Saturday, 9 July 2016

Tour Aotearoa Days 13-15

Day 13: Ditch
Upper Hutt to Maitai Valley 99km

After a night in my own bed it was time to get moving, I had booked the ferry the night before and was on the 9:00am sailing. It was hard to leave home and difficult to muster the motivation to get moving, but I had a boat to catch. The ride to the ferry is the same as my usual commute to work. Along the Hutt River Trail I met my friend Karl, and he rode with me from Lower Hutt to the ferry terminal, with me struggling to keep up as Karl was on his road bike and without all the extra gear I was hauling around.  On the ferry I ran into Erik and Greg again, we talked about whether we would do the optional off road bits around Queen Charlotte Drive, Erik was keen, and I thought that I might do them. I was back on familiar ground again as this section of TA was part of the KB14 route. 
Flasher than the Interislander
In the end I decided not to do the off road sections as I had reached the high point on Queen Charlotte Dr and started to descend when the first turn off arrived, and the prospect of more climbing wasn't that inviting. I stopped for a milkshake at Havelock and then made it to Pelorous shortly before the cafe shut, at the cafe I met two young ladies who had done KB14 and had a quick chat. I had plans of getting to Nelson before dark, the only thing between me and Nelson was the Maungatapu Track. 
Warning. Pain Ahead
The Maungatapu Track is probably the hardest single climb on the TA route, it starts off OK and then gets progressively steeper, the track surface also gets rockier as the gradient increases. About halfway up a stick got caught in my rear deraileur and everything came to a dead stop, fortunately I was only going at about walking pace. I stopped to investigate the damage, which amounted to a broken deraileur hanger, fortunately these days I always carry a spare. Oddly, of the 4 hangers I have broken over the last 12 years, 3 have occurred in the Nelson/Marlborough region. It only took about 15 minutes and some peanut M&Ms to fix the hanger and get moving again. 
One of these things is broken
It was getting dark as I crested the saddle, I took the descent easy, walking the steep rocky section into the creek near the bottom, as I was on my own and it was not in an ideal place to munt yourself in the dark. I ended up camping by the river in the Maitai valley.

Day 14: Wind
Maitai Valley to Kawatiri 125km

Nom Nom
I stopped for beakfast in Nelson at Fords cafe, the same spot I stopped during KB14, it was here that I discovered that Erik had got himself a helicopter ride after smashing his wrist on one of the off road sections around Queen Charlotte Dr, ending his tour, Erik would have to rank as one of the unluckiest TA riders, a shame as he had put a huge effort into the cue sheets and designing the TA riding top. Luckily he had been riding with his old friend Greg, who raised the alarm, I had been crossing paths with the two of them since the start of the tour and would miss the opportunities to catch up and sometimes ride together. Alison, whose partner was doing the tour stopped and had a chat while I was eating breakfast, she assured me that Erik was being well looked after. 

Leaving Nelson I got mixed up in a group doing a guided tour of some of the Great Taste trail, I had a yak to the guides and eventually parted company with them around Stoke. Once out of town there was a nasty headwind all the way to Wakefield, even the birds were going backwards, so it was head down and grovel time. Wakefield is where the route departs from the KB14 route and heads towards Tapawera, rather than St Arnaud. Wakefield is also where my Mother grew up and was the home of my Grandparents, so for old times sake I went for a wander around the town and had lunch at the Wakefield bakery before heading up Pigeon Valley Road. Riding through the valley I was stung by an unidentified sort of stinging insect, which was just as well as I has been falling asleep on the bike, I then missed the turn off to Sunday Creek Rd and had to back track for a few ks. I stopped at Tapawera, where my Uncle Donald and his family lived while he worked in the forestry in the area, and stocked up at the 4 Square. I then moved on to Tadmor where my Aunt Steph had worked in the telephone exchange when they were farming in the area. The road turned to gravel on the way through the Tadmor saddle to Glenhope, I was passed by a couple of fellow TA riders around here, whose names unfortunately I can't recall. I Got to the Kawatiri campsite in the dark and camped there.

Day 15: Bugs
Kawatiri to Springs Junction 134km

The nights sleep was broken by the passing of trucks travelling down state highway 6. There was the option at this point to take the optional route over the Porika track, I had done the Porika previously and while it affords a magnificent view of Lake Rotoroa on the descent it was starting to rain and the prospect of the climb wasn't all that appealing. 
Moody Lake
Lake Rotoroa is one of the photo stops, and you can measure the time that it takes for the hordes of sandflies to settle on bare skin in milliseconds, there is a water supply and flushing toilets at the lake so it gives the opportunity to complete some ablutions. 

Bug Problems

After leaving Lake Rotoroa we rejoin the KB14 route on the Braeburn Track. Whilst on the Braeburn I felt a stinging sensation in my right wrist, thinking that this was the start of nerve damage in the hand I looked down, and saw a wasp going to town with it's stabby thing.  I had problems with my hands during the KB14 so while it was a relief to see the wasp it didn't make the experience any more pleasurable

By the time I got to Murchison I was soaked through. I stopped there for lunch, and then headed up Mangles valley towards the Maria Saddle. The Maruia Saddle was one of my favourties during KB14, and climbs gently through some beautiful
The Mariua Saddle
beech forrest. Though I got to Maruia Springs and Reids Store after closing time, the owners kindly opened the doors to let me restock my food supplies, I was not the only rider to benefit from their generosity over the course of the tour. 
Reids Store is now sadly, closed. 

I stopped for the night at the motel in Springs Junction , the motel there is like stepping back in time to the 70s, but it is warm and dry.  I had decided that spending the night in comfort was preferable to rolling into Reefton late, and then trying to find somewhere to stay. It was too late to get a meal so I settled for  a steak and mushroom pie and a big bag of chicken chips.

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