What is it the Scottish bard says "about the best laid schemes of mice and men"? The same could be said about day one for the Rakiura riders.
The plan was to shuttle everyone from YHA Wellington to Upper Hutt, where we'd depart together. Approximately 10 kms down the road, we'd split, with the mountain bike riders taking the less-steep-but-longer Rimutaka Rail Trail over the hill, while the road cyclists took State Highway 2 up and over the Rimutakas. We were to all meet up with the support van in Featherston for lunch, continue on to Carterton for afternoon tea, and end the day in Masterton. Brilliant.
The good news is we left Upper Hutt together; the seven rail trail riders had a great, muddy off-road trek; the eight road cyclists had a picture-perfect ride over the Rimutakas; and we're all in Masterton tonight, having just enjoyed fantastic homemade pizzas for dinner. The bad news -- if it really is all that bad -- is that a car accident at the summit of the Rimutaka Hill Road closed the road to traffic for four hours, stranding the support van on one side of the hill (with all the food).
What, a car accident not "all that bad", you ask? Well, yes, for two reasons:
- Although the car rolled 200 hundred metres down a steep embankment, and many rescue vehicles and a helicopter were required to reach the occupants, the worst injury was a broken arm; and
- The accident forced authorities to close the whole of SH 2 over the hill to vehicles, but the Rakiura roadies all managed to be allowed access. That meant we had nearly the entire highway to ourselves. Incredible!! Even better, the road had recently been resurfaced, so it was as smooth as we could hope for, without any broken glass littering the path and threatening our precious tires. To top it off, we had blue sky with just the occasional cloud and a slight cross breeze. (This area is known for its horizontal rain on some days.) That's not to say it wasn't a steep climb that didn't get us puffing, but it wasn't nearly as bad as some of us were expecting.
Meanwhile, the fat-tire crowd had an exhilarating off-road ride through tunnels as long as 500 metres and as dark as a moonless night -- but in the middle of the day. They emerged from the track with mud splatters and smiles from ear to ear. Can't beat that!
The roadies made an executive decision that, since the van was still stuck on the other side of the hill with our lunches, Featherston probably didn't have enough food and coffee choices to suit all riders. So we rolled on to Greytown without passing go. A stop at the chocolate shop for some and the French bakery for others, and we were raring to go. With no reason to stop in Carterton just 7 kms later, we rolled right through to Masterton.
We've just finished dinner and had our brief appointments with Bridget, our travelling massage therapist. (Financial types, take note: this is a rider-supported perk; no YHA or Stewart Island Project money is going toward her services. But it's a highly valuable indulgence, we think!)
Speaking of Bridget, she and Mike -- who form our superior support crew team -- get full credit for their entrepreneurial skills. Stuck in the traffic queue for a couple of hours at midday with a car-load of egg salad sandwiches (and the intended eaters 20 kms away) they decided to sell the sandos with all proceeds going to the Stewart Island Project. I think they netted a whopping $6. Hey, it all adds up!