no cell coverage again last night was unexpected as was the no coverage in Nelson in the Maitai Valley. Must be a hill in the way of the tower.

Today was officially the first day of summer. Ha I thought as I pulled on my arm warmers and leg warmers. Should have put my full finger gloves on as well as my fingers were very cold the first few kilometres.

For breakfast Yarnez decided to have a go at a roast lamb and potato hot pot/ stir fry – not his most successful dish, but I appreciated his efforts.

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Breakfast this morning (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I set off with one new tyre on the back, so was hopeful that I would have no problems with flat tyres today. Luckily there were not too many trucks that early before we got to the turn off to Westport and away from the Kaikoura to Christchurch traffic diversion. Instantly the roads were calmer, hardly any traffic and the few trucks there were you could hear them coming awhile away.

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A stretch of road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

A few climbs and my legs were hopeless,  it was like riding with concrete gum boots on. I gritted my teeth and kept grinding, focusing on that it was a shorter riding day and a rest day tomorrow.

Stopped at 51km stop for coffee and then around the corner at 57 km was the lunch truck. There was a much lighter atmosphere than yesterday with only 40km left to ride, no longer lots of trucks and mostly downhill 😀 Plus the weather was warm and not windy.

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Even so it seemed a long ride, every uphill was endless with legs that were not cooperative with climbing. It was very pretty scenery, the Buller river was very fast moving you would not want to slip in as it would be hard to get back out.

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Travelling down the Buller Gorges

There were a few narrow bits and some traffic-light controlled bridges, which had a button for cyclists to push as a bike was not heavy enough to activate the lights.

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Bridge where you have to push a button to get across (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Finally I got into Westport (only just before 2, so even though the day has felt hard it really wasn’t in term of distance and climbing). We were staying at the Buller Bridge Motel. Right by the sign that says “Spacious and quiet” was a road crew digging up the road. Luckily they won’t be working over night.

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On the West Coast

I had a shower and a rest and then went to the Denniston Dog Restaurant for dinner with Brett, Michele, Tony, Chris and Linda (Chris has done 7 TDA rides and did the whole South American EFI, plus won the men’s race, Linda did part of South  America, this her 3rd TDA ride). We also invited Sue but she had already made plans.

We had just sat down and ordered a drink when another big TDA group arrived and sat at the next table, 5 minutes later another big TDA group arrived – it was almost like being at camp!

Most of us had steak that you cooked on a stone hot plate yourself. A big serving of meat. I cooked mine in two halves so one half could be resting while I cooked the other half. It was really good, and if it wasn’t you could only blame the chef. I was too full for desert but a couple of people shared a cheesecake. The dark chocolate and cherry cheesecake looked pretty good. There was a very limited wine selection, in the end we all agreed on a Gatekeeper Aussie Shiraz being the best choice.

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Sizzling plate, pork and apple (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Jessica had said there was a fundraiser at a local pub to support a BMX track being built so we called in, it looked pretty tame. They were about to have an auction so we made a donation and left. We called into a pub further down the street called the Cosmopolitan, unlike the Denniston Dog which was crowded and humming, this place was deserted: the publican, a punter on the slot machines, and 2 customers who left just after we came in.

We returned to the Denniston Dog and it was still humming. The difference I think was the very friendly bar staff – two younger ladies with an extensive knowledge of cocktails. We decided to have a cocktail called a Tobblerone. It was absolutely delicious but quite a high alcohol content. Luckily we were not silly enough to do another round.

One customer had a cocktail called a “Dogs breath” which was lit on fire and he had to swallow the drink in the glass and breathe in the fumes – he looked quite glassy eyed afterwards. There was also a cocktail called a “Bubblegum”. The bar lady gave us a small taste, it did taste just like bubblegum. Time to return to our motels.

Yay rest day tomorrow.

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Travelling down the Buller Gorges

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Day 17: Wednesday 30 Nov – Nelson to Murchison

152km today – 1,700 meters climbing and 1,600 meters down

 

It rained over night a few times but had stopped by 6am. The tent was wet but I carry a rubbish bag for this, to stop it getting everything else in my bag wet.

I was a bit daunted by the ride today, lots of climbing and a long way. Riding out of Nelson we followed mainly back roads, to keep away from the traffic.

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Back roads from Nelson to Murchison

We stopped in Wakefield at approx 35 km for coffee. While drinking coffee Tony noticed my back wheel had gone flat. On closer inspection my tyre had a number of cuts in the tyre so tonight at camp I will need to change tyres. I decided to hope that it would get through the day with no further problems. To add to this, when packing without thinking I had picked up the spare mountain bike inner tubes from my bike shed, so guess what I had in my bike bag! Luckily Brett had a spare tube, and him and Tony kindly got my bike sorted while Michele and finished our coffee.

Next we turned off into quite a pleasant valley, but then the climb started. Clearly I had not paid much attention the previous night at rider’s meeting, as this climb was for the next 37km until 90km where it was mostly downhill. I was very daunted, not sure if I am up to this. This was not like the switch backs on the South American ride where it was pretty much a 5% gradient with a small flat bit at each end. This was the longest 37km of the trip so far.

At lunch at 71km there was none of joviality of the day before with 19 km of climbing to go. Thankfully not all of it was climbing, there were some downhills as well. Then yay at 90km, mostly downhill from there.

However at this point we were now back on the Kaikoura to Christchurch bypass route and trucks plus cars again. There were four in a row and some way too close. I am also not reassured by the gouges in the grass and knocked over fences when what was a clearly a heavy vehicle had come off the road. As before I would move right off when I got the chance, and was constantly looking behind me.

When you are going reasonably fast downhill the wind is whistling in your ears and you don’t always hear them. Even with all the precautions I got a few scares and rode off into a ditch once.

We stopped at the Owen Tavern at 133 km and spoke to a couple of truck drivers. They told us that there are 500 to 700 extra trucks a day on this road, and most of these drivers are not used to the road and are driving too fast for the road. Not reassuring news with 20 more kilometres on this road today and 13 kilometres tomorrow before we leave the Kaikoura – Christchurch traffic diversion.

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Outside Owen Pub – Justina from Switzerland, From Canada: Bill in the bright yellow, Kelvin and Don

Off to camp, on the way caught up with Guy from Canada. It is his first TDA ride, and where he comes from there are no hills to mention, so as a consequence he is finding this ride very challenging. Plus Ray and Ursula also from Canada, this is about their 5th ride but the first time I have met them.

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5km from camp my back tire started going flat again! I decided to pump it ip rather than change the tube. At 2km out it had to be pumped again and I was very relieved to ride into camp after 11.5 hours out on the bike.

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Campsite (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook page)

It was quite a nice little camp ground, some old hydro huts for rent very cheaply, but as my tent was wet I wanted to put it up. There was a nice seating area covered with a roof and along one side with a nice view of the river. Also the home of lots of biting insects, my bushman’s insect repellent was popular. There were good kitchen facilities and Yarnez the chef excelled at dinner: roast lamb with roasted potato, gravy, mint sauce, asparagus and cabbage, capsicum, slaw  yum !!!! Not quite so yum that we succumbed to cask Mystique River Red wine. That was a mistake to only be made once.

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Michele and Walli with Buller river in the background

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Having a sign would make me suspect this had been a problem

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Day 16: Tuesday 29 Nov – Picton to Nelson

113km to ride today – 1,650 meters of climbing 1,600 meters down.

Emily the tour leader described it as “rolling hills and two bitches”.

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Today’s ride

Our new rider Justina thankfully had her gear and bike arrive so was ready to set off with everyone this morning. It was nice weather to ride in, not much wind and not too hot.

The first part of the ride was along Queen Charlotte Drive, which is part of the famous Forrest GrapeRide and the less well known but extremely enjoyable Gourmet Grazer Ride.

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View of the Sounds (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook page)

There were some interesting mail boxes to look at as we rode along. There was a bit of earthquake damage to the road in places.

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Interesting letterboxes

I was amused to see a sign for a “Live Stock Psychologist”, not sure of the significance of the pair of gum boots under the sign.

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Not sure what the gumboots signfy

I stopped at 35km for coffee at Havlock, then back onto what was a really busy road. It was much more busy than usual because of the earthquake, all the traffic that would have gone down Kaikoura is on this road, plus there even more increased traffic because the railway line is also out of action.

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Earthquake damaged road

It was quite daunting when trucks coming from both directions pass right by you. As always, some drivers are pretty good and some are either ignorant or deliberately come too close. Where ever possible I got right off the road until they had passed.

At 65km was the first big hill, then downhill to lunch at 70km. The next hill was one that Emily referred to as the second ‘bitch’, it was at 83km, and seemed to stretch on for ever.

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Lunch stop (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook)

Almost at the top there was a pine tree randomly decorated as a Christmas tree, with a naivety scene at the foot. It was a good reason to stop and take a picture.

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Random Christmas tree

There was a huge downhill with no shoulder, so I pulled over a number of times to let trucks past and was constantly looking over my shoulder. I was very pleased to get down the bottom.

Over the past three weeks I have noticed there are a few riders that I see a lot during the day. I am reasonably fast on the flat but still a bit slow going up hill or down steep slopes. I generally see Kelvin, Bill, and Charles, numerous times in a day. The other morning when leaving camp, instead of saying “have a good ride”, Kelvin said “See you 14 or so times on the way”.

It’s Kelvin’s first TDA ride. Kelvin is from Canada and owns a dog food making company. I don’t know much about Bill other than he drinks two 500 ml bottles of juice each morning, and he likes cake. Charles is also from Canada, and is a university academic of some sort. He has done a few other TDA rides and has endless energy, he buzzes past me with frequency making cheerful comments.

Bill is convinced he saw a Kiwi today, in the middle of the day crossing the road in a farmland area. As all New Zealander’s know this is unlikely, almost certainly impossible. For non-New Zealanders: Kiwis come out at night, live in the bush and 99.9% of people can live their whole life with never seeing one in the wild. (Editor’s disclaimer: not sure if this statistic is a true fact). 

After the big downhill we rode along the coast into Nelson, around the outskirts of town and then out of town to the Maitai Valley Motor Camp.

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Cycling towards Nelson (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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Cycling towards Nelson (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I nearly went the wrong way as there is also a camp in Maitai Valley Rd called Brookland.
I felt a bit uneasy as I had gone through two roundabouts with no flagging, so called into a dairy and asked the owner, who told me I was going in the wrong direction. Then we had quite a long conversation about the Brookland camp being empty, and she was going to petition the council to get it opened to accommodate the homeless people in Nelson. Apparently because of the house price increase, and the knock on effect of increased rents, there are a number of families living in tents. I have to say living in a tent with a family would be really tough going especially in the cold and wet. Hopefully she is successful and the community gets behind her.

I arrived at the camp, put up my tent and had a wee nap until dinner. Dinner was beef stir fry , vegetables and noodles plus a roast vege salad. Yanez the chef said he had made the noodles because in South Africa, where he and Emily are from, you have noodles on your birthday for good luck for the next year.

Brett shared a really nice bottle of red with Michele, Tony and I – The Obsidian from Waiheke Island. It was an interesting mix of grapes: 40% cab sav, 28 % merlot, 13% cab franc, 13% petti verdott and 6% Malbec. All these variety of grapes were grown on Waiheke Island (a small island off Auckland). It was seriously nice wine.

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Day 15: Monday 28 Nov – Wellington to Picton

Today we only had to ride 4km to the ferry and then 1.5 km in Picton to the camp.

Even though the ferry was not sailing until 9am we had to have our bags out by 630 am as the trucks needed to get down to the ferry to queue. There were no breakfast facilities at the motel so we were told we were going to get a breakfast pack. Turned out it was a breakfast and a lunch park. It was huge, a plastic supermarket bag full of food. A smoothie, a fruit drink, an orange, a banana, a fruit log, 3 small packets of savory snack biscuits, 2 cheese segments, 2 rolls with frankfurters, a Muesli bar, and a round plastic container 250gm of nuts. How many days was this for again?

I had been a bit nervous about the sailing as I suffer really badly from motion sickness and the past few days the seas had been really rough.Thankfully today it was really quite calm. I had a nice ride along the water front and crossed over at the Westpac stadium and down to the ferry. I could not believe how many people there were as foot passengers – the terminal was packed. Usually when I catch the ferry I am driving a vehicle.

We had to walk our bikes as a group onto the vehicle deck.

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The ferry we travelled on to Picton

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Onto the boat

We were sailing on the newest Interislander ferry, which had some really good seating facilities. I got a good seat at the back of the boat, with a nice view out over the water. The sailing was three hours and really calm all the way across. Once we got into the Marlborough Sounds I even managed to get a blog update done.

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Sailing to the South Island (Photo and Caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Once we got to Picton we had to go to the vehicle deck and wait to be let off. It was a bit unpleasant with all the cars with their engines running, but luckily they let us off  quickly.

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Waiting to get off the ferry

A short 1.5km ride and we were at camp by 12:30 pm. We arrived before the trucks, so had to wait for them to arrive so we could get our bags.

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Sunny and warm in Picton (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Once we had set up our tents Brett, Michele, Tony and I walked into the town and had a look around. We stopped at a bar with a nice outside area and had steamed green mussels in wine and garlic, wedges, and a ParrotDog Pilsner, then we moved to the next bar. Tony, Brett had I had a Kereru Pilsner, and Michele had a cider.

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Lazy afternoon in Picton

After this we walked around Picton looking at the shops. I tried a couple of hairdressers as I badly need a hair cut. Although they said “no appointment necessary” they were both fully booked. I will have to wait until after the ride.

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Another ferry in the Picton Harbour (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook)

We called into one more bar on the way back to camp and saw “Pisco sours” on the cocktail menu, so we decided that as we had all done the section of the South American ride where they were from, we would have one. Well, although they are on menu clearly they are not popular as the bartender had to ask another bartender and they had to refer to notes, and they took over 45 minutes to make. They were not worth the wait but the thought was good. As I said to Michele – we will remember them more because of the disproportionate amount of time they took to make, and how uninspiring the end result was.

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Disappointing Pisco Sours

Dinner was fresh cooked (lemon) fish with couscous and a broccoli salad. Tony and Michele shared a bottle of Vidals (Hawkes Bay) Pinot with us.

We have a new rider called Justina from Switzerland, she has come all the way just to do the two week South Island ride. Every rider’s nightmare: she arrived but no bike or bag! Hopefully it will be sent on tonight’s ferry.

Tomorrow is the birthday for both Emily (the tour leader) and Mika (a TDA worker). A couple of the riders had organised cakes, candles, and cards, which we all contributed to and signed. After dinner we sang happy birthday and had cake and candles.

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Day 13: Saturday 26 Nov – Martinborough to Wellington

97km, 900 approx up and down

It was gale force wind during the night so I was very pleased to be in a cabin. There was a group of guys down the back of the camp for some sort of bloke weekend away. They were quite rowdy at the beginning of the night but then thankfully headed off out.

At 12:30am the morons were back, driving through the camp blasting their car horn and laughing and talking. In the morning I was amused to see one of their tents had collapsed on them and they were still in it fast asleep (evidenced by the loud snoring coming from it). I’m not sure if one of the other campers had removed their pegs, or it was just bad putting-up-tent technique.

It was cold and blustery eating breakfast, so I was off on the bike as quickly as possible.

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Wellington is on the other side of that hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The 16km ride to Featherston was pretty windy, but it was nothing compared to when we turned at Featherston to go down the Western Lake Road. The wind was so strong it was all I could do to hold my bike on the road. At least three times I got pushed over onto the gravel.

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Weather on the Featherston Side

It was looking like it was going to rain at any moment. I rode past the Wasp noting that she had no bike bag and was wearing just a biking top and short shorts. I asked her about wet weather gear and she said she didn’t have any. I rode along feeling really worried and annoyed. Worried because she could get exposure, and annoyed because all the riders were warned about changeable conditions and annoyed that if I or anyone else came across her and she was cold and wet we would have to share our clothing and put ourselves at risk also.

The TDA truck went past just before the turn off to the incline, checking on riders and it parked by the incline start. I went up and told them that the Wasp had no wet weather gear, that I was seriously worried if she went up the incline dressed as she was, and that I was passing the responsibility to them.

Off up the Rimutaka Incline. It’s an old railway track between Featherston and Wellington. In the past a fell engine pulled the train up the Featherston side and it was a normal train down the other.

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Single track into the start of the Incline

The gradient going up from Featherston is a bit steeper and rocky, plus the wind was blowing with gusto at us.

At near the top is a gully you have to go up and down where there used to a bridge. This part is known as Siberia as it is so bleak and cold with wind gusts. This was a site of a serious accident when the wind was so strong it pushed a fell engine carriage off the tracks and sadly four children died.

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Siberia – in the wind and rain (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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No bridge left so we have to go down and back up (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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Before one of the tunnels on the Rimutaka Incline

Through the final (third) tunnel on the way up the wind was roaring through the tunnel.
We got out to the other side to find it was bucketing down. Thankfully there was a shelter up the top where we were able to get changed into our wet weather gear.

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Long tunnel to The Summit Sat 26 Nov

With the rain and the wind and down gradient for about 10km (a lot of it quite exposed) I was feeling relieved that I told the TDA staff about the Wasp’s lack of wet weather clothing. (I found out later that she got the TDA truck over the hill to lunch, by which time it had stopped raining).

It poured all the way down the incline. At times the rain felt like needles going into your face (the only exposed skin). I was warm as I had a coat, hat, thermal gloves, and over pants – but I couldn’t find my overshoes, drat. I had one plastic bag so put it over one foot. There were about 8 riders all pulling on their wet weather gear.

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Riding on the Rimutaka incline

Once we got to the bottom of the incline it stopped raining. We followed a bike path along the Hutt river to lunch, and then all the way to Petone. It took much longer than going straight down SH2 but it meant not worrying about traffic and was something new to me.

It bought us out at the end of the Petone Esplanade which runs along the sea front. We followed this, then back to SH2, then the old Hutt road into Wellington.

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Peeling off muddy gear at Petone on bike path. Nearly into Wellington.

We stayed at the Apollo Court Motels in Marjorie Banks Street. It was very central, 2 minutes walk from Courtney Place, and an easy walk to the rest of the city.

I got cleaned up, as there was mud over the bike, my clothes, my bike bag and shoes, so it took a while to clean up. Then it was time to go and meet my son Dan for dinner. Dan lives in a mid city apartment.

We stopped and got cheese and wine on the way (Pepperjack Shiraz, plus Castello blue and white cheese, and a fresh French stick). When we got there Dan bought out a bottle of champagne to celebrate that he had finished his University year with First Class Honors and a grade point average that gives him an automatic PH.D. Scholarship. It was very exciting news and well earned as Dan has worked extremely hard this year. I am very proud of him.

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Celebrating with my son Dan

We decided to go to Great India in Manners Street for dinner. I have been there a few times and always like the food, plus acoustically it’s great as well. After dinner I said goodbye to Dan as he was working the next morning so he was not interested into continuing on to the Havana Bar with Brett and I.

We met Michele, Tony and Walli in Cuba Mall and went off to the Havana Bar. It was pretty busy but as we walked though the bar a group got up and left and we were able to jump into their just vacated spot. I enjoyed a couple of very nice ParrotDog Pilsners – a local Wellington brewery. Having had wine at Dan’s flat and with dinner I was feeling the effects, hence returning to beer.

We stayed there for a couple of hours then decided to make our way home. I decided that, as it was very close to our motel and totally different to Havana, I should also take my friends to the Welsh Bar that is in Courtney Place. Walli decided wisely to leave us at this stage.

It certainly was a very different atmosphere – quite crowded but the crowd was friendly and they had quite a good singer so we stayed for awhile. It was about 12:30 by the time we got home.

I went to sleep feeling very happy with Dan’s news, and excited and looking forward to be catching up with three of my other children and my three grandchildren the next day.

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Sun out before the storm

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Rimutaka Incline before the storm

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Day 12: Friday 25 Nov – Eketahuna to Martinborough

A much easier day today – 110km with 850 meters to climb, 1030 down.

I set off looking forward to be riding in familiar territory once I got to Masterton. On our notes we had 60km to ride to Masterton but the sign at Ekatahuna said it was 20km down SH2, clearly we were going to be following the more scenic route!.

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Masterton for Coffee

It was quite a good ride, lots of hills but generally you could get up most of them for free. We did like a figure of 8 before coming into Masterton. Some of the riders view is that we were a bit short on the planned kilometres for the ride, others were of the view that the plan was to keep us off the main roads.

I stopped in Masterton for a coffee and had a cinnamon scone. 5 km later was the lunch truck. Not surprisingly having just eaten a scone I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t stop for lunch

The ride took us the back way to Martinbrough past the back of Gladstone. I did think about calling into the Gladstone Pub, as it has very nice food, but rain was looking imminent so I kept going. At the Gladstone turn off we went on to the route where the Martinborough Charity ride goes  (one of the Lake Taupo lead up rides). It is much easier going this way to Martinborough rather than from Martinborough to Masterton.

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Figurines on the way to Martinborough

Even though my notes said 110 km, in my mind it had morphed into 120km so I was surprised to get to Martinbrough more quickly than expected. I said to Brett the camp must be out of town awhile, and he of course had no idea why I thought that, until I said I was working on 120km.

We arrived at the Top 10 which is 800m from the town center, and the rain that had been imminent all day started to bucket down. I was pleased to have a cabin. Sadly the cabin has no toilet, but is close to the shower and toilet block.

After a shower we headed off up town, first stop was the micro brewery for a tasting paddle and a food platter. The lack of lunch was starting to kick in.We shared two tasting paddles between four of us. Eight glasses on each paddle, starting with a really nice crisp red apple cider. Usually I don’t like cider but I did like this. Then we worked from lager to black / stout. I did not like the stout but I really liked the one before it, called a wee Scottish porter.

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Beer tasting, with Tony and Brett (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook page)

After that we went to the wine center and did a wine tasting of a wine called Armitash? Need to check the name (Editor’s note: Don’t panic guys, Kaye emailed me a few days later – the wine was Ashwell). Then to the 4-square for some snacks and back to camp.

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Dull, cloudy and grey sky (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Dinner was smashed potatoes with chilli con-carne on top and salad. Michelle and Tony and Brett and I produced the same bottle of wine for dinner: Squawking Magpie Syrah (from the Hawkes Bay gimlet gravel area).

My friend Julie, who lives in Featherston, arrived as we were finishing dinner. We moved pretty quickly to the cabin as it was cold and blustery weather. It was good to see Julie and catch up with all her news.

The weather tomorrow is not looking great but I am feeling pretty excited as I get to Wellington tomorrow, and I will get to catch up with my  Wellington based children and my three grand babies.

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Others camping in tents tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 11: Thursday 24 Nov – Porangahau to Eketahuna

133km today – 1850 meters climbing, 1540 k down

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Today’s ride

Another big day of riding, but thankfully it’s not as hot as yesterday. No shops to buy a snack or a drink until about 70km so I preloaded on water and made a sandwich.

The first 5 km was flat so I had some time to get the legs warmed up, then up a hill but thankfully not the one we rode down yesterday.

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Back over the river out of camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Some of the hills were pretty steep. As I was climbing up one of them I thought to my self that although I had made a sandwich, I didn’t remember actually packing it into my bike pack. I got to the top of the hill and got off my bike to check. Drat! I had left it behind, plus I ate my emergency snack the other day and have not yet replaced it! So I was now worried about how long it will take to get to 70 km and how much climbing there would be, as I am seriously worried about bonking (a riders term for completely running out of energy due to lack of food).

Then I thought”Yay the 2nd truck has not yet gone past, I may be able to get something off that”. Less than 2 minutes later the truck came past so I did a thumbs down which signals them to stop. Thumbs up means you’re ok and they go past. Luckily they had a few bananas so they gave me one.

Off I went, much more happy, and ate the banana about 10km.

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Obligatory tourist photo with the world’s longest place name

The day was nice and warm, not much wind, with a few climbs. There was one quite big descent and I could see a big climb looming, but then yay there was a flag and we took the road to the left. A really nice gradual downhill of about 10 km following a river bed.

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Some downhill ahead, yippee (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped at 70 km at the shop and had an ice cream: pecan nut and caramel. It was a bit sweet but it tasted really good. Then I headed off again.

The day wore on and the legs were getting tired. The last couple of hills I got off and walked a bit.

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Coming down after another climb

We finally arrived in Eketahuna. Never did I imagine I would be thrilled to arrived in Eketahuna, but thrilled I was.

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Eketahuna, I love you.

We stopped at the Eketahuna Pub after 9 1/2 hours on the bike – that cold beer tasted really good. Then 2km to camp.

The camp was surprisingly busy with motor homes, and more arrived after we got there.
I got the tent up, had a shower, and then it was dinner time. Dinner was chicken casserole -the chicken was really tender and tasty, with white rice, salad and caramelised  pumpkin with feta sprinkled on top. Michele and Tony shared a bottle of Moana Park Merlot with us.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking great: rain plus gale force winds. We are staying at a Top Ten so I rang and booked a cabin.

It took awhile to get to sleep, as unsurprisingly the other camp residents weren’t planning to go to bed at 7:30pm! But I was quite happy after a big day dozing in my sleeping bag, listening to music on the iPod.

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Eketahuna (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 10: Wednesday 23 Nov, Napier to Porangahau

Riding 120km – climbing 1150 meters, down 1050 meters

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Next stage into Wellington!

It was very warm today and sunny, with no wind first thing. We started off with an amazing breakfast cooked at the motel. As they don’t have a restaurant it was in the conference room. The chef and owner must have taken seriously that we ate a lot, as there was stacks of cereal and cooked food.

We have three new riders joining us for this section. TDA had an offer that people could do a section for free if they were interested to see what a TDA ride would be like. Joining us are Tim and his dad Steve. Tim has ridden with TDA before but is keeping his dad company, plus Veronica from Auckland.

Veronica sat at breakfast with Sue and I, asking lots of questions about TDA and the ride, and then wanted to know about other rides we had done. Once she heard we had done the South American ride she wanted to know all about it. I was trying to be polite but I was also trying to eat breakfast and get away on the bike before it got too hot out there.  So in answer to her question “How was it?”, my informative response was “Good” whilst shoving more food into my mouth. “What was good?” she asked. “Um, everything” I said.

I find it’s really hard to sum up the South American ride in a few words, especially when I’m not interested in having the conversation in the first place. However Veronica did not pick up on my lack of interest in a conversation, and kept on asking questions. Thankfully it turns out I could ride faster than her so was able to evade any further questioning for the day. (By the end of the four days I had nicknamed her the wasp, as she kept coming at you with questions about everything).

We set out in the lovely sun, the first 8 km was bike trails. There are so many bike paths here leading off in all directions. Whilst we were on the winery tour yesterday a number of people arrived on bikes following bike trails to get there.

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Departing Napier on the coastal path

We rode on back roads from Napier all the way to Waipawa. It was really nice to be away from the traffic.

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A traffic jam on New Zealand back roads (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped in Waipawa for a drink . It was so hot I had already drunk both bottles of water. The cafe was happy for me to fill up my water bottles there.

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Home town in sight!

From Waipawa to Waipukurau we were on the main state highway which was not fun, so I was pleased to turn off to Porangahau. It was a nice country road with rolling hills, but then off course a gravel road thrown in, just because there is one. On the way I passed a sign for “Ugly Hills Road”, someone has a sense of humour and am only surprised TDA didn’t send us up it.

Christian (TDA) had said at the lunch stop that it’s pretty windy up on the gravel track so you can take the road instead, it’s an extra 11km. We decided to take the gravel road, well it was certainly steep, and the gravel was so thick in places you had to get off and walk. At the top it was so windy I was pushed off the bike twice, so I walked a bit. At the end of the gravel was a really steep tarmac road downhill. I was hoping that we would not have to ride up it in the morning.

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Old Hill Road, with gale force NW’er, cycling on gravel

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View from the gravel track (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Once I got down the hill it was just 5km on the flat to camp. When we got there we were surprised to see a rider who is slower than us, and who was at the lunch truck when we were there, was at camp already. I said “It must have been a pretty good 11km stretch of road” and she told us Christian had it wrong, it wasn’t an extra 11km it was 11km instead of 8km so it was only 3km more. If I had known that I would have certainly have taken the road!

It was not a bad camp spot, it was sheltered, no shops or wifi but good showers.

It was about 4pm by the time I got to camp so I had a wee doze once I had put up my tent. That night for dinner we had pork chops, which the chef had managed to cook for nearly 30 people and were still tender, plus potato with rosemary in it and salad. We shared a bottle of Moana Malbeck Merlot with Michelle and Tony.

I was in my tent, tucked up in my sleeping bag, eyes closed, by 7:30pm.

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Looking down onto Porangahau (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

 

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