Tour Aotearoa Days 7-9
Day 7: Damp
Mangakino to Timber Trail 100km
Another poor nights sleep at Mangakino, where some of the local degenerates thought it would be fun to cause a general disturbance in the wee small hours, aside from making a lot of noise they caused no other problems and eventually moved on. There was a bit of drizzle around in the morning, after a trip into the town centre to stock up at the bakery and supermarket it was time to move on, there had been a dozen or so riders staying at the camping ground or in motels in town, so there were a few riders about, this gave a chance to catch up and compare notes so far. The first target for today was Centre of the North Island, about 35km from Mangakino, a couple of km around Lake Maraetai then about 20km on the road, mostly uphill, before the trail turns into a rough 4WD drive track. We had been warned by Erik about the wild blackberry that infested the 4WD track, he had previously cleared a lot of the blackberry while compiling the cue sheets earlier in the year, however the narrow swingbridge at the start was a pain as you had to lift the fully loaded bike across while the bridge was swaying from side to side. The last bit of gravel road was a grovel in the rain on an increasingly waterlogged road surface.
The Timber Trail is an 85km ride through the regenerating native Pureora forest, it's well marked and features many information boards covering the rich Maori and European settler history of the region, the trail also features a number of long swing bridges
The Timber Trail was one of my highlights of the tour, but like all the other off road sections took a lot of effort and time. There had been word of accommodation at the Black Fern lodge just off the trail, I found the sign and turned off, but after about 500 metres decided to head back to the trail, it transpires that the lodge is a few km off trail. I
|Regular Trail Markers|
Day 8: Lasagna
Timber Trail to Whakahoro 134km
Part way down is the Ongarue spiral, a clever feat of engineering that allowed the tram line to climb/descend a steep section of the trail. Erik and Greg had spent the night at the Ongarue Flashpackers and were just leaving as I arrived, Greg had parted company with his spot tracker the previous day and asked if I had seen it, unfortunately not. It faithfully continued to report his location in the middle of the Timber Trail for some days. I washed the bike had lasagna for breakfast and used the shower at the Flashpackers.
Between Ongarue and Taumaranui Jo and Scott from the first wave caught up with me, so I rode with them to Taumaranui and had lunch, Mark who I had encountered the day before on the timber trail also joined us, we booked the boat ride from the Mangapurua landing to Pipiriki for 1:00pm the next day. Steve and Seth also from third wave arrived at the cafe just as we were leaving. the ride through to Whakahoro was uneventful with just a 400m climb in the way, and passed by Owhango where I had been hoping to get something to eat, unfortunately I was too late, so had to move on. I busted out a bag of jelly dinosaurs and got to Whakahoro just after 8pm, again too late for the shop. There were spare beds on the dormitory at the DOC camping ground so a night inside was appreciated.
Day 9: Wheeee
Whakahoro to wanganui 117km
It was an early start, but I still managed to be last of those to leave the dormitory. I was grateful to have spent the night inside as it bucketed down overnight, which turned the first 4WD road section of the Bridge to Nowhere train into a boggy mess, the mud was so thick that withing seconds my forks and seat stays were so clogged with mud that I couldn't push the bike, let alone ride it
The mud became less of a problem as the climb to the high point on the trail began, the track narrowed and became a series of pinches and dips that invariably had a bog at the bottom of each dip. The riding conditions had no doubt been worsened by the rain and the passage of a 100 plus riders over the past few days. The going was so slow that I began to wonder if I would miss the boat at Mangapurua Landing. I eventually reached the top where there is a memorial to the servicemen who were given land to settle after the First World War
There is plenty of evidence of there presence from empty paddocks, fruit trees and the odd Hydrangea, but it is indicative of the harshness of the environment that no one managed to settle permanently. The initially fast downhill flattened out and the terrain became wetter again and was punctuated by regular narrow swing bridges which you has to push your bike across on it's back wheel. After about 3 hours of isolation I emerged into the crowd at the Bridge to Nowhere, there are at least 2 tour operators doing guided tours to the bridge. I didn't enjoy the trail, possibly because of the time pressure and possibly because of general tiredness, it's one I would like to go back to at some point.
I made it to the landing with half an hour to spare, as I loaded up, another rider arrived early for the next boat, we squeezed him in and hoofed it down the river. The image below shows me apparently wide awake, when in fact, despite the noise of the boat, I was falling asleep.
We arrived at Pipiriki about an hour later, went back to the office to pay for the ride, eat ice creams and clean the bikes. It was hot at Pipiriki, hotter than it had been anywhere else on the tour. I left Pipiriki at about 3pm after mucking around for too long, and got to Wanganui about 6 hours later, passing Neil (I think) on the way who had kayaked down the river. As I was riding up one of the small pinches alongside the river through some road works a DOC worker who was passing me in the opposite direction gave me a bottle of water, much appreciated as it was still hot. I had a meal at the Aromoho Hotel and stayed at the Holiday park just down the road where I had booked a cabin. Jo and Scott had taken the cabin next to mine, I took the opportunity to do some washing, borrowing some $2 coins off Scott as I was out of change. I fell asleep while my clothes were drying and had to stumble to the dryer to collect it in the early hours of the morning.