Saturday, 2 July 2016

Tour Aotearoa Days 10-12

Day 10: Duck
Whanganui to Apiti 128km
Quack
Being back in the big city again for the first time since Auckland 6 days ago was quite a contrast to the remote regions of the last 3 days. After some confusion finding my way around the cycle way by the river, I got myself underway and made it to Durie hill and rode the elevator to the top. It was a pleasant morning so I sat at the top and had breakfast while taking in the view

Whanganui
The next stop was Hunterville about 60km away through rolling farmland. This was largely uneventful, though I did stop at one point and had a nice chat with Seth and Steve, under a shade tree, Steve had come all the way from the United States to do the tour

Hunterville was the lunch stop, a small group of riders had stopped at  a local cafe, so I joined them. I discovered at this point that you cannot buy a single roll of toilet paper, I had run out on The Timber Trail, so did not want to tempt fate any further. I donated the spare toilet roll to the cafe.

I had ridden in this area before, in the opposite direction, when I was preparing for the 2014 Kiwi Brevet, not that it helped much, temperatures had risen again so it was very hot as I left Hunterville making it a grovel on the gravel to get to the next stop at Rangiwahia.

Grant, who had passed me earlier, was at Rangiwahia, and was planning to stop there for the night, there is a campsite there with a water supply. It was still too early for me to stop so after a short rest that involved a bag of dinosaurs, I carried on toward the campsite at Apiti. The road trended upwards with a few deep gorges to climb in and out of along the way, then a final downhill into Apiti and the campsite. There is a petrol station in Apiti, but again, this was closed by the time I got there, I had since heard stories about how the owners had been making emergency runs to Palmerston North to stock up on goods purchased by ravenous TA riders. Greg and Erik were already there, having passed me at while I was stopped at Rangiwahia, and kindly shared their rice and salami hot pot with me. The road beside the camp site was busy with haymaking contractors going hard out to get the hay baling done.
Sunset over the Rangitikei
Day 11:  Steamroller
Apiti to Eketahuna 154km

Remarkably, when I got up the next morning the tent was bone dry, an unexpected bonus as I hadn't had a chance to dry it out since the Timber Trail. Again, I was among the last to leave. Another rider yet to leave had been ravaged by a stinging insect of some sort the day before, and one of his eyes was swollen shut. He managed to get a diagnosis over the phone from his father who happened to be a doctor. After making sure that he was going to be OK, I set off aiming to be in Palmerston North for lunch. 

Eric and Catherine, my wife's parents, who had been waiting for an opportunity to catch up, met me a Ashurst and bought me lunch at a nearby cafe.
Eric and Cath
From there it was a 20km ride to Palmerston North on the cycle trail, which was made unpleasant by a headwind that had sprung up from nowhere. I bypassed Pamerston North and headed up the Pahiatua track. 
I have driven the Pahiatua Track many times but this was the first time I had ridden it. There were road works along the way, at one point I passed a steam roller only to then have it then chase me up the hill, a tad disconcerting. The hill was not as bad as I expected, I stopped at the top, sat on a pile of gravel and replaced my front brake pads, which had been screeching at me every time I hit the brakes since the second day of the tour. I stopped and got a burger in Pahiatua and then took to the back roads to Eketahuna. It was early evening and the riding was calm and pleasant, Erik and Greg caught up again, they had bypassed into Palmerston North, I rode with them to Eketahuna, where they elected to stay at the camping ground. 


While I was in Eketahuna I met a young man who told me about free beds being offered to TA riders just out of town, keeping this in mind I kept going, about 10km out of town I came to the sign that offered a shower and bed for TA riders. My hosts Fran and Derek, had a friend doing TA that had already passed through and entering into the spirit of TA open homes had put the sign on their front gate. It was their son I had met earlier in Eketahuna while taking a photo of the kiwi.
Eketahuna
Day 12: Home 
Eketahuna to Upper Hutt 138km

I spent a pleasant night sleeping inside, and was, to my surprise given a cooked breakfast the next morning. I was again extremely grateful and overwhelmed by the generosity of complete strangers.

The ride into Masterton is predominantly downhill, Grant caught me up and we rode together most of the way to Masterton. I stopped for something to eat in Masterton and planned to meet up with family in the area, my brother lives in Greytown and my wife was working at the Martinborough Fair. At this point I didn't realise that the SpotNZ tracking was down and still had me eating my burger in Pahiatua. As I passed through Gladstone on the way to Martinborough I saw a sign supporting the TA, another symbol of the of the high level of awareness and support of the tour in general, particularly in smaller towns.  
Feeling the Love
Martinborough was having the second day of it's annual fair, held on the first Saturdays of February and March each year. The crowds were huge, eventually I found my wife, Tanya, a mountain bike widow from way back and we had lunch together. Tanya told me about running into Jo and Scott who had been just ahead of me since Whanganui.



I wasn't able to catch up with my little brother as he thought I was still in Pahiatua and had made other plans. Between Martinborough and Cross Creek I got hammered by a NorWest headwind, not unusual in the Wairarapa, but that didn't make it any more pleasant. There is now a cycle way from Featherston to the turn off to Cross Creek which makes the ride more pleasant as the road on this stretch doesn't have much in the way of a shoulder. At the Cross Creek car park I met a rider and tour guide from Green Jersey Cycle Tours who took the photo below.

On the single track to the old Cross Creek station site I passed two riders going  in the opposite direction, who had caused much discussion as they had been seen on the train heading to Wellington and it was assumed that they were TA riders taking a short cut. The ride to the Rimutaka Rail Trail summit was into a howling headwind, again, not unusual for the this area. My house is about 500m from the course, off the Hutt River Trail, I was unable to resist, so I stopped at home. I went out to dinner at a local Indian restaurant with my family, I also took the opportunity to do all my washing and replace the spigot on my camelbak that had vanished a few days before.

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