Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A day of contrasts for the Rakiura riders
(Ed. note: Last night we stayed in the Central North Island equivalent of the far side of the moon. Te Pohue had no internet and very limited cell phone coverage. (It was kind of blissful!) Better late than never, here's yesterday's Riding for Rakiura report. Photos will hopefully be added later. Tonight's report, from Taupo, should be online by bedtime.)
In keeping with Larry’s pub-quote-of-the-day theme, today’s quote came from a rugby poster seen through the window of the Te Pohue Hotel: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
It was the easiest day distance-wise, but just about the most difficult effort-wise. The 50-odd kilometres we rode packed a deceptive punch; the first 20 kms out of Napier bore no resemblance to the 20+ kms of big hills into Te Pohue. In fact, the first half was a veritable walk in the park. The mounties leisurely rolled out of Napier along the waterfront bike trail, while the roadies had a great tour guide in Brian, who pointed out places like Bay View, a neighbourhood which didn’t exist before the great Napier earthquake in the 1900s pushed the land up out of the ocean.
A stop at a delightful garden cafe – our last coffee stop until Taupo – allowed us to continue basking in the denial glow. But it wasn’t long before that glow turned into a breathless, hill-busting grunt.
Having been briefed that tonight’s accommodation was in Te Pohue and that we’d have one heck of a climb out of Napier, you can imagine our joy upon arrival at the Te Pohue pub after ascending (and descending) a rather steep Dillons Hill and a few lesser stumps. We’d made it! Out came the sandwiches, off came the layers.
And you can imagine our shock when the support crew saw us pulled over on the side of the road and politely informed us we still had a 720-metre peak and 10 kms to go. “But a fantastic downhill,” Harry – our overnight addition to the support crew – reassured us. Great.
A couple of riders threatened to throw in the towel there and load their bikes on the trailer when the support van came back from an emergency run to Napier to buy more inner tubes. (In case we haven’t said it enough already, our three support crew are doing a yeoman’s job!)
Cooler heads prevailed after the potential-mutineers patronised the pub, and I’m pleased to report that everyone arrived at Mountain Valley, our stop for the night, under their own wheels.*
Nevertheless, that last hill climb reminded me there’s a reason Kiwis call them push-bikes. A few of us did push our bikes up the last peak. Those who didn’t must have been channelling Sir Ed when he “knocked the bastard off”.
All today's effort was the price to pay for the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. (No, I haven't yet been to Stewart Island, which I'm told would make today's vistas pale by comparison.)
Regardless, the Sound of Music movie sets had nothing on today. The last remnants of the snow storm two weeks ago (the biggest in 50 years, I’m told) lingered on distant mountain tops. Between us and them were kilometres of green hills, patches of forest, and streams and rivers. (And heaps of logging and cement trucks trying to run us off the road. But I digress.) Even our location tonight, while remote, is stunning for the running river below us and the stillness in the air. It’s incredibly peaceful.
After dinner (Mexican night on the menu) and our nightly awards ceremony, a group are off to the natural hot pools down the road for a well-deserved soak.
* Full disclosure: a few of us on road bikes got a lift from the SH5 turn-off over the last 6 kms of shingle, hilly road from a kind local farmer in a ute. But we all did the full highway mileage, which is where Riding for Rakiura's 556-km route stopped for the day. Or so we claim.