Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Tour Aotearoa Days 1 to 3.


Prelude: Nervous
Waitiki to Cape Reinga 20km

After a 6 hour bus trip the previous day from Auckland we had disembarked at Waitiki and spent some nervous moments assembling our bikes on the lawn, hoping that nothing had been forgotten and knowing that if we had, it was too late. Most were staying at the Waitiki landing Holiday Park, either camping or using pre-booked cabins, some had elected to camp closer to Cape Reinga at the Tapotutopu camp site.

I had planned to camp at the camping ground, but my friend Paul Smith had booked a cabin and there was a spare bed, the opportunity to spend a comfortable night in a proper bed for possibly the last time in a while was too tempting to turn down.  An unexpected advantage of this was shelter from the horde of mosquitoes that descended on the camping ground once the sun got low in the sky.


Cape Reinga

After a morning of faffing around I headed off to cape Reinga around 10am, expecting a nice gentle warm up ride to the start 20km away. Apparently, I'm a slow learner and the lesson from KB14 (KiwiBrevet 2014) hadn't sunk in, everything in godzone is lumpier than expected. Anyhow, I got to the start in plenty of time to have a look around, chat with other riders and have another fret about what I may have forgotten. I also managed to find a spot with intermittent cell reception, so I was able to check messages and social media.

Day 1: Sandy
Cape Reinga to Ahipara 102km

After the pre-ride briefing, during which we were promised favourable winds on the beach, we  set off at 2:00pm, hoping to be off the beach before dark and beat the incoming tide. The first 15km was on the road, back the way we came, then a right turn onto Te Paki Stream Rd, the first gravel road section of the tour, this gradually degenerated into a sandy stream bed banked on both sides by sand dunes before we got onto the beach proper. The promised favourable wind had not eventuated, and was in fact coming from an easterly direction, not quite a full on headwind, but difficult all the same. The term "hard sands" is a relative term in that it means harder than soft sands, and though firm, the sand still had some give in it. By this time everyone was spread out along the beach and although the scenery was beautiful the riding became very monotonous, and very tiring. I rode by myself for about 30km, taking a stop every hour, I was by this point starting to get very tired and was wondering if I would get off the beach in time. I had for some time noticed a group behind me slowly catching up, they finally caught  me during a rest break and I was invited to join the group, I gratefully accepted. I was quite fatigued at this point and rested up in the bunch, at one point mesmerised by a spinning wheel with a single white spoke amongst all the black spokes, until the next rest stop. After this I was able to take the odd turn on the front .
Swallowed by the Peloton

In the end we numbered about 18 riders, this was all organised by Nev from Nelson who had known what was coming. The  company and  shelter and shared were huge relief. About 15km from Ahipara the wind shifted around behind us and we were able to move faster. It was around 9pm by the time we got off the beach, luckily the local takeaway bars knew that we were coming and had remained open, I bought a feed of fish and chips and headed back to the camping ground, there was a queue for the hose so i opted to leave washing the bike until next morning. I was unable to eat all the food that I had bought, so I took the time for a shower and spent my first night in my $50 tent. This was one of the hardest days of the tour, made difficult by the wind, sand and the time pressure of trying to get off the beach in time.  

Day 2: Dark
Ahipara to Trounson Park Camp Ground 125km + 16km

The morning was cool, I washed my bike and had a chat to Paul who said he was going to try and make the 8:00am Kaipara ferry teh next morning, some 240km away, I wished him luck knowing that this was well beyond my capabilities for the day. The day got steadily warmer and I was passed regularly by faster riders who had started later than I had.  A pie and milkshake at Broadwoood, and on again, on to an off road section to Kohukohu for the ferry. The day was getting hotter and hotter, at one point when I had cell reception, my phone beeped. The next rest I took I checked my phone to see what the messages were, just marketing from my provider, so I put the phone down and finished my drink. I got to the Ahipara shop and stocked up then went to pay, at this point I realised that my eft-pos card was with my phone, back where I had stopped. Luckily I had some cash, but I had to go back and get the phone. The phone was where I had left it, but the backtracking had cost me about 90 minutes, 16km of riding and 300m metres of climbing.


The Rawene Ferry


The Rawene ferry sails regularly, so after a 20 minute lie down on the grass it's on the ferry across the the Hokianga. A burger and some fish and chips at Rawene, again I struggled to eat the fish and chips. Thankfully it was starting to cool down by this point and I decided to push on, with a target in mind of Tane Mahuta, and then to find somewhere to pitch the tent for the night.  

Opononi

It started to show signs of rain on the way to the twin seaside towns of Opononi and Omapere. I restocked at at the service station at Omapere and headed  onto Waimamaku. I made a pit stop at Waimamaku and was caught up by Sam, Dave, Jess and John. They  were also heading on to  Tane Mahuta, I left before them expecting that they would catch me up well before the big tree. The 400m climb before Tane Mahuta was gradual and not to tough, aside from the odd bit of drizzle the rain never eventuated, I still found myself walking the odd section to break it up. 


On the downhill to the tree an opossum appeared suddenly in my headlight from my right hand side, where it ended up I don't know, but if I had hit it I think I would have come off second best. I got to Tane Mahuta around 10pm, about which time the others caught me up.  There was a tour group still at the tree, we had to take a photo for one of the control points, unfortunately the results weren't spectacular.  The others were keen to head on to the DOC camping ground at Trounson Park Rd. I had promised myself my cutoff for each day was going to be 9:00pm, but the night was balmy, the company good and the road quiet so I decided to join them. Shortly after setting off my front light failed, after a bit of fiddling about I came to the conclusion there was a short in the battery cable, among the group there was now a total of 3 headlights and a similar number of rear lights, we juggled the riding order to attempt to give everyone enough light to ride by, aided by a bright and full moon. The last section of road before the camping ground was gravel that had been recently graded, this left piles of deep soft gravel that would have been interesting during the day, but at night and with not enough light were rather challenging, I nearly had an OTB experience when my front wheel dug into a particularly deep patch of gravel. We got to the camping ground at about 00:30 in the morning and set up camp. The camping ground had a hot shower, unusual for  a DOC camping ground, and gas cooking facilities. By this point I was low on food, Jess and Dave gave me a packet of their noodles for which i was extremely grateful.       




Day 3: Hot
Trounson Park Camp Ground to Kaipara Cruising Club 114km

Another cool morning, and rising a bit late after the long bay before. The nights sleep had been frequently interrupted by the mating call of an amorous bull, the others said that they had also heard Kiwi in the night. We had breakfast, then off, mostly downhill to Dargaville. Dargaville brought a stop at a cafe for lunch, my first proper meal for 3 days, and a bakery to stock up for the ride to Poutu Point. It was sweltering by the time we left Dargaville, but the going was mostly flat so we were made good time for the first 30km. Then it got lumpy again, climbing in the heat was a different proposition for the final 30km to Poutu Point. A local farmer had left bottles of clean water by the roadside and had offered the use of his barn as accommodation, the water was gratefully received as everybody was now running low, I lost touch with the others from here for the last 10km, the heat and the long night before having taken their toll. I was passed by a number of wave 3 riders, all going hard to make the 6:00pm cut off for the ferry. I had resigned myself to spending the night on the beach and taking the 8:00am ferry the next morning. I made the beach at 6:30pm, 30 minutes after cut off to find a queue on the beach and the ferry still loading, 


Tane Mahuta at night
I joined the line out of hope more than anything else, as a quick count revealed far more than the 30 riders and bikes the ferry was supposed to be carrying. In the end 43 riders and bikes were loaded onboard for the trip across the Kaipara harbour. Trays of watermelon were passed around and hot drinks and biscuits were also provided by the crew. Takeaway orders were placed, to be ready when we reached Helensville. Those keen for more headed on into the night towards Auckland. After some confusion about their location we found he takeaway bar and the Kaipara Cruising Club, where we had been offered accommodation for the night for $5 each.
Sunset on the Kaipara Harbour

I ordered my first beer of the tour, and again couldn't manage to eat the fish and chips I had ordered. I waited my turn for the shower and then found an unoccupied spot on the floor to sleep on.


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