Today on paper, should’ve been epic. A hard gravel climb, some ups, downs, ups and a grade 4 descent. Instead, today is vying for the ‘Worst Day of Tour Aotearoa 2020’ award. Let’s start at the beginning shall we…
I already know when I read this back to James before posting it he’s going to tell me off for being so negative hahaa
We both slept terribly, awake half of the night, too hot, too cold. This shouldn’t be happening! We should be so tired we just snooze all night, but alas.
We make some porridge and pack up our stuff to get going. The plan of leaving at 8 went out the window when James was still fast asleep at 7:30.
It’s hot when we leave, and the sun is already shining. Although freezing in the shade! My heart rate strap doesn’t connect which is very annoying. Even after turning my garmin on and off multiple times, trying to disconnect and reconnect, naddah. As a bit of a data nerd, this is a bummer.
We start off down a nice valley, which soon turns to a gravel road. Shocker! Who’d have thunk it…
We start climbing and the gravel turns into rocks and then we get on to a 4×4 road, this really tests my technical climbing ability. We stop for a breather and share a banana, James can tell I’m starting to have a sense of humour failure so thinks it’s a good idea to throw a banana string at me. Let me tell you this, IT WAS NOT A GOOD IDEA. I HATE BANANA STRINGS.
Before I push him down a cliff face, we continued, back to the rock garden climbing. We get to the first ‘top’ and then descend down, the down is even worse than the up. It’s rough, slippy and boggy. Yay.
We pass the site of an old hotel (1800’s – the hotel is long gone), where a kind local trail angel had left out some lollies for TA riders.
Back to the climbing, of course. We think we’re at the top, we weren’t. Because we had been cycling through such dense forest, the GPS hadn’t picked up our location properly, so we couldn’t compare our distance travelled Vs the book guide we were following so we didn’t know how far through we were.
We start to descend and come across a reeeeeally deep river crossing. There was no way to go around so we had to go full socks and shoes off and through.
The area we were cycling through was intensively mined in the 1800’s and now the land, and water, is poisoned due to the minerals stripped from the land and toxins left behind. The guide warns us not to touch the soil or water as it’s poisoned so taking off our socks and shoes to wade through water was fun.
We cycle about 20m and see another river crossing. Unimpressed. There was a route hacked out of a land slip to the left so we take that way.
We get to the other side of the river, to cross again, this time there is a bridge for us to use and at the top of the hill in front we can see the hut where we had planned to have lunch. I make it sound glam, it was just a DOC hut where we could sit in the shade and have our sandwiches we made this morning.
We hike-a-bike up to the top where the view is beautiful, there’s a toilet, fresh water supply and the hut that has bunks and a nice big table to sit at. We pass a couple who got here with their 4×4, who said it had taken them about 1 1/2 hours to get here (25km) even in a vehicle!
We stop for food and to refill our water bottles ready for the next half.
The path turns to really skinny single track, that is boggy, covered in moss and tree roots. It almost felt as if we were sneaking around the outside of a country garden. That novelty wore off pretty quickly as it became really hard to ride as was just easier to suck up having wet feet and walk. (Note, this becomes a theme here).
By now I’ve really had enough and just want to get off the trail. It’s long, arduous and is going on way too long.
We get to the visible end of the trail, and the trail marker points up a stream, wet shoes once again here we come.
It climbs, and climbs. We walk, and walk.
Finally we reach the top. The book says we will descent through magical forest. I have seen more magic through Te Aro park on a Tuesday lunchtime. (That was quite a niche Wellington reference, Jersey folk, think Parade Gardens outside the hospital) okay, okay it’s not that bad, but I’ve seen more magical woodland.
This pretty much continues for what feels like a lifetime. It’s all off camber, rooty, and slick. For every bit that’s rideable there’s a bit that is not and I end up walking, again.
Eventually the descent becomes more flowy and rideable on a rigid, fully loaded bike. Before too long we are at the bottom of the trail in the abandoned village from the mining hay day.
Making it onto tarmac again, we were greeted with a headwind. Of course. But we made it to the small town of Ikamatua, where there is a pub, which is also the hotel/ restaurant/ camping place and a dairy. Done.
Burgers and chips for dinner, which were pretty epic, and I don’t think it was just because we were so hungry and we settle down for the night.
To make sure we end on a high, I’ve just witnessed James try to swallow a tablet, he makes approximately 17 ‘figure of 8’s with his head which trying to not laugh at me laughing at him. Ah dear, maybe a ‘you had to be there moment’
The adventure continues…